To eat a “balanced” diet kids need to eat certain essential nutrients.
1. Macronutrients – Protein, carbohydrates and fats, the big three macronutrients are needed for growth, metabolism and other body functions. They are the most important “macro” nutrients as they are needed in large quantities. Protein – In the form of meat, dairy, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or poultry. Carbohydrates – From starches, sugar and fiber. Processed sugar and sugar in general should be eaten in moderation but other forms of carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes, crackers, rice, cereals (not sugar coated) and bread will provide your child with a energy and the building blocks for tissue repair. Fats – Provide an easily storable source of energy and allow the body to properly use the other nutrients. Good fats are found in whole dairy products, meat, fish and nuts.
2. Calcium – Provides the essential help kids’ bodies need to build bones and teeth. Calcium plays a role in blood clotting for the nerve, muscle and heart functions. You can give your kids calcium through milk, cheese, yogurt, egg yolks, broccoli, spinach and tofu.
3. Iron – Children’s bodies need iron to produce healthy blood that can carry oxygen to all the cells. Offer your kids red meat, liver, poultry, shellfish, whole grains, beans or nuts to make sure they get enough iron.
4. Folate – This is one of the B-vitamins and essential for healthy development of a growing body’s cells. Folate can be found in lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, black beans and kidney beans.
5. Fiber – Your child’s body needs fiber to regulate the bowels and provide overall long-term better health especially for the heart. You’ll find fiber in whole grains, chickpeas, lentils, seeds and nuts.
6. Vitamin A – an essential nutrient in children (and adults) for growth, eyes, healthy skin and to help fight infection. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, squash, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, fish oils and egg yolks.
7. Vitamin C – apart from helping to fight colds vitamin C strengthens the cells and walls of the blood vessels. It helps heal wounds and build healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin C is in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, papayas, mangos and many other fruits and vegetables.
In addition you should try to use whole foods rather than processed foods which have had much of the goodness taken out and additives put in. Whole foods provide more fiber and higher quantities of the essential nutrients. Look for similar alternatives to “bad” foods that your kids love. For example try sugar-free frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream. Remember that drinking plenty of water or fresh fruit juice is just as important as getting the correct solid nutrition.
Food should not become a chore or problem for your child. Get them involved in the kitchen, cook together. Be flexible. Each day is different, sometimes you’ll get home late, sometimes your children may not be hungry or they just want to be spoilt with an edible treat. If your kids don’t like one type of protein then try another, don’t insist on that particular food, there are so many to choose from and your children have their own individual taste in food.