Eating a healthy diet is essential for optimal health, growth and development. Eating a nutrient rich diet during childhood helps to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases later on in life including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Having a varied and balanced diet provides regular nutrients that children need to encourage healthy growth and development and maintain a healthy weight.
Below are 5 foods that are a nutritious addition to yours and your children’s diet…
Lentils are a type of legume. The most common types of lentils include brown, green, yellow, red, puy and beluga (1). Lentils offer a great source of fibre which can help support a healthy digestive system, help to prevent constipation, enhance immunity and reduce inflammation in the gut (2).
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends (3):
- Kids aged 2-5 years consume 15g fibre/day
- Kids aged 5-11 years consume 20g fibre/day
- Kids aged 11-16 years consume 25g fibre/day
- Kids aged 16-18 years consume 30g fibre/day
Lentils are rich in B-vitamins, such as folate, which helps in the formation of red blood cells and cell growth (1). They are also rich in iron, which helps with the transportation of oxygen around the body, the formation of red blood cells and protein synthesis (4) (5).
Eggs have a variety of health benefits; they are high in protein, essential fatty acids, and nutrients such as vitamin B2, vitamin D, selenium and iodine (6).
Consuming omega 3 fatty acids is essential, as your body can not naturally produce them. Research suggests that omega 3 fatty acids are important for normal brain development, improved learning, memory, reading and spelling (8). You can purchase omega 3 enriched eggs in most supermarkets.
Vitamin B2 assists with cell growth and energy production, both of which are important for healthy growth and development, whilst vitamin D helps to optimise the health of the musculoskeletal system by enhancing bone strength and density, along with modulating the body’s immune function (9) (10) (11)
Avocados are nutrient dense fruits that contain vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, fibre and antioxidants, all of which contribute towards a healthy growth and development (12)
They contain healthy fats, called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which may help to reduce heart disease risk in addition to providing energy for growth and development (13) (14). PUFAs are essential to encourage healthy development and function of the brain and central nervous system (15). Consuming both monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and PUFAs also aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A, D, E and K which help with enhancing immune function, bone development, vision, and musculoskeletal health (16) (17) (18) (19) (20).
Flaxseeds are seeds that come from the flax plant and are a great source of protein, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids (21).
Flaxseeds are enriched with the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic (ALA) which are anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative, meaning they help to reduce inflammation and the development of irregular cell growth (22). They may also be beneficial in the treatment of raised blood pressure and improvement of blood glucose levels (22).
Flaxseed is not considered a source of complete protein, however they are rich in some essential amino acids such as valine, leucine and phenylalanine which help with the maintenance and repair of cells, tissues and organs within the body (23).
One tablespoon of ground flaxseed which averages out at 7g contains almost 2g of fibre, which can contribute towards your children’s overall daily fibre intake (21). The fibre contained within flaxseed is both a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre; soluble fibre absorbs water in the intestines which can help to slow down digestion, whereas insoluble fibre bulks up stool and may aid in promoting regular bowel movements (24).
Incorporating flaxseed into the diet also supports heart health, diabetes and some types of cancers (25).
Greek yoghurt is made from cow’s milk but has been strained to remove the whey which gives it its thick and creamy consistency. It is an excellent addition to add into your kids diet because of its high protein content, as well as containing calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus (26).
Greek yoghurts’ protein content is high, containing around 10g protein per 100g (27) and it is a complete protein meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body needs and cannot produce itself. Consuming protein-rich foods that contain all essential amino acids is essential in order to prevent the possibility of stunted growth (28).
Calcium is essential for the growth and development of the musculoskeletal system, including maintaining healthy teeth, as well as aiding the body in making sure blood clots normally (29). Maintaining a regular intake of calcium is also important to prevent the development of rickets in children or osteomalacia in later life.
Vitamin B12 is important for brain development and cognitive function in babies and young children as our bodies cannot make this vitamin independently (30)
Phosphorus helps to regulate the normal functioning of the nerves and muscles within the body, is essential to our bodies building blocks of DNA and RNA, and assists in the production of ATP which is the natural source of energy within the body (31).
Including foods such as lentils, eggs, avocado, flaxseed and greek yoghurt into your kids diet is beneficial to encourage healthy growth and development for your child.