Nutritious Foods To Add To Children's Meal Plan
Being picky and fussy is a kid’s inherent nature, there’s an argument that fussy eating emerges around 18 months of age when they are exploring the world and putting a lot of things into their mouth, being dicey about new food helps them to avoid anything that might be poisonous (Blame it on evolution).
As a parent, it is common to wonder if your child is getting sufficient nutrients since it’s not a metric that can be visibly assessed. Getting your kids to make the right choices at the dinner table is something every parent struggles with. If you feel like your little one’s nutrition is heading south, we have put together a list of the best and worst foods for you to keep an eye out of for. Ready to learn about nutritious foods for your children?
Essential Nutrients To Include In Your Kid's Diet
The first thing to remember about your kid’s food is - Variety is key. The right balance of the most important food groups like calcium, vitamin, protein are some of the must-haves to your child’s meal plan. Get your pen and paper ready, because it's time to make "healthy food list for kids.
The importance of protein is something we have all been learning from our 6th-grade science classes. Protein isn’t exactly up for debate when it comes to your child’s health and nutrition. Protein helps to build, replace and repair the tissue ( Not the ones your child blows his nose in, we mean what his body is made up of). Your little one might be engaged in a plethora of activities like music, tuition classes, school, sports, drawing and the brainpower to ace at all those activities requires a hand from protein. Other than repairing vital tissue, they are crucial for strengthening bones, muscles, haemoglobin, metabolism and other organ systems. They also act as cellular messengers, enzyme production, immune molecules and hormones. Long story short! Your child needs protein for robust physical and mental development (1).
How Much Protein - Approximately 1.1g/Kg early childhood and 0.9/kg in late childhood
Protein-Rich Foods For Kids - Eggs, lean meat, fish, chicken, hummus, cheese, milk, yoghurt, soybeans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, amaranth, quinoa
It’s a good bet that from the time you have become a parent, you would have listened from every commercial and billboard that your child needs calcium for stronger bones. There’s actually some truth to those overrated commercials. When your loved one eats calcium foods, the calcium gets deposited in the bones, making them stronger. Children from the age of 9-13 are at the highest risk for calcium inadequacies. The more calcium we get, here’s a fun fact - Milk is not the only source of calcium, They are a lot of plant-based food items that have more calcium than milk (2). If you’ve got a fussy eater at home that pinches his nose at the sight of milk, fret not! There are other options to the daily requirement of calcium (3).
How Much Calcium - Years 1 to 3 need 700mg of calcium, 1000 mg for those between 4 to 8 and kids from 9 to 18 need 1300 mg per day.
Calcium-Rich Foods For Kids - The most obvious choice - Dairy products such as milk ( cow, goat, camel)paneer, curd, cheese and yoghurt. Beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, soy milk, soybeans, salmon, sardines, tempeh, dried figs, orange, kale, okra, almonds, sesame seeds, broccoli, ragi, green peas, amaranth, coconut milk.
Children have ample excuses to say no to healthy foods, and in the struggle of mealtime battles, one or few nutrients gets missed. Ranking top in that list of missing nutrients report is Iron. Did you know that more than 50% of Indian children and women are deficient in Iron? Iron is an important mineral involved in many bodily functions, Some of which include the transport of oxygen, cognition development, healing wounds, fights of fatigue and increases appetite (4).
How Much Iron - 1 to 3 years - 7mg, 4 to 8 years - 10 mg, 9 to 13 years - 8mg, 14 to 18 years - 11 mg for boys and 15 mg for girls.
Iron-Rich Foods For Kids - Lea meat, oysters, lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, raisins, potatoes with skin, chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, green beans and whole grains are best food for children. Cora has a whole store with nothing but iron-rich foods.
Although we keep hearing the phrase - “don’t forget to take your vitamins” more often than we wish, when it comes to kids’ vitamins, there could arise a lot of confusion. Do they need to take vitamin supplements? Is the vitamin from the foods enough? Our body is a wonderful automated machine that can do all sorts of things by itself but when it comes to vitamins, it could use some help. Be it a kid or a parent, taking a vitamin supplement will do more good than bad. Vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin D are the ones you need to focus on. There’s in fact 8 types of vitamin B but the one’s in the highlight are B2, B3, B6 and B12. if the child eats a wide variety of healthy food then a multivitamin is not necessary but the persisting problem is that most kids don’t! (5).
What To Look For - do your homework before buying a multivitamin for your kid, look at those that don’t exceed 100% daily value. The ones fortified with iron is always recommended.
Vitamin Rich Foods For Kids
Vitamin A - Yellow to orange foods like carrot, papaya, squash and dairy like milk, cheese, eggs
Vitamin B group - Brown rice, oats, seafood, eggs, beans, milk, cheese, meat, chicken, peas
Vitamin D - Egg yolks, salmon, coder liver oil, tuna, sunshine, mushroom. Advised to be taken with calcium
List Of Food Items To Avoid Giving Your Infant
Now that we have covered what nutrients need to hang around in the kitchen, let’s move on to those foods that could hinder your child’s health( with a focus on toddlers and babies only). We have gathered around a list of foods that look innocent but can become a bane to your precious little one. Let's take a look at some unhealthy foods for kids
Honey is a big no-no for babies under the age of 12 months. From the World Health Organisation to your local paediatrician, will advise you to not give honey to your toddler (6). The bacteria called clostridium botulinum present in honey causes a disorder called botulism. It is a serious and sometimes fatal condition that attacks the baby’s nerves which onsets a range of symptoms like constipation, poor appetite, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing and weakened muscle control.
Till the age of 12, your babies immunity is still developing and shellfish is one of the leading allergies in toddlers. Also certain fish in the sea contain mercury which could be a blockage for your babies brain development. The fishes that need to be struck off completely from your kids food journal are fresh/ frozen tuna, shark, marlin, swordfish, orange roughy, escolar, canned albacore tuna.
Wheat is a staple food for most of us Indians, but we conveniently forget its culprit gluten that is often associated with allergies. Nutritionists advise not to introduce wheat to your kind until the age of 3. Ragi, rice and oats are recommended to be the safest option compared to wheat (7). Kick-off your toddler’s solid meal journey with wheat is highly frowned upon. Even if you introduced wheat after a year or two, it’s a good idea to stick with organic and whole wheat since it’ll be easy on your babies digestion.
The videos of babies pucker up at a drop of lemon might get you tempted to try the same with your little munchkin. Introducing new foods to your baby should always proceed with caution. You want to make sure that your baby is older is probably able to be chewing foods before providing it with that much citrus all at once. The acidity of the citrus family like lemon, orange might cause havoc on your babies digestion and even result in allergies. Wait at least a year for your babies digestion to mature to introduce citrus in its life. Why that hurry for a sour experience? (wink).
You could search high and low but you will not find a person who will tell you to not opt for breast milk. Breast milk is the best and the only milk that needs to be fed to your infant. Your little one cannot digest cow’s milk until the age of 2 and cow’s milk also have high concentrations of protein and mineral which could put a lot of stress on your baby’s tiny, immature kidneys. The protein in milk can also irritate the stomach lining, intestine and cause loss of blood in stools. If medical concerns restrict you from giving your newborn breast milk then formula or camel milk should be the next go-to option (8).Get to know more about camel milk benefits here
What Foods Are Important For Kids?
What parent doesn’t want to raise a healthy and nutrition-loving kid? These food items on the menu will give the right fuel for your kid to learn, grow and develop.
Eggs - Eggs are the perfect one - ingredient nutritious foods you can give for your child who is past the age of 4. They are a good source of biotin, iron, fats and protein.
Dried Plums/ Prunes - Tiny, tasty and a low-calorie package that has tonnes of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Avocados - Although avocados might be a little foreign to us Indians, this fruit takes care of the 5 essential nutrients for toddlers i.e Fibre, vitamin c, magnesium, vitamin K and folate.
Peanut Butter - Nut and nut butters are a delicious, healthy and convenient way to meet the daily protein fix, monosaturated fats and vitamin K.
Whole foods - You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that whole food can nourish your kids gut and also keep them away from junk food as they fill up their tummies for longer.
Cheese - Next time your kid picks up a cheesy delight to snack on, before saying no to him know that cheese is loaded with calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.
Curious About What Should A Child Eat Daily?
Is every day a guesswork for you to figure out what to give your kid? Here’s an easy-to-follow food guide that you can use to prepare your kid’s plate every day. Divide the plate into different sections making sure these food groups are included daily. These are some of the best health foods you can give them daily
Are you looking for a whole food group that can help provide your enthusiastic child with the energy he needs? Grains! Are the answer. Almost half of the child’s grain serving should be whole grains, we recommended you fill up your little one with ragi, foxtail millet, barley, jowar and amaranth.
Adding healthy fats can help to round out a healthy diet for your child. They need a good amount of healthy fats for optimal growth and development. The key with fats is to focus on the healthy one. The unsaturated kind that are usually found in olive oil, peanuts. Almonds, pecans, avocados, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soya beans, flax seeds, sunflower, walnuts.
Fruits and Vegetables
We all know that fruits and vegetables are pillars of a balanced diet. But which ones? There’s a rainbow of them to choose from, how do you take your pick? We asked our nutritionists to list down 5 of the most important veggies and fruits that earn a place on the plate.
Must-Have Veggies - baby carrots, peas, bell peppers, spinach, corn
Fruit List - Berries, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes
If your kid loves dairy then it won’t be a sweat to get them to meet the daily dose of nutrients. Along with providing your child with calcium, protein and healthy fats. They provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates.
At least 10 to 20% of the meal needs to be filled with protein. To get protein minus the unhealthy fats, lean protein is recommended. The good news is protein come in all types of shapes and sizes. You can add fish, poultry, almonds, edamame, tofu, peanut butter, quinoa, flax seeds, chickpeas, eggs, beans, sunflower, peas and dairy to your child’s plate.
With that said and done, a child development happens with a course of several meals and days, so force-feeding them in the fear of not meeting the daily balanced nutrient is not advisable.