Raising children is a big responsibility and as a mom, I want the best for my kids but most importantly I just want my kids to be happy and healthy. They grow up so fast and nutrition is very important for their growth. Being a parent it’s my job to make sure I nourish my kids with the best healthy food.
Why is nutrition important?
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Growth and development require nutrients, especially in the first few years. I found this amazing article Nutrition to support optimal growth and development in youth By Barbara Lyle, Ph.D. and she explains in detail how nutrition supports Linear Growth and how your child’s nerve cells depend on nutrients to grow and function.
Eating habits are developed at a young age, its important to introduce vegetables and a well-balanced diet early in life. So let’s look at some crucial nutrients our children need:
- Protein-is one of the best and very important nutrients. It’s needed for muscle tissue, supports the brain and provides fuel and energy for the body.
- High-quality protein foods are: Chicken (look for a product that is labeled Organic, Grass-Fed, non-GMO, free-range chicken), eggs(look for pasture-raised eggs), dairy, and nuts.
How much protein does my child need?
- According to the Health.Gov children ages,1-3 need 13g of protein, age 4-8(19 g)
2. Calcium – is needed for bone health, it’s responsible for keeping bones and teeth strong. Some of the calcium-rich foods are:
- Cheese (Cottage, Riccota & Mozarrella are great options)
- Yogurt and Kefir
- Raw Milk
- Sardines (canned)
3. Iron – is needed to make hemoglobin which helps to move the oxygen in your child’s body. Iron Deficiency can lead to anemia, American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) recommends toddlers agers 1-3 years need 7/mg or iron a day and kids 4-8 yrs need 4-8 yrs of age need 10 mg of iron a day Iron Rich foods are:
- Canned Clams ( I make a clam chowder soup that my kids love, and they get their daily dose of iron, win-win)
- Red Meats (Always Grass-Fed)
- Potatoes (baked is best)
4. Fiber – is responsible for your digestive system and helps to maintain bowel health and prevents constipation. Some great fiber choices are:
- Whole grains.
- Raspberries (8 grams per cup and one of my favorite best healthy food for kids)
5. Fats – Healthy fats provide energy for your child and are vital for brain and visual development. There are three types of fats, Unsaturated Fats-the Healthiest Fats(these you want to give to your children), Saturated Fat and Trans Fat(Least Healthy Options):
- Peanut Butter
6. Carbs – Let’s Not Forget about the carbohydrates. Carbs are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in many foods and beverages. When I think of carbs, the first thing that comes to mind is pasta, bread, and processed food. But carbs actually play an important role in nutrition. Carbs are one of the main sources of fuel and energy for our bodies, they provide vitamins and minerals, keep us full, and especially important for our kids. We just need to understand and choose healthy Complex carbohydrates.
- Whole Grains (Buckwheat, Quinoa, Wild Rice, Organic Whole Grain Oats)
- Sweet Potatoes.
7. Vitamin D – is needed for better Calcium absorption, it works together with Calcium keeping the bones strong. Vitamin D also keeps the immune system functioning normally. Thankfully your child can get Vitamin D from the sunlight and from certain foods.
- Fatty fishes (Salmon, tuna, trout)
- Fortified Milk & Juice
- Portobello Mushrooms.
National Institutes of Health recommends daily intake of 600IU of Vitamin D For children ages 1-13.
8. Let’s not forget WATER, one of the most vital nutrients we need to survive. Our bodies are made up of 60% of water, its important to keep your child hydrated. Research shows that hydration improves memory and attention span. Water is needed for every cell to work properly.
Of course, there are other Vitamins and minerals that our bodies require to function. They’re just the basic nutrients, but very important to keep our children healthy.
In case of you’re wondering about the daily recommended intake for all the nutrients we talked about, here is a what Institute of Medicine recommends:
- Protein – Children Age 1-3 (13 g), children ages 4-8 (19 g).
- Calcium – Child Age 1-3 (700mg), child 4-8 (1000mg).
- Iron- Child Age 1-3 (7mg), child 4-8 (10 mg).
- Dietary Fiber – Child Age 1-3 (14g), 4-8 (female-16.8g, male 19.6g)
- Fats – Child Age 1-3 (30%-40% of 1000kcal) ages 4-8 (25%-35% of 1200kcal)
- Carbs – Child Age 1-18 (130g)
- Vitamin D – Children 1-18 (600IU).
All this information can be a little overwhelming and as a mom, I know what it’s like to raise children, it’s a huge responsibility, on top of all the million things we try to juggle, the last thing you need on your mind is worrying if they got their daily Vitamin D intake. Offer balanced meals and encourage your child to eat fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, and Lean Meat. Lead by example and encourage your child to try new foods regularly, don’t give up when it comes to those picky eaters, it takes time for them to warm up to new foods.
Now that we covered the importance of nutrition, your probably wondering “So what are the best healthy food for kids?”
Many people focus on that miraculous”superfood” and assume that that’s all they have to eat to stay healthy, unfortunately, they are missing out on the point. Sleep, Physical Activity, development stages and yes of course Food plays an important role in a healthy lifestyle, there is not a single superfood that will provide all the nutrition and health benefits that adults and children need.
Like I mentioned above the best healthy foods for kids are combining healthy choices from across all the food groups. Look for nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and have a high amount of nutrients.
Some of the best healthy food for kids that offer important nutrients and deserve the title “Superfood” are:
- Blueberries – They are high in fiber and antioxidants, a recent Study shows that it may improve memory and concentration in children.
- Tomatoes – High in Vitamin C and lycopene(good for the heart).
- Avocados – A good source of healthy fat and contains essential amino acids.
- Apples – Full of Fiber especially pectin which helps to control insulin levels, apples also contain Vitamin C.
- Broccoli – Contains Chromium which helps maintain blood sugars
- Beets – Loaded with potassium and magnesium, beets contain important nutrients that help the brain function and the heart healthy.
- Carrots – Are known to improve eye health because of two important nutrient beta-carotene and lutein.
- Salmon – Contains Omega 3 fats and is shown to improve cognitive functions in children.
- Spirulina – Blue-Green Algae that is heavily loaded with micronutrients and contains high amount of Vitamin C. A Recent Study provided data that the administration of 10 g of Spirulina a day significantly and quickly improved malnutrition in undernourished kids.
- Kidney Beans – Rich In Protein and Antioxidants and Phosphorus important for bones and teeth.
- Bone Broth – You might have heard about bone broth already and I should of probably listed at the top of the best healthy foods, bone broth is one the most nutrient-dense foods especially for the digestive system. One of the best nutrients in bone broth is l-glutamine which is very healing for the gut. Amond all other benefits bone broth is a great source of protein (especially for those kiddos who don’t love meat) and bone broth helps to boost the immune system.
Read the Labels.
My kids love their snacks, although I am not the biggest fan of snacking thankfully we live in a world that has some great healthy options available that were not available years ago. You just need to read and learn the ingredients on the label. Here are some helpful tips to know:
- The first few ingredients on the label are the most important, ingredients are listed by their weight. So if you are buying almond milk creamer you should see almond milk as the first ingredient. But be sure to keep going down the list to make sure the ingredients are safe.
- Know your oils, stay away from Highly Processed and chemical refined oils such as Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Safflower Oil, Vegetable Oils. Instead one of the best oils are Avacado Oil(My favorite oil) it has a high smoke point, Coconut oil, and Olive oil are better choices. And also make sure these oils say expeller-pressed in front of them, rather than using chemicals to extract the oil from the seed, expelled pressing uses a machine or a press to physically squeeze the oil out of the seed.
- Non-Gmo(GENETICALLY MODIFIED) does not mean organic.
- Natural Flavoring may not be so Natural and can contain chemicals and hidden msg.
- Stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup. Highly processed and high in sugar.
These are some of my favorite snacks my kids eat and love.
1.GOGO Squeeze Applesauce.
2.Annies Organic Fruit Snack.
3. Annies Organic Cheddar Bunnies, look at the ingredients and did you notice that its Expeller Pressed!
4. MySuperPops Organic Mini Popcorn Chips.
These are some great options I would recommend, I love the ingredients, they are perfect for after school snack and great on the go.
When it comes to raising healthy kids, nutrition is the key. Stay away from highly processed packaged foods and offer a well-balanced diet combining all the food groups.
photo credit Choosemyplate.gov
What are your favorite healthy foods you like to feed your kids? Comment below I’d love to hear. And if you found this article helpful please don’t forget to share it.
PS. I am not a doctor or nutritionist and the information provided is for educational purposes only and not substitute professional health services.