Best Health Foods To Give Your Child A Balanced Diet

Pramita P N ·
Best Health Foods To Give Your Child A Balanced Diet

Best Health Foods To Give Your Child A Balanced Diet

A wholesome diet is indispensable for the proper development of children which includes vital vitamins, minerals, protein, and other essential components that aid in the proper functioning of the body.

I know you are aware that your child needs his nutrients. But do you know how to incorporate those into a balanced diet? The key is to balance between presenting them with a variety of food while maintaining an accurate amount of nutrients. A well-balanced diet should contain colourful vegetables and fruits along with minimally processed whole grains and healthy protein.


Essential Nutrients To Add To Your Kids’ Diet

Age 1-11 is when your child needs the most nutrients. You need to provide an integrated diet for the proper growth of your child. However, the amount of nutrients that a child requires depends on their age and weight in kilograms. Creating an equally balanced meal plan includes accurate amount of protein, zinc, vitamins, iron, calcium, and minerals (1).


Protein

The king of nutrients that helps build cells, fight infection, break down food into energy, and carry oxygen is protein. Lack of protein in a diet can severely affect the growth and development of a child. Let’s look at some of the protein-rich foods.

  • Meat
  • Wild Salmon
  • Tilapia
  • Fish Sticks
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as cheese, and yogurt
  • Plant-based protein such as lentils, legumes, avocado, hummus, peanut butter, soya mince, etc
  • Tofu

Animal protein contains all nine amino acids and is therefore considered a complete source of protein. For vegan and vegetarian children to combine different foods that complement each other and provide the most benefit. Don’t worry about integrating them into the same meal. However, if you’re planning to create a wholesome meal, here’s how you can do that.

  • Legumes/Lentils + rice
  • Hummus + wheat flatbread
  • Almond butter + nuts
  • Wheat pasta with beans, lentils, and quinoa

Don’t go overboard with it. Just adding protein in any of their loved meals would do the trick.


Calcium

The bone and teeth are home to calcium. However, it also helps in the coagulation of blood, muscle contraction, and regulation of hormones. Vitamin D helps to fixate calcium on bones which aids in bone development. The deficiency of calcium in children can lead to rickets which causes stunted growth and bone softening (2). Here are some of the common calcium-rich foods.

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Fortified bread, cereals, juices, etc
  • Almonds and sesame seeds
  • Leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage, etc
  • Salmon or sardines canned with bones

If you’re following a vegan or non-dairy lifestyle, your children need at least 2-3 servings of calcium to fulfill their daily nutritional requirements. Here’s how you can make some vegan/ non-dairy food associations for your child.

  • Tofu Scramble
  • Coconut/soy yogurt + cereal and fruits
  • Chia pudding
  • Toast + almond butter
  • Sweet potato and tofu sandwich
  • Lentil fritters
  • Kale chips
  • Lentil meatloaf

Iron

Wondering why your child has reduced energy? It could be because of an iron deficiency. Iron is one of the most important minerals to keep your child energetic and thriving. Lack of iron intake also affects the production of hemoglobin resulting in anemia. Here are some of the best sources of iron.

  • Tuna
  • Green Leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Red meat
  • Beans
  • Iron-fortified cereal

A growing child requires a lot of iron and if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it can be slightly difficult to keep up with it. This is because iron from the plants is not well absorbed by the body. Heme iron is easily absorbed and is found in animal muscle fibers. Plants contain non-heme iron and which is why you need to combine additional sources of iron in your vegetarian/vegan meal plan. Let’s look at some of the ways you can make that happen.

  • Chana rice (chana biryani)
  • Oatmeal carrot cake
  • Spinach pancakes/ spinach parathas
  • Moong Dal khichdi
  • Beans +rice
  • Avocado pasta
  • Flattened rice (Poha) + Rajgira Laddoo
  • Broken wheat (daliya) cooked in coconut milk

Zinc

If you want to protect your kids from infection and viruses, Zinc is an important mineral that helps you with that. It is responsible for metabolic and enzymatic functions in the body. Children with zinc deficiency experience growth defects and abnormalities in the production of reproductive organs (3). For children under 10 years of age, 5-6 gm of zinc per day is enough to meet their daily requirements. Let’s look at some of the common sources of Zinc.

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Mushrooms
  • Beans
  • Breast Milk

Although foods with the highest zinc concentration are animal-derived, a well-planned vegetarian or plant-based diet can provide an adequate amount of zinc. Combining zinc with protein-rich foods aids in better absorption. Here are some of the ways in which you can incorporate zinc into your child’s diet.

  • Avocado + toast
  • Boiled lentils and flatbread
  • Firm tofu
  • Chickpea curry or chickpea salad
  • Pea soup or pea curry with rice
  • Almond butter + yogurt with berries and avocado

Vitamins

From A to E and K, kids need all their vitamins in adequate amounts. Vitamins are divided into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that remain in the body for a long time. Water-soluble vitamins like B and C travel through the bloodstream and get washed out easily. So it’s important to store vitamins in food in such a way that the body can absorb them all. Here are some of the easily available sources of vitamins.

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, etc.
  • Seafood and meat
  • Yellow and orange colour vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Whole grains such as brown rice and oats
  • Strawberries, oranges, kiwi, etc
  • Salmon and liver

Since you cannot get all the vitamins from one plant-based food, you need to mix and combine them accordingly. Here are a few meal ideas to help you get started.

  • Avocado pasta
  • Oats, pistachios, and grapefruit breakfast bowl with coconut yogurt
  • Porridge with cinnamon, dried figs, and oranges
  • Chickpeas and ground flax meatloaf
  • Broccoli juice

Reading all these recipe ideas can be overwhelming and may put you under the pressure of choosing the best meal plan. So let’s discuss the ideal meal plan for your child.


What Meal Plan Is Needed For Children?

Keeping the diet devoid of foods with empty calories, excessive fat, sugar, and salt is more beneficial in maintaining healthy body weight. Although you can customize meal plans according to your child, here is a sample meal plan to get you started.

Meal Hour

Meal Option

Breakfast

2 slices of a whole grain bread vegetable sandwich, 1 scrambled or boiled egg toast, poha, idli, upma, or stuffed paranthas. 1 glass of skimmed milk is compulsory.

Brunch (time between breakfast and lunch)

Rava idli, a small bowl of sprouts, seasonal fruits, and juices.

Lunch

1 bowl of rice, 2 small size chapatis with very little butter or oil, half a bowl dal, half a bowl of any seasonal vegetable curry, and fresh vegetable salad.

Evening Snack

Banana shake, glucose biscuits, or bread roll with sprouts filling.

Dinner

Dinner must be very light. 2 small-sized chapatis, half a bowl of dal, half bowl of vegetable curry, and a small cup of curd. You can replace curd with salad occasionally.

This meal plan consists of a bunch of fruits and vegetables as they are a powerhouse of nutrients. If you are a vegan or a meat-eating individual, you can replace items accordingly.

How Many Meals Should A Child Eat In A Day?

Most children and teens need to eat three to four times a day which includes three meals and two snacks per day. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to schedule the snack time consistently in coordination with the meals. Giving snacks a few hours after one meal and two hours before the second meal encourages a healthy meal appetite (4).



Hashing out a meal plan could go in vain if you do not know how to feed them. Try involving your child in the cooking process. Ensure that you don’t just sneak in the veggies but add them tactfully. Binding them to one plan would take away the fun from developing a healthy diet. Therefore, try to switch it up and make it interesting as much as you can.

Your meal plan should be curated in a way that integrates all the essential nutrients required by your child.

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