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Essential Nutrients for Children

Every parent knows that their child needs a well-balanced diet to have those essential nutrients they need to help their development. However, do you know what that balance is? Many parents assume that means having lots of fruit and vegetables, but they don’t know exactly what the nutrients are, what their function is, and what foods they are found in. Our guide will help you create that perfect “balanced” diet for your growing child.

Protein

Protein is something we need to help our muscles grow by building new cells. It also breaks food down, so it can convert into energy, carry oxygen throughout the body, and fight infection. Many believe that protein mainly comes from lean meats like lean cuts of beef and poultry, but really it can come from a wide variety of foods like fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and beans. Proteins should account for around 12% of your child’s RDA.

Calcium

Calcium is the building block of good, strong, healthy bones and teeth. This is absolutely crucial! Calcium also supports a healthy muscle and nerve function, helps blood clot, and also helps in fighting infection. Dairy products are best with calcium, including milk, cheese, yogurts, ice cream, broccoli, tofu, spinach, and egg yolks. A cheese and spinach omelet would be perfect!

Fats

We hear too often how fats should be avoided, but our bodies actually need good fats to be able to function. Healthy fats help the body use other nutrients. They’re a good source of energy that can be stored, so active kids can really benefit from them. They also replace bad cholesterol with good cholesterol. You’ll find good fats in avocados, whole milk dairy products, fish such as salmon, and nuts. Fats can account for 30% of your child’s RDA.

Carbohydrates

We are also told how we should cut carbs, but for kids, the right kind can provide slow-release energy. Carbohydrates can come in many forms from refined sugars to whole grains. Obviously, we want to encourage children to enjoy fibers and starches instead of the refined sugars. Brown rice (or white is okay if you prefer), wholemeal bread, cereals, oatmeal, pasta, and even potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) are good slow-release carbs to go for.

Fiber is also something we really want our children to have to help promote healthy bowel regularity and protect against diseases later in life. Fiber-rich foods include chickpeas, lentils, seeds, nuts, and kidney beans.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is great for immune systems, but it also does much more than fight off colds. Vitamin C will help hold cells together strengthen blood vessels, strengthen bones and teeth, and aid in wound healing. Oranges and other forms of citrus are notorious for being packed with vitamin C. Potatoes, melons, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, papayas, and cauliflower.

Iron

To encourage the development of healthy blood cells, iron is important. Iron will enable blood cells to carry oxygen to all over the boy, including muscles. A lack of iron can cause anemia. This can lead to tiredness and fatigue, as well as irritability. Iron is found in red meats and poultry, beans, whole grains, iron-fortified cereals, liver, nuts, and shellfish.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is what will help promote all-around growth in children. It keeps skin healthy and also is great for the eyes, helping them adjust to the light. Foods rich in vitamin A include egg yolks, carrots, squashes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, fish oils, and apricots.

Folate

Folate is something expecting mothers are advised to take, but folate intake should be encouraged in young children too. Some beans, whole grains, lentils asparagus, spinach and Brussels sprouts are all excellent choices of folate sources.

Potassium

Potassium is something that we know to help blood pressure, although most young kids don’t need to worry about that. However, young kids still benefit from potassium as it supports muscle function and heart rhythm. Later in life, it will protect against osteoporosis and kidney stones.

While these are essential, it doesn’t mean other vitamins and minerals aren’t as important. A well-balanced meal will give everything your child needs to help grow and develop, usually without the need for supplements. The best thing to do to encourage this healthy eating is to set the example and get kids involved in the cooking process!

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