Written by Nutritionist & Author, Lisa Baker.
Figuring out how to parent is hard enough, and then you have to worry about nutrition! As if being the CEO of your busy family isn’t enough?! It’s a common struggle though, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that only 8.5% of children are getting enough fruit and vegetables. Poor nutrition has an immediate impact on growth, development and health of children. Understanding the right nutrition for your child will help prevent health problems later in life. So let’s get into it.
Nourishing children needs to be considered from two different angles. Providing the nutrition that they need to grow and thrive now, whilst also nurturing happy long-term relationships with food (and we understand that sometimes those two things can be at odds with one another). So how can we easily bring nutrition into our kids' diets? We are here to help.
Tips for ensuring optimal nutrition today
The best way to ensure you are giving your child a highly nutritious diet is to zoom out and think big picture. This means you don’t need to focus on a single meal or a specific food, but focus on the variety of foods you are regularly offering. Ensure your fridge and pantry are full of wholefoods from every food group. You know you have a healthy balanced diet if your weekly shop contains a full spectrum of colour and a variety of textures.
5 key nutrients to support growing bodies.
Protein- Proteins are the building blocks of body tissue, and can also be used as fuel for energy. A diet that doesn’t contain sufficient protein can slow growth and development. For an extra boost of protein try our Thriving Family range- a delicious plant-based protein & wholefood multivitamin blend with 17 vitamins and minerals to help every member of the family thrive.
Fibre - Fibre is vital for kids' nutrition as it aids digestion, prevents constipation, helps support a slower release of sugars in the body, supports a healthy gut and assists with nutrient absorption. You’ll find our Super Tummy kids product to be rich in fibre, as well as a powerful pre & probiotics for gut support.
Iron - Iron is incredibly vital but easy to become deficient in, especially for young children who may deplete their stored iron. Fussy eaters may reject iron-rich foods, and absorption can be challenging. Maintaining iron levels is essential for oxygen transport, growth, and cognitive function, as deficiency symptoms include weakness, fatigue, and loss of focus.
Calcium - Calcium is crucial in kids' nutrition for strong bones and teeth, essential for growth and development. It also supports other areas of wellbeing including mood, energy, nerve function and digestion. Adequate calcium intake during childhood lays the foundation for lifelong bone health. Try our Choc Whiz product for a boost of calcium in your everyday lifestyle.
B Vitamins - B vitamins are essential in kids' nutrition for energy production, brain function, metabolism, growth, and a healthy nervous system. B vitamin deficiency includes fatigue, confusion and depression.
To find out more about your little one's digestion, read our blog ‘Gut Health For Kids’.
Foods to include.
A rainbow of fruits and vegetables - rainbows made of edible plants are nature's way of letting us know that we are getting a great variety of vitamins, minerals, beneficial phytochemicals and fibre. It’s super pretty too, and we eat with our eyes!
High quality proteins, including organ meats - High quality proteins including eggs, fish, meats, legumes and grains are essential to include in your kid’s diets. This will ensure they are getting plenty of all the essential amino acids for all that growing they need to do. Organ meats (particularly liver) are also great to include, as they are a highly concentrated reservoir of essential minerals. Keep in mind that you only need one small serve of organ meats a week - it’s easy to overdo organ meats because of their nutritional potency. In this situation, less is more.
Healthy fats - Including good sources of healthy fats like oily fish, avocado, fresh olive oil, nuts and seeds will help reduce inflammation in little growing bodies and support brain development.
Foods to be mindful of
Salt - Being mindful of your child’s overall salt intake is important for a few reasons. A diet too high in sodium can increase blood pressure, put more pressure in little kidneys and develop taste preferences for saltier, more processed foods. You don’t need to avoid sodium all together (sodium is still essential in the diet). Just make sure it’s consumed in moderation.
Highly processed foods - Ensure that highly processed foods only make up a very small portion of your child's diet. We get it, some processed foods are unavoidable and trying to ban them completely would be quite isolating. Just make sure wholefoods make up the majority of your kid’s diet.
Some fish - Large fish, high up in the food chain (like shark, marlin and swordfish) can be high in mercury. This is something to be particularly wary of in small children because their little bodies will be more affected by it. Mercury is toxic and can interfere with brain development. Don’t panic if your children have a little bit - just try to limit exposures so that mercury doesn’t build up in their bodies. Low mercury, high omega 3 fish like salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel.
Tips for nurturing a happy long term relationship with food
1. Free reign of the snack draw
Ok hear me out. I’m not saying your little 3 year old gets free access to unlimited lollies and chippies all day (we all know that bad choices would be made if that was the case). Have a draw and a shelf in the fridge that your child has free access to during the day and fill it with healthy snack options. Encouraging some autonomy over food from an early age helps kids to feel confident when making food choices and gets them more in tune with their bodies and nutritional needs. Need some snack inspo?
Bonus benefit: more free time for you, as you will be relieved from your ‘personal snack servant’ duties.
2. Get kids included in food preparation
Being involved in food preparation helps kids of all ages build healthy relationships with food. Little kids love being included and they are far more likely to try new foods if they were involved in the preparation. And when kids are older and looking to head out on their own, cooking won’t seem like such a daunting task if they have been involved in the cooking at home from a young age. Need some recipe inspo? We have plenty of kid friendly recipes on our blog!
Bonus Benefit: By the time your kids are teens, you can enjoy a few nights off cooking. Personal chef anyone?? That's why we had kids right?!
3. Food isn’t just for eating
Including food in your day, outside meal time, can have a great impact on how kids feel about food overall. Encourage curiosity, enthusiasm and imagination by playing games that include food, reading books, and having happy conversations.
4. Mix it up
Offer a variety of foods so that your child gets used to seeing foods that are unfamiliar. Even if these new foods are regularly rejected at the start, it’s great practice for kids to be exposed to different foods. Long term this broadens their horizons, and makes them much more flexible human beings.
Bonus Benefit: That overseas holiday will become a little less terrifying if your kids are open to unfamiliar foods.
5. Don’t offer replacements
I know this one is hard! Your kids aren’t eating dinner, bed time is fast approaching and you really just want them to eat SOMETHING! But kids are wired to find our weaknesses and if we start offering them their ‘safe’ foods as a replacement to their dinner then rejecting dinner will become a very regular occurrence. We just have to remind ourselves that, as caregivers, our responsibility is to make plenty of healthy food available - but it is up to our kids if they eat, and how much they eat. They won’t starve.
Looking to read more from Nutra Nutritionist Lisa Baker? See her 5 Top Tips for Kids Nutrition.