The human body relies on a wholesome diet for nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These nutrients are the cornerstone in the growth and development of the human body.
Being a parent multiplies your healthy nutrition struggles – you are managing not only your own health and nutrition but also the health and nutrition of your children.
As your child is growing, he requires a constant supply of essential nutrients in amounts different from those of adults. Providing your child a daily supply of sufficient nutrients enables you to contribute towards his health.
Children go through a lot of changes in the first few years of their life. The rapid increase in their size is referred to as their “growth” and the changes in behavior, function, and form of the body is termed “development.”
Thus, it is imperative to regulate the intake of various micro and macronutrients in their growing years. Ensuring good nutrition for your child is a long-term investment that aids in the development of his mental and physical growth, even after the end of adolescence.
Because the dietary patterns and nutrient intake of a child are correlated with his growth and development, a lack or deficiency of a nutrient can lead to serious consequences.
This can entail a vicious cycle of recurrent episodes of infection, delayed cognitive development, or severe implications such as chronic diseases or impaired mental processes.
Foods to Boost Your Child’s Growth
A growing child has nutritional needs that have to be recognized, and care should be taken to ensure that these are met.
Various edible fruits and vegetables house several potent nutrients and antioxidants. Incorporating these foods into your child’s diet can address his body’s daily requirements.
Let’s take a look at what foods can help support his all-round growth and development.
1. Give Them Milk
Milk is perfect for children. Calcium and phosphorous, the two essential minerals in milk, are necessary for the development of healthy bones, teeth, and nails. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D, another essential nutrient for bone health.
Plus, milk contains a wide range of other nutrients necessary for growth. These include protein, zinc, and vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), and B12. Milk also provides iodine, niacin, and vitamin B6.
- Give whole milk to children up to 2 years of age, and then give them low-fat or skim milk. One to two glasses of milk is essential for growing children. If your children do not like plain milk, try yogurt or cottage cheese or make milk dishes such as puddings and custards.
2. Serve Them Eggs
- Eggs can be cooked in many ways, for example, scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, or as an omelet with various meats and vegetables that you have on hand. Serve one to two eggs for breakfast, several times a week. Additionally, the protein in the eggs will provide sustained energy so that your child remains energetic throughout the day.
3. Add Broccoli to Their Diet
Broccoli is a healthy vegetable, and it is loaded with fiber, which is essential for growing children. Aside from fiber, it contains vital nutrients such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, folic acid, and calcium.
Broccoli is one of the best vegetable sources of calcium, a vital nutrient for growing children and their bone development. Broccoli also contains a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help foster peak eyesight and ward off cell damage.
- Give your growing child broccoli daily. It is best if broccoli is eaten raw, juiced, or lightly steamed to get maximum nourishment. If your child does not like plain broccoli, you can try putting it in soup or casseroles.
4. Offer Blueberries to Your Child
Blueberries are delicious and super healthy for growing children. These tiny berries have excellent nutritional value. Blueberries are one of the best antioxidant-rich foods that help protect the body from harmful toxins.
Children can be selective when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables. The vibrancy of colors in fruits and vegetables can increase the likelihood of consumption among children.
Also, blueberries have antidiarrheal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. The high amount of manganese in blueberries keeps the bones strong, and the high vitamin C content supports the immune system. Plus, blueberries contain fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins.
- Because blueberries are sweet and tasty, most children like to eat them. You can add blueberries to oatmeal, yogurt, and whole-grain cereals.
5. Whip Up a Yogurt Mix
Yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt (has more protein), is immensely beneficial for growing children.
Consuming a generous amount of milk, yogurt, and milk- or yogurt-based beverages has been found to decrease body fat and increase cardiorespiratory fitness. The good bacteria present in yogurt boost immunity and aid digestion.
Yogurt also contains calcium, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin B, zinc, and phosphorus.
Eating yogurt daily promotes healthy bones and strong teeth and also helps meet some of the high calcium needs of children.
- If your child does not like plain yogurt, you can drizzle it with honey or maple syrup. You can also add fruits and a few chocolate chips.
6. Sweet Potatoes to the Rescue
- Most children like the taste of sweet potatoes. You can serve them boiled, grilled, or as baked sweet potato dishes. You can also lightly fry sweet potato slices in olive oil and serve them as a substitute for unhealthy potato chips.
7. Give Oats for Breakfast
Oats contain important nutrients including vitamin B and E, potassium, and zinc, which help your child’s brain development and functioning. Oats are also a good source of soluble and insoluble fibers that help children stay full longer.
Research shows that kids who eat oats for breakfast concentrate better and pay more attention in school compared to those who do not.
- Serve oats with milk or yogurt and topped with fruit as a breakfast meal. You can also give your children biscuits and snacks made of oats.
8. Add Cheese to Thier Food Preparations
Milk or dairy products such as cheese, butter, and yogurt are critical components of the human diet, especially in Western culture.
Cheese is a nutritious food that growing children can eat regularly. Cheese contains the right amount of calcium, protein, vitamin B12, and phosphorus. Protein builds, maintains, and repairs body tissue and is a nutritional need of a developing child’s body.
Also, cheese is a suitable alternative to meat because it is a good source of high-quality, easily digestible protein.
- You can serve your children grilled cheese sandwiches along with some healthy soup. Also, eating cheese after a meal helps prevent dental cavities as it is believed to have anticavity properties.
9. Offer Them Apples
Apples are a good source of dietary fiber and lack traces of any form of fat, saturated fatty acids, or cholesterol. One medium raw skinned apple weighing 182 g can provide about 95 kcal of energy, 19 g of total sugars, 195 mg of potassium, and 4 g of dietary fiber, which amounts to 22% of the daily value requirements.
- Make sure your kids eat the skin of the apple for roughage. Go for the organic variety, wash it thoroughly, and voilà – a quick snack for your kids is ready!
10. Incorporate Fish in Their Diet
Rich in protein, low in fat, and loaded with B vitamins and precious minerals, fish is easily digested by children.
- Growing children should have at least two portions of fish each week. Fish such as salmon and tuna are best for children. You can serve fish in a sandwich, salad, or soup as well as grilled or baked.
11. Include Beans in Their Meals
Beans are super nutritious and immensely beneficial for growing children. Aside from being high in antioxidants, beans also contain the right amounts of protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamin B.
Also, beans are low in fat, calories, and sodium. Eating beans regularly will keep children energetic, improve mood, keep their heart healthy, and help them maintain healthy body weight.
Beans such as kidney, black, navy, and pinto beans along with garbanzo beans, soybeans, dried peas, and lentils are suitable for children.
- Soak any of these beans overnight before preparing a dish. Children can be given a bean salad or soup for lunch or dinner.
Everyday Foods vs. Sometime Foods
Common foods include those foods that should be given to your child to replenish his daily requirement of nutrients. These include fresh fruits, whole grains, fresh vegetables, eggs, meats, fish, chicken, and dairy.
Busy lifestyles make it difficult for many parents to find time to prepare healthy meals. They often resort to fast foods and many ready-made meals because of their convenience.
Children also relish these time-saving conveniences, but these food items are often loaded with fat, salt, and sugar that consequently contribute to childhood obesity and tooth decay. When consumed, these foods also occupy the tiny tummies of the children, leaving little or no room for healthy foods.
There are many foods that fall under the umbrella of sometimes foods. Some examples include high-calorie junk foods, chips, fried foods, and sweet treats such as chocolates, lollies, cakes, and soft drinks.
Limit the consumption of these foods to once a week and in minimal amounts.
How to Tell if Your Child is a Competent or Picky Eater?
Making your child sit and eat during meals can be a really daunting task.
Your child is a competent eater if he:
- Welcomes food and enjoys mealtime
- Does not get cranky during dinner time
- Is ready to explore new options with the food he likes and avoids foods he does not like
- Is confident about how much he will be able to eat
Your child is picky about his food choices when he:
- Throws tantrums at the sight of certain foods
- Is selective about his food choices
- Is unwilling to eat vegetables or certain other foods
- Eats different portions at different times
Encouraging your child to eat nutrient-dense foods regularly can help your child grow and develop his mental prowess and enhance his physical strength.
These foods offer a wide range of nutrients to help your child stay healthy and support his growth and development for the long term.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Carrie Mark (Registered Dietician)
What foods are beneficial for a child’s growth?
A balanced diet comprising of whole grains, healthy lean proteins, low-fat dairy and lots of fruits and vegetables is needed for proper growth and development in a child.
What vitamins are good for a child’s growth?
Children should consume enough foods from each food group to get all the essential vitamins and minerals they need for proper growth and development.
What foods are best suited for a 6-month old baby?
Breast milk or formula should still be the number one source of food for a 6-month old baby. If the baby can sit up, see food coming, and open his/her mouth for it, then starting pureed foods would be acceptable. You can start by introducing
- pureed or strained fruits (applesauce, avocado, banana’s, peaches, pears)
- pureed or strained well-cooked vegetables (carrots, green beans, sweet potato)
- pureed meat or tofu (chicken, pork, beef)
What foods help brain development in a child?
Research has shown that proper amounts of zinc, iron, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), choline, and Vitamin D are good for a child’s brain development. Fatty fish such as Salmon, eggs, whole grains, low-fat yogurt and fruits, and vegetables are all great sources of these vitamins and minerals.
What are some healthy breakfast options for a growing child?
Scrambled or cooked eggs, oatmeal or steel-cut oats, peanut butter on whole grain toast, whole grain cereals and whole fruits, are all preferable breakfast choices to feed your child.
How can you help your child develop healthy eating habits?
I highly recommend following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in feeding. Choosing and preparing the food, providing regular meals and snacks, and making mealtime an overall pleasant experience for the child is a big part of the Division of Responsibility.
Following these steps will help your child feel comfortable with food and provide your child with the confidence they need to try and eat a variety of foods to help support growth and development.
About Carrie Mark, RD, LD: Carrie is the consultant dietitian for NCES, Inc., a nutrition related company.
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