5 healthy foods for kids and their nutrition benefits
Nutrition is important during your child’s developmental years — when they are doing a lot of their growing — therefore the need for a sensible diet and wisely picking from each of the 5 food groups. For example, the benefits of healthy eating for children could improve memory and concentration or help with growth.
The World Health Organization describes nutrition as fundamental for good health and development during the early years of life. In fact, without crucial nutrients that we need in larger quantities, such as protein, fat and vitamin A, your little one might fall ill, and could have delayed mental and motor development. The latter includes the physical development of muscles and bones, for movements such as running and jumping.
During this time, your tot’s brain development is also at its peak, and hence there must be adequate nutrition to support its advancement.
This is especially critical for kiddos aged two and younger. Hence, one of the ways to help your tyke flourish is to provide him or her with power-packed meals. To get you started, here are the five most healthy foods for your growing child.
1. Brain food for the kids: Fatty fish
Not all fats are the same. You have trans fats (bad), saturated fats (so-so), monounsaturated fats (good) and polyunsaturated fats (good).
While the “bad” fats can cause issues such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the “good” fats can have essential functions like building cell membranes and blood clotting, or positive health benefits that include reducing one’s blood pressure.
The type found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel is of the polyunsaturated variety (good), aka Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids could even reduce your risk of heart disease.
Especially in children, Omega-3 for children’s brain development is important as the human body cannot produce on its own. In addition, this nutrient might also be beneficial for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. You could say it’s food for the kids’ brains.
And while your babe is chomping on healthy foods that improve memory and concentration, his or her brain is busy soaking up information like a sponge and maturing at lightning speed. You can supplement this progress with the right learning activities to hone his or her mind.
Omega-3 aside, fish is also one of the good sources of vitamin D. This is one of the most important nutrients for children as it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your kid’s body — hence keeping their bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
2. Boost the immune system: Berries
Berries are high in polyphenol content, which is a type of plant antioxidant that is “berry” good for the body. It’s also this compound that gives berries their vibrant hues — think strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and more.
Antioxidant-rich foods help to stabilise the unstable “free radicals” in the body, which are formed when oxygen reacts with other molecules. If left unchecked, these free radicals could damage healthy cells, potentially contributing to ageing, a decline of our immune system or even diseases like cancer.
When a baby is born, their immune system has yet to develop fully. Nutrition plays a role in supporting their body’s natural defences so it can produce antibodies to fend off viruses and other microscopic invaders.
Antioxidant benefits aside, these small and juicy fruits are also a rich source of vitamin C for kids, low in calories, high in fibre… the list goes on. Plump and sweet, enjoyed with cereal, mixed into yogurt or eaten on their own, berries are indeed a yummy treat for kids and adults of all ages.
3. Important nutrients for children found in eggs
What foods are good for a child’s growth, you ask? Well, eggs are a very nutrient-dense food. Afterall, it’s what nourishes a bird, fish or reptile embryo before it hatches. High protein foods for kids are also important for physical development, and eggs satisfy this criteria.
Previously, eggs had received a lot of flak for being high in cholesterol. Researchers later found that the cholesterol in eggs was the “good” type, or high-density lipoprotein, which could be beneficial for the heart.
Often touted as a whole food, eggs are also a good source of protein. This is why you often see bodybuilders chug down eggs after their workout to train up their muscles. And it’s also why parents just love to feed their children eggs every morning before school — hard- or soft-boiled, scrambled, poached, sunny side up, you name it.
Not just for muscles, eggs could also help your kids grow tall as proteins help to build other tissues such as bones and teeth. Of course, one’s adult height is also dependent on factors like genetics, but with the right nutrition, your mini-me (for now) could literally achieve his or her full height potential in the future.
Did you know that eggs are also rich in choline, which aids brain development? Although our body is able to make choline in small amounts, this is often insufficient.
One of the many healthy eating tips for kids we’d prioritise: Don’t throw out the egg yolk. That’s where 90% of the vital nutrients are!
4. One of the sources of calcium: Milk
Milk is another food (or rather, drink) that we grew up hearing our parents telling us to have more of. Likewise, we tell the same to our children, and they will too, to their own.
But why is milk so good for you?
You see, while the protein in eggs builds muscles and other tissues, it works hand-in-hand with the calcium found in milk to help your child’s bones grow big and strong.
And while conditions such as osteoporosis might be the last thing on your active five-year-old’s mind, research suggests that kiddos who have enough calcium intake could have lower chances of osteoporosis later in life.
This is because our bones are in a constant state of being built and broken down. When we are young, the rate at which new bone is being built is faster than old bone being broken down. It’s like your My Account — save up when young so you’ll have enough resources for your future.
Calcium also builds strong, healthy teeth. When your child can crunch and munch through nutritious foods, they can do even more growing!
5. Healthy foods for your kids’ eyes: Orange/yellow fruits & vegetables
Do you remember the myth that carrots can improve your eyesight, to the extent that you can see better at night?
This orange root vegetable may not be able to bestow your tot with superhuman vision, but the vitamin A it contains can certainly support eye health. While not all orange or yellow fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A, many such as pumpkins, oranges and apricots do. This is due to the orange pigment (carotenoid), beta-carotene, that transforms into vitamin A when absorbed by the body.
An essential nutrient, vitamin A ensures that the outer surface of your eye is kept moist and healthy. Without enough vitamin A, the rods in your eye may also be less sensitive to light, and may result in night blindness.
With so many children looking at digital devices and screens for play or study (especially with home-based learning) from a young age, it’s even more essential to support their retinal health through nutrition.
A balanced diet for kids is best
While these foods provide key nutrients for your growing child, it’s always best to maintain a balanced diet and eat a wide variety of items. There are just so many other delicious yet nutritious things to incorporate into your kid’s diet, such as wholegrains, superfoods, meat-based protein and more.
The Health Promotion Board advises that “no single food can provide all the nutrients your body needs — you require a wide variety of food, taken in moderation, in the right balance, daily”.
This means you need to eat from all of the 5 food groups in order to ensure a balanced diet for your child. Nutrition for kids entails not just healthy foods but also an “everything in moderation” policy.
Another tip is to take the time to read and compare nutrition labels when doing grocery shopping. Opt for healthier alternatives that are rich in key nutrients to boost your little one’s growth.
Granted, some of these healthier picks might cost a little bit more, but when you’re armed with the POSB Everyday Card, you can get up to 8% cash rebates on dining and selected online purchases.
Avoid unhealthy food for kids
Sugar can give a good energy boost, but it can also be an unhealthy food for kids. Not only is it bad for the teeth, excessive sugar during childhood may lead to cravings in the future — or even obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Beware of those “fruit snacks”, sports drinks, juices and cereal as they may just have tons of sugar hiding behind a seemingly healthy exterior.
In addition, try to avoid foods that have artificial additives, preservatives or are overly processed. Though your kids may love luncheon meat and hotdogs, or convenient packaged pre-prepared lunches may be a lifesaver for you, try to hold back.
For more parenting tips, visit POSB’s parenting portal.
Tell us if you will consider using our lifestyle banking tips
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute medical advice and is solely for informational purposes. Do consult a medical professional to determine your child’s specific nutritional needs.