Growing children; first you have to plant them, water them, weed and feed them … or maybe it’s not quite that simple. Good childhood nutrition is one of the most important gifts that we can give our children to help set them up for good health throughout their life.
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So what are the most important nutrients that we need in a child’s diet?
We need carbs for energy and mental alertness and we all know how much energy children can burn up. Carbs help the process of using fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Look for good quality carbs in the following forms:
– Wholegrain bread, cereals and whole grains
– Brown Rice
– Potatoes, sweet potatoes
– Wholegrain Pasta
Reduce the amount of refined carbs such as white bread, rice cakes, lollies, cakes and biscuits as these contain minimal (if any) nutrients and can cause spikes in blood sugar leading to energy slumps and further sugar cravings.
Fat is an essential energy source for children, it is necessary for may important functions within the body such as brain, nerve and hormone health and helps in the absorption of fat soluble nutrients. Look to include a combination of fats such as essential fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds, mono and poly unsaturated from plant sources and small amounts of saturated fats from animal products such as butter:
– Fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon and tuna
– Nuts and seeds
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Dairy (full fat)
An essential macro nutrient for cell development, energy production and or fighting off nasty infections. Small amounts of protein with each meal can help maintain satiety and energy levels which means that the little munchkins may be less likely to crave sweet, sugary snacks.
Common sources of protein are:
– Beans and nuts
With all that energy and activity iron is essential to the blood and the distribution of oxygen. A lack of iron can result in tiredness, pale skin, dry hair, lowered immunity and dark circles under the eyes. The following foods are good sources of iron for children:
– Red meat
– Fortified cereals
– Beans and nuts
A must for health teeth and bone development. Also aids in heart function, nerve and muscle functioning.
– Dairy – cheese, yoghurt, milk
– Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach etc.)
– Tahini, sesame seeds
– Almonds, almond milk
Folate belongs to the B vitamin group and is found in many fruits and vegetables particularly green veggies. Folate is an important nutrient for DNA synthesis, healthy red blood cell production, and serotonin production. Include fresh fruits and vegetables daily with every meal.
– Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and brussel sprouts
– Beans, peas, and lentils
– Fortified and enriched products, like some breads, juices, and cereals however this is in the synthetic form folic acid.
Children’s nutrition need not be complicated. Children need good quality nutrients in a form that can be easily digested and converted into energy. Cut back the processed sources of food and look for good quality whole foods. If they are getting a good variety of foods and all the daily macro nutrients – carbs, proteins and fats it is likely that they will be getting adequate nutrients without the need for synthetic vitamin supplementation. If you are concerned that your child may not be getting adequate nutrients visit a qualified nutritionist for professional advice.
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