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11 Foods Your Child Should Eat Every Day To Be Healthy and Happy

11 simple foods what are needed for the healthy development of a school-age child.

Does your child eat these regularly?

children's diet

 

I have written about children’s diet many times on this blog – not just because having two lovely daughters I am too personally affected by this question, but also I can see how important this topic recently and how big is the big confusion among parents of school-age children.

Our head is spinning sometimes from the controversial information about children’s diet: the GP, the health visitor, articles and news – and even grandma says something very different…

Of course, we would like to give them the best start in life. Some of the parents are just ignoring the whole scientific approach, others over-worry the problem and others try to find a reliable guide. I belong to the last group.

I have shared earlier the list of the most reliable and most relevant web pages regarding children’s diet in this post:

Children’s Diet: A Must-have List of Reliable Resources

and practical advice to establish healthy eating habits for children and avoid obesity in this post:

How to avoid child obesity in your family?

We know that the food consumed by our children can influence their mental and physical health, their performance (in school and later in their workplace), and even their social life – in the short and the long term too. Below I listed 11 essential foods what support a child’s healthy development and should be part of the child’s diet. Some of the should be consumed regularly (like oily fish twice a week) – some of them even daily (like dairy products and grains).

Below I listed 11 essential foods what support a child’s healthy development and should be part of the child’s diet. Some of them should be consumed regularly (like oily fish twice a week) – some of them even daily (like dairy products and grains).

Knowing that children have different food preferences, I included ideas how these foods can be incorporated into their weekly diet and what are the alternative sources of the essential nutrients of the specific food.

The 11 essential foods in children’s diet

#1 Avocado

avocado

The health benefits:

Avocados are a good source of B vitamins, potassium, lutein and folate – all needed for a healthy growth, healthy eyesight and brain development. They rich in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which is the best kind of fat, it takes care of our cholesterol level. Fats for children is really important: it provides energy and transport and absorbs the fat-soluble vitamins like A, D and E vitamins.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Avocado pieces can be offered to salads, wraps. It can be used as a spread instead of butter in sandwiches but the best to make a chocolate mousse with avocado, like this Chocolate Avocado Chia Pudding recipe.

Alternative sources:

olive oil, nuts and seeds, nut oils, rapeseed oil

Is your family's diet as healthy as you think?

Use this quick checklist to find out:

25-point Family Nutrition Analysis​

#2 Sunflower seeds

sunflower-seeds

The health benefits:

Sunflower seeds provide dietary fibre and this is beneficial to keep easy bowel movement and helps to avoid (or relieve) constipation. But the best in sunflower seeds that they contain all the essential amino acids needed for muscle development and metabolism. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein and we need to supply them through diet as our body cannot produce them. Sunflower seeds are also rich in magnesium (needed for healthy bones) and iron (needed for red blood cell production, so it reduces aneamia).

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

For small children to avoid choking hazard, sunflower can be offered as seed butter spread on toast. Hulled, unsalted seeds can be added to cheese scone and bread dough, roasted hulled sunflower seeds are delicious on porridge or morning cereals as a topping. It also can be a great snack mixed with dried fruit pieces and other seeds and nuts.

Alternative sources:

For essential amino acids: soya beans, tofu, nuts and seeds, lentils and kidney beans, brown rice, whole grain cereal.

For magnesium: all green plants, unrefined cereals, peanuts, wholemeal bread, meat.

For iron: red meat, liver, chicken, green leafy vegetables, pulses, prunes.

#3 Oily fish

salmon

The health benefits:

Like tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines -it can be fresh, frozen or tinned they are all beneficial. The best source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, Vitamin D and A. Vitamin A is vital for children’s growth: promotes good eyesight, healthy skin. Vitamin D helps to absorb and use calcium, so it is essential for the development of the healthy bones. Omega-3 fatty acids

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

They can be used in sandwiches and wraps like smoked salmon, mackerel pate. Main meal: pan fried, oven baked, fishcakes and fish pie, tuna as topping on jacked potatoes.

Alternative sources:

For vitamin A: egg yolk, liver, butter and full-fat milk

For Omega-3 fatty acids: walnut, linseed (flax seed), pumpkin seeds, soya beans, dark leafy veg (like kale or spinach)

For calcium: dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds

#4 Whole grains

Grains

 

The health benefits:

Wheat, brown rice, cereals, bread, oat, millet, barley, buckwheat: they are all great source of fibre, Vitamin B1 B3 and B6, Magnesium and Zinc.

Vitamin Bs help the body release energy from carbohydrates. Vitamin B1 supports the healthy nervous and digestive system, B6 is involved in the development of healthy muscles and needed for making red blood cells, and it  also supports the healthy immune system.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

This is usually not a problem, just a very few children refuse bread and other bakery products. What is important to offer a wide variety of grains too for children. Rolled millet can make a great porridge, bulgur can be an alternative for rice (like in this recipe: Fish and Prawn Bulgur Risotto) and barley can be used instead of pasta in soups.

Alternative sources:

For vitamin Bs: pulses, milk, and dairy products, eggs, fish, banana, yeast extract.

For Magnesium:  all green plants, peanuts, sunflower seeds, meat.

For Zinc: fish, meat, eggs and dairy products.

Is your family's diet as healthy as you think?

Use this quick checklist to find out:

25-point Family Nutrition Analysis​

#5 Yoghurt (live)

yoghurt

The health benefits:

Besides being a great source of Calcium and protein, live yoghurt provide us probiotics. Probiotics are needed to keep our digestive system clean and healthy.  It is especially recommended to consume yoghurt after antibiotic cure, in a stressful period and after surgery to recover the healthy gut flora.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Not all yoghurt are equal though, check the labels and look for live ‘friendly’ gut bacteria on the package: live yoghurt contains lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus. Yoghurt is great for breakfast topped with cereal, fresh or dried fruits, jam and nuts It is also can be a delicious snack with honey or maple syrup, can be added to cakes, soups. It can be used as the base of dips, dressings, icecreams and other desserts.

Alternative sources:

For Calcium: milk and dairy products, oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

For probiotics: probiotic supplements, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha.

#6 Cheese and Quark

cheese

The health benefits:

A brilliant source of calcium which is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, it has an also important in muscle growth and muscle contraction. Cheeses have a higher fat content, quark is a low-fat alternative to a calcium-rich food.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Cheese – completed with an oatcake or toast and with an apple – can be a snack, added to sandwiches, wraps, salads. Unlike cheese, Quark is usually a bigger challenge, but it has a creamy texture and mild taste, so it can be the base of both sweet and savoury dishes. I am a big fan of quark and you can find more recipes using quark on my blog like these delicious cocoa rolls.

Alternative sources:

oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

#7 Beans

beans-1001032_1280

The health benefits:

Beans are a good source of Vitamin B1 and B5, B12 and Calcium.

B5 is needed for producing brain chemicals, for making glucose and fatty acids and results healthy skin, hair and immune system. B12 again needed for healthy development as involved in making protein and DNA.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Baked beans are most popular beans among children, but be careful and check the sugar and salt content. Beans can be added to soups, stews, salads and wraps. They also good mashed as a side dish or used in sandwiches and quesadillas.

Alternative sources:

For vitamin Bs: whole grains, cereals, bread, brown rice, pulses, pork,  milk and dairy products, fish, yeast extract.

For Calcium: milk and dairy products, oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

#8 Dark chocolate

chocolate

The health benefits:

Dark chocolate contains minerals and vitamins – like potassium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and iron, vitamin B2, B3 and B12. It is a better occasional snack than sweets, but only the good quality chocolate is recommended. Also, be careful with the serving size and keep it as an occasional treat otherwise too much chocolate can cause constipation and contribute to weight gain.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

As an occasional treat, topping on whole grain cereals, as a snack mixed with nuts, seeds and dried fruits.

Alternative sources:

For vitamin Bs: whole grains, cereals, bread, pulses, milk, and dairy products, eggs, fish, banana, yeast extract.

For Magnesium:  whole grains, cereals, bread, all green plants, peanuts, sunflower seeds, meat.

For Zinc: fish, meat, eggs and dairy products, whole grains, cereals, bread.

#9 Citrus fruits

citrus fruits - healthy diet

The health benefits:

Citrus fruits like, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines are a great source of Vitamin C and fibre. Vitamin C is really important for a developing child: it boosts the immune system and it helps the absorption of iron.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Citrus fruits are great as a snack or added to smoothies. They are great  added to salads and cakes. It is not recommended to heat them though as they can lose their vitamin content.

Alternative sources:

For Vitamin C: other fresh fruits, vegetables like broccoli and pepper.

#10 Butter and full-fat milk

butter-1449453_1280

The health benefits:

Butter and full-fat milk is the best source of Vitamin A and Calcium for children.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Again, usually, it is not a problem, how to add butter to a children diet, toast and butter probably the most popular breakfast in the UK. Children love it on jacket potatoes, in a mash, in cakes, on scones… Milk

Alternative sources:

For vitamin A: egg yolk, liver, oily fish.

For Calcium: oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

#11 Red Meat

redmeat

The health benefits:

Red meat, like beef and pork and lamb, are the best source of iron as this mineral absorbs more easily from animal sources than plant sources. They also provide Calcium for the developing human body.

How is the best to incorporate them into the children’s diet:

Children usually have a problem with eating red meat as they tend to be chewy, but they do not need a huge amount to benefit from the benefit of these. Minced meat in pasta sauces, good quality sausages, stews made with minced meat can be accepted by children easily. When my children were younger I double minced the meat and mixed them with cooked brown lentil to get a less chewy meatball or burger.

Alternative sources:

For iron: liver, chicken, green leafy vegetables, pulses, prunes, sunflower seed.

For calcium: oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Is your family's diet as healthy as you think?

Use this quick checklist to find out:

25-point Family Nutrition Analysis​

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