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5 Essential Foods for Healthy, Child-friendly Meals

Updated: Mar 21, 2023


by Rue Jyoti


Deciding on meals can be complicated when taking care of children. Often, what's healthy for them isn't what they want to eat. And although it may be tempting to give in all the time, the Public School Review explains that lacking the proper nutrients may significantly impact children's overall development. This includes affecting emotional and stress responses, language skills, personal-

social skills, and other medical complications.


As such, you need to be attentive to what goes into your children's diet. Fortunately, parents and caretakers can find fun, delicious, and relatively easy ways to make meals better for children. Read on if you're curious about the essential foods that should go into your kids' meals and how to make them child-friendly and delicious.


Vegetables

Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and water. So, it's no surprise that filling your children's diet with these helps protect them against disease and ensures healthy growth and development. Fortunately, there's a wide range for you to choose from. Between spinach, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms, you're likely to find something your kids like. To make them more appetizing, look for creative ways to prepare them by dressing them with sauces, roasting or sautéing, adding herbs and spices, or topping them onto whole grains.


Lean protein

Children need protein, which helps build and repair muscles and skin and strengthens immunity. However, it's essential to go for lean proteins since processed meat has excess calories and fat. You can try plant-based protein sources like soybeans, nuts, tofu, beans, or chickpeas. But if your kids prefer animal meat, you can go for fish, chicken, or turkey cooked in an air fryer to maximize nutritional value. Woman & Home explains that air fryers lower calorie intake because they use less oil if any at all. They also preserve more of the food's nutrients since they're not broken down by fat, oil, and water in the cooking process. You can check out Ninja air fryers, which maximize convenience by letting you cook two different foods in two different ways simultaneously. You can also use them for baking and roasting, allowing you to diversify your menu.


Whole grains

Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and farro are a great source of carbohydrates — an essential nutrient for kids as it's the body's primary energy source. They also have their healthiest parts intact, making them full of fiber and more filling, so your kids are less likely to overeat. You can use whole grains as a base and add sauces, veggies, or proteins to make them tastier. They're easy to cook, too; as We Know Rice explains that modern electric rice cookers incorporate advanced functions that make cooking more convenient for families. In particular, the Cuckoo CRP-P0609S Electric Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer has ten built-in smart programs for different consistencies of rice that you can get creative with for other whole grains. It also has a multi-cook feature that lets you heat meat or steam vegetables to add flavor and nutrition to your meal.


Fruits

Like vegetables, fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Luckily, they're much more appealing to kids because they're sweet. They're also great for keeping your children from getting cavities. Our article Keep Kids' Smiles Healthy mentions that foods with candy, soda, cake, and cereals can cause cavity formation. While these foods have added sugars, fruits have naturally occurring sugars that are less likely to damage teeth. So instead of serving processed desserts, serve them fruits. You can even use them in yogurts, crepes, or cobblers.


Dairy

Children need vitamin D and calcium to develop strong bones as they grow. Dairy products are abundant sources of these nutrients, making them a crucial part of your child's diet. Aside from cow's milk, you can serve soymilk, rice milk, or almond milk if your kid prefers it. Thankfully, for kids and parents who prefer plant-based milk, these are also rich in calcium and are often vitamin-fortified. To encourage more dairy in your child's diet, you can establish a routine of drinking milk before bedtime or once they come home from school. You can also cook meals with dairy, sprinkle cheese on food or use milk in hot chocolate and fruit smoothies.


Growing children need a well-balanced diet to grow well. By preparing healthy foods well, even picky eaters will enjoy nutritious meals.



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