Ready, set, GROW! Childhood is a time for big leaps and bounds, and while your tyke is jumping puddles and flying over play equipment, they’re also taking huge steps in their development.
Whether they’re growing adult teeth, building brain cells or adding a centimetre to the growth chart, your kid’s body is on the move. And this means they need quality fuel in their tank – nutrient-rich food that will nourish and sustain your little dynamo as they charge through each day.
We all know that good food is a really important part of taking a holistic approach to your family’s health, which is why we have partnered with Endeavour College of Natural Health to help you plan a menu that will give your kiddos the goodness they need.
Here are the top 5 nutrients for kids, and 15 recipes to help get the good stuff in!
What exactly are nutrients?
In a nutshell, nutrients are food substances that the body needs to function. They’re the magic ingredients that give your tot energy, propel growth spurts, repair scuffed knees and ward off health problems.
Different nutrients do different things, but they’re happy to hang out en masse in nutrient-rich food. For instance, one forkful of salmon contains protein, selenium, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. We’re hooked!
So without further ado, here are some key nutrients to nourish little people.
1. Protein: The building blocks
Guesstimates say that about half a person’s ‘dry weight’ is made up of protein. It’s found in our brain cells, muscle, skin, hair and nails, so it makes sense that your children need loads of protein in their diets.
Protein-packed food helps build new cells (LEGO-style), and it also gives your tot energy, assists in fighting infection and helps transports that all important oxygen around little bodies.
Foods rich in protein:
Protein is pretty easy to come by (yay!) If your mini-mite is a fan of Jack and the Beanstalk, then they’ll be getting protein from the ‘magic’ beans on their plate. Protein is also found in foods like chicken, beef, lamb, fish, eggs, nuts, milk, cheese and lentils (good luck with that one!).
2. Carbohydrates: Power food
Carbs sometimes get a bad name, but they’re actually a positive (and essential) force in your child’s body. Carbohydrates provide energy (like fuelling the brain, central nervous system and kidneys). They also work with fat and protein to build and heal body tissue (take that, Peppa Pig bandaid!)
Look for starchy and fibrous carbs though, instead of sugary ones, and your little one will have energy to burn. Playtime is officially on!
Foods rich in carbohydrates:
There’s something about kids and carbs that just goes. You probably won’t have too much trouble convincing your little one to eat bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta, rice or crackers. Aim for wholegrains and sow the seeds for a lifetime of healthy eating.
3. Fats: All things in moderation
Fat is another nutrient that provides energy for your tyke, plus it protects vital organs and carries certain vitamins around the body. In terms of serving size, less is more with this one, and try to focus on the ‘good’ fats below.
Foods rich in good fats:
Foods like nuts, avocados and olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, which is way healthier than the saturated fat found in snacks like chips.
Omega-3 and omega-6 (polyunsaturated fats) are also good for little people, so serve up oily fish (like salmon and tuna), eggs, walnuts and soybeans for omega-3 and things like sunflower seeds and sesame oil for omega-6.
4. Minerals: Ore-some for kids
If your tyke is a Minecraft fan, then they’ll probably be interested in eating minerals! Minerals help your child grow and develop, and there are loads that are pure gold for your kid’s health.
Some key minerals are:
• calcium (for healthy bones, teeth and nerve function)
• iodine (for growth and brain function)
• iron (it helps oxygen move around the body)
• potassium (good for nerves and muscles)
• zinc (it helps wth healing, aids the immune system and is vital for normal taste, smell and sight)
On the menu
Calcium: Dairy products are obviously a great source of this mineral, but tofu, broccoli, almonds and wholegrains are calcium-rich too.
Iodine: The Octonauts are all over this one! And little squidlets can get iodine from seafood, seaweed (hello nori rolls), iodised salt and certain bread.
Iron: Little carnivores get iron from red meat, and it’s also found in seafood, poultry, spinach, legumes and some brekkie cereals.
Potassium: Go nuts for nuts! And serve up foods like Vegemite, dried fruit, bananas (raw fruit and veg are good generally), bran and lean meat.
Zinc: Different from zinc in a tube, this mineral is edible in lean meat, milk, wholegrains, legumes and nuts.
5. Vitamins: Easy as A, B, C
Vitamins give your tot their v-v-v-vroom! They’re essential for healthy, growing bodies and, like minerals, there are lots that will put pep in your poppet’s step.
Some of the key ones are:
- vitamin C (it helps kids’ bodies absorb iron and supports healthy skin, gums, teeth and bones)
- vitamin A (your tot will be most interested to hear that it helps with night vision!)
- folate (which produces new cells and keeps the nervous system feeling chipper)
On the menu
Vitamin C: You can’t go past an orange, but would you believe that there’s actually more vitamin C in broccoli, papaya, strawberries, kiwi fruit, cauliflower and potatoes?
Vitamin A: This adds colour to the plate, because carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, mangos, broccoli and spinach all contain vitamin A. It’s also found in egg yolk and oily fish.
Folate: Spread wholegrain bread with Vegemite for a double dose of folate. And put spinach, peas, kidney beans, asparagus and avocados onto the kids’ menu too.
And last but not least…
There is one more important element to kids diet: water.
Our bodies are made up of two-thirds H2O, one-third everything else, meaning water is vital for keeping little bodies happy.
It helps keep temperatures stable (useful if they’ve been on a trampoline for 48 minutes), and is essential in transporting all those nutrients and minerals to cells, protects joints, organs and tissues and even keeps them regular (in the backend).
Empower yourself to take a holistic approach to your family’s (and your own) health with Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Health Science degrees. With on campus or online study options Endeavour offers flexible learning to help you find your natural balance. If you want to dip your toe in, take a single subject completely online on a wide range of natural health topics.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Endeavour College of Natural Health.