Early nutrition decisions have an immense effect on future health. Encourage children to eat nutritious foods from all food groups.
Reduce their salt consumption, which can contribute to obesity and diseases later on in life. Read labels carefully when purchasing processed food items, aiming for those that contain less sodium.
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At times, children go through phases where they refuse to eat meat – this is perfectly natural, yet it remains essential that they still receive enough protein and iron in their diets. Although picky eaters can make this difficult, with careful planning it should still be possible to create nutritious meals without meat that provide essential nutrition to young bodies.
Your children will benefit from including meat alternatives like chicken, eggs, beans and nuts in their diet, which are easily digested, rich in protein and contain iron. Incorporating two portions of fish weekly into their meal plan to give them access to essential omega-3 fatty acids for brain development.
In the kitchen, use fats like lard and butter with caution, opting for oils and soft margarines with lower saturated fat content and more monounsaturated fat. This will prevent your children from getting too much sodium (salt) which could contribute to high blood pressure.
Limit salty snacks such as pretzels, chips and crackers to one or two per day for infants or toddlers as too much salt can lead to water retention and high blood pressure.
Make sure your pantry and fridge contain plenty of low-salt canned vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk, yogurt, nut butters and fortified soy alternatives. When your children become hungry and need snacks or meals on the go, these items should be easily accessible to grab. Establish set meal and snack times together at home whenever possible for maximum efficiency.
Consuming vegetables is essential for children’s wellbeing as it provides them with energy, vitamins and antioxidants as well as helping protect them against diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer. They should aim to consume at least 2-4 serves of vegetables each day – this may prove difficult at first as most kids prefer sweeter treats instead – but there are ways you can make eating veggies easier for your little one!
Try serving vegetables that vary in colours, shapes and textures. Vegetables can be enjoyed raw, steamed, stir-fried, roasted or added to meals such as casseroles, curries or pasta dishes – start exposing your child early on so that they develop an appreciation of healthy foods like this! This will ensure they form positive associations between veggies and nutritious eating!
Try sneaking vegetables into other meals by including grated or shredded carrots in stews and casseroles, adding extra vegetables to spaghetti sauce, baking zucchini bread with cauliflower cheese sauce or making cauliflower “mac & cheese.” If your children are old enough, let them help prepare food – they may be more inclined to try what they helped create!
Family meals provide children an opportunity to observe you eating vegetables, which could encourage them to do the same. Furthermore, using various cooking techniques helps children experience different flavours and textures (Bongoni, 2015).
Keep in mind that it is natural for children to express dislike of certain vegetables at certain points, especially as their tastes evolve over time. Instead, focus on providing them with a balanced diet including other healthy options they enjoy as their taste for other veggies may grow (Jansen 2012). Children under eight years should consume an array of foods in order to ensure optimal development and growth (Jansen, 2012).
Fruit and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber for life. You can find them fresh, frozen or canned; vegetables can be prepared either raw or cooked via steaming, boiling, roasting or stir frying. Kids might find certain vegetables (such as carrots) hard or crunchy – for that reason try providing both crunchy and soft options during each meal to maximize eating success!
Try to include a variety of vegetables and fruits at each meal, choosing ones with brightly-colored hues which will appeal more to children.
Kids need the right amount of healthy fats in order to thrive and focus, but too much saturated and trans fat may increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and type-2 diabetes later. When shopping for snacks for your child’s meal plan, avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats such as pies, cakes, pastries, chocolate, doughnuts fried foods or processed snacks with excessive saturated and trans fat content.
Include nuts, seeds and legumes in your child’s diet to provide protein, iron and healthy fats. Choose unsalted and unsweetened varieties – they make great ingredients for making homemade nut butters or hummus; can even be added to casseroles and chilli dishes!
Keep a bowl of cut fruit on your kitchen table as an easy snack for quick, quick snacks. Try adding blueberries or raspberries to porridge; use chopped bananas in pancakes; or serve strawberries over hot or cold cereal.
An optimal meal for children includes milk and other dairy foods which are high in calcium, vitamins A and D, protein and phosphorus. They should aim to drink at least 350ml (12oz) of milk daily as well as consume foods made with milk like cheese or yoghurt which also provide essential protein needed for muscle development. Choose low-fat versions as full-fat varieties contain more saturated fat and less vitamin D compared with their skimmed or low-fat counterparts; for lactose intolerance or soy options which contain calcium as well as other vital nutrients.
Protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs and legumes provide essential amino acids necessary for your child’s development and should be eaten in moderation – choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry and limiting processed meat consumption such as sausages, bacon or other forms of processed meat as well as not adding extra salt to food items is wise.
Starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread provide energy, fibre and an array of essential vitamins and minerals. Where possible, opt for wholegrain varieties.
Encourage your child to consume 3-5 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Aim for variety in terms of colors – leafy veggies contain vitamin K while orange/red vegetables contain Vitamin A while cruciferous vegetables contain cancer-fighting compounds which support gut bacteria in your child.
Try to limit’sometimes foods’ such as cakes, chocolate and lollies which contain higher concentrations of sugar, saturated fat and salt than everyday food and can contribute to obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Children need water, low-fat milk and unsweetened seltzer (a healthier alternative to soda), with occasional 100% fruit juice as an occasional treat. Too much juice may lead to tooth decay; raisins and dried fruits contain high levels of sugar so should only be given with meals rather than as snacks between meals. Starting around age 2, skim and 1% milks should be introduced.
Foods high in salt, saturated fats and sugar while being low in fibre such as pies, pastries, hot chips, chocolate lollies, lollypops, biscuits cakes or burgers should be limited as these tend to increase risk for overweight and obesity as well as conditions like type-2 diabetes.
Iron is an essential nutrient for kids, and can be found both animal sources like meat and fish as well as plant-based options like wholegrain cereals, pulses and dark green leafy vegetables. Children need approximately 25 grams per day; to obtain it most efficiently their diet should include foods or drinks rich in iron that also contain vitamin C to aid their bodies absorb it better.
Consuming too much salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure, a leading contributor to heart disease. To lower salt consumption among yourself and your children, make homemade meals with less sodium-laden options like spices and herbs instead. When purchasing processed food products, check their labels to select those with the least salt content possible and buy accordingly. When serving drinks to children at meal times, avoid including salt. Also only use salt shakers on tables when necessary.