Nutrients and Foods For Growing Kids

Children are growing and developing very quickly- which means they have high nutrient needs. So they need healthy meal plans which provide not just the energy they need to be active, but also foods which deliver vitamins and minerals too.

Very young children, who are weaned, can eat the same types of foods as adults but because their tummies are relatively small, it is easy for them to quickly fill up. Try giving your child small frequent healthy meals and regular snacks containing nutrient dense foods - for example milk and egg.

Children over the age of 5 can eat the same meals as the rest of the family, including more starchy foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables- but watch their portion sizes and the amount of saturated fat they are eating.

Nutrients and Foods For Growing Kids

The nutrients which are particularly important for all children include:

  • Protein: Protein is essential for the growth and repair
  • Calcium: To help with bone and tooth development
  • Iron: Iron for the formation of blood cells
  • Zinc: Zinc assists the immune system
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is essential for vision and healthy immune system
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C another immune system helper, assisting the body fight off infections
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D works with calcium to make bones, children not getting enough may develop rickets.
  • B vitamins: Vitamin B help to release the energy from food.
  • Folic acid: Folic Acid helps makes blood cells.
A varied and healthy meal plan should provide all the nutrients your child needs. Every day you should include:

Protein: This can be meat, fish, eggs, poultry, beans, lentils, nut butters, etc. Iron from red meat is the easiest to absorb and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines are the best source of essential omega 3 fats. Boys can eat up to four portions of oily fish a week but it's best to give girls no more than two portions of oily fish a week.

Starchy carbohydrate foods: Such as bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereal, potatoes, crackers, noodles etc. These don't all need to be wholemeal or wholegrain but try to include some.

Fruit and vegetables: Young children either love them or hate them, so if you are having trouble getting your little one to eat their 5 a day have a look at our top tips. A child size handful is recommended as a portion, and it doesn't matter if it is fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.

Dairy foods: Each day young children should also have some dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt or fromage frais. Whole cows milk is recommended over the age of 12 months however children who are growing normally can move to semi skimmed after they are two. Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under 5 as it does not provide enough energy or vitamin A for a growing child. Try to include dairy at meal times, as a glass of milk or some cheese cubes for nutritious snacks.

Water: Water is the best drink for children. It doesn't harm teeth, or give them calories without vitamins and minerals. Milk is also a great option for in between meals. Fruit juice can be diluted for meal times only, as this will be less damaging to teeth. 

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