It can be hard to know how to get your picky kids to eat healthier.
With so many delicious, easy-to-serve processed foods in stores, feeding your kids nutritionally balanced meals may seem impossible. Kids between the ages of 5 and 7 need 1,000-1,600 calories and 2-4 ounces of protein with sufficient quantities of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to meet their nutritional requirements and support their development. These essential nutrients can be split into three full meals and two snacks per day.
Home-cooked meals are always recommended, but this can be difficult if both parents work. Meal delivery services can help. You can choose from a variety of healthy meal options for the whole family.
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Protein is one of the essential nutrients for a child between the ages of 5 and 7 because they undergo tremendous growth at this age (about 2 inches per year!). Protein is crucial in building muscles, strengthening bones, and developing the organ system. It boosts immunity, produces enzymes and hormones, and makes and repairs tissues, skin, hair, and nails (1).
Kids at this age need around 0.95 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Animal protein, eggs, soy, beans, lentils, nuts, and quinoa are excellent protein sources. Milk and milk products can also provide the required protein and other essential nutrients.
Pudding or custard as a snack or dessert can be a great way to include a tasty protein source in your kid’s diet.
2. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are essential for young children between the ages of 5 and 7 (2). They need healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that come from foods such as nuts, avocados, nuts, nut butter, fatty fish, and seeds. Healthy fats aid brain and nerve development, provide energy, and help absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Whether it's a peanut butter sandwich or avocado and cream cheese on toast, there are many ways to incorporate good fat into your kid’s diet. Also, make sure to give your child full-fat milk and milk products. It will keep them full for hours and prevent them from snacking on junk.
Our bodies use carbohydrates as fuel to create energy. Kids between 5 and 7 require around 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. You can include healthy carbs such as whole-grain cereals, brown rice, fruit, vegetables, and beans into your child's diet.
Fiber is another form of carbohydrate that children need at this age. They should have at least 25 grams of fiber daily, which comes to around 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps with bowel movements and provides nutrients that help reduce the risk of disease.
Oatmeal muffins, cheesy bean toast, and crunchy roasted chickpeas are some examples of good carbs you can add to your kid’s diet.
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is important for the optimal functioning of your child’s immune system. It also aids vision, growth, and bone development. A vitamin A deficiency may put your child at higher risk of respiratory diseases and infections.
Foods high in vitamin A include liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Good sources of provitamin A (carotenoids) include green leafy vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Some examples include mangos, papaya, squash, carrots, nectarine, tangerine, and yams.
Try giving your little one sweet potato fries with marinara sauce as a dip. Carrot soup or corn soup can also be a tasty way of incorporating vitamin A into their diet.
5. Vitamin C
The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends that children who are aged 4-8 years should have at least 25 milligrams of vitamin C every day.
Vitamin C is crucial in forming and repairing blood cells, bones, and tissues. It also keeps gums healthy and helps boost your child’s immune system. Vitamin C deficiency is often manifested as bleeding gums and delayed wound healing.
Freshly squeezed juices such as orange, watermelon, or cantaloupe juice can give your child the required dose of vitamin C.
» Can't get your kids to enjoy healthy food? Check out these parenting hacks to get your kids to eat healthier.
6. Vitamin D
Kids over the age of one year need at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Kids' growing bodies need vitamin D to absorb the calcium required to build and strengthen their bones.
Milk and milk products, egg yolks, fish, and fish oil are great sources of vitamin D. Fortified cereals, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs are great for kids between the ages of 5 and 7. For those who are lactose intolerant, orange juice is a great option for getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
About 99% of the body's calcium is found in the bones, and this needs continuous replenishment. Therefore, calcium is essential for young children. Calcium deficiency can lead to rickets, which is the softening of bones that can cause bowed legs and stunted growth. It can also lead to muscle weakness and soreness.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, mustard greens, okra, and beans are high in calcium. Soybean-based products, fish, nuts, beans, and lentils are also high in calcium.
Zinc supports many important body functions. Most children need between 2-11 milligrams of zinc daily, and they can easily get it from poultry, meat, legumes, mushrooms, dairy, nuts, and seeds.
Zinc is crucial for cell growth and division, making it extremely important for a growing child. It also helps fight against common diseases prevalent at this age, such as ear infections, coughing, and colds. A zinc deficiency can lead to reduced memory and learning disabilities.
The body can’t store zinc, so it has to be replenished. Fortified cereals, cashews, and almonds are excellent sources of zinc and help in growth and development.
Iron is very important for growing children, and kids require around 10 milligrams of iron at this age. It is the main component of hemoglobin in the red blood cells that help transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Foods that are rich in iron include spinach, dried fruits, green peas, eggs, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, meat, and fish. Some recipes that can incorporate iron-rich food into your 5-7-year-old's diet are meatballs, veggie pasta, spinach muffins, and oatmeal bars.
» Want to add more iron-rich foods to your little one's diet? Try these oxygen- and iron-rich foods.
Magnesium works closely with calcium to improve muscle function. While calcium promotes muscle contraction, magnesium helps muscles to relax. This mineral is also crucial for activating vitamin D and calcium to keep your child’s bones and teeth strong.
The right amount of magnesium also ensures proper sleep quality, a good mood, and a strong immune system.
Between the ages of 5 and 7, your little ones reach many developmental milestones. They can hop, skip, somersault, swing, and climb. They tell stories, seek new experiences, and are more expressive. Feeding your child enough protein, vitamins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and minerals is essential for their growth and development.
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