It can be hard to get your picky kids to eat healthier. With so many delicious, easy-to-serve processed foods, feeding your children nutritionally balanced meals may seem impossible. Kids between the ages of 5 and 7 need 1,000-1,600 calories a day, including 2-4 ounces of protein and sufficient quantities of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to meet their nutritional requirements. These essential nutrients can be distributed across three full meals and two snacks per day.
Protein is an essential nutrient for children between 5 and 7 as they undergo tremendous growth at this stage (about 2 inches per year!). It’s crucial in building muscles, strengthening bones, and developing the organ system. Protein boosts immunity, produces enzymes and hormones, and creates and repairs tissues, skin, hair, and nails.
Kids at this life stage need around 0.95 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Animal protein, eggs, soy, beans, lentils, nuts, and quinoa are excellent sources of this nutrient, as are milk and dairy products.
Pudding or custard as a snack or dessert can be a smart way to include a tasty protein source in your kid’s diet.
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2. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are another essential for young children aged 5 to 7. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like 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, pasterurized milk and milk products, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 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 include in your little one’s daily intake.
» More: 10 Gluten-Free Recipes for Busy Moms With Picky Children
Home-cooked meals are always recommended, but this can be difficult if both parents work. Meal delivery services help make eating healthy feasible, no matter your schedules. You can choose from a variety of healthy meal options for the whole family.
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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. The World Health Organization warns that vitamin A deficiencies 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 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 National Institute of Health recommends that children 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 aids in boosting your child’s immune system. Vitamin C deficiency often manifests 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 need at least 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily. Kids' growing bodies need this vitamin to absorb the calcium required for building and strengthening their bones.
Milk and dairy products, egg yolks, fish, and fish oil are excellent sources of vitamin D. Feeding kids foods like fortified cereals, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs will help them reach their daily required intake of vitamin D. For those who are lactose intolerant, orange juice is a good alternative for getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
Growing bones needs calcium to stay strong and that makes it an essential nutrient for kids under 7. Calcium deficiency can lead to rickets, which is a 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, along with soybean-based products, fish, nuts, beans, and lentils.
Greek yogurt, kale chips and cheese cubes all make for a healthy, calcium-rich snack you can give to kids anytime of day.
Zinc supports many essential body functions: it’s 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 and colds. A zinc deficiency may lead to reduced memory and learning disabilities.
Most children need between 2-11 milligrams of zinc daily, which they can get from poultry, meat, legumes, mushrooms, dairy, nuts, and seeds. As the body can’t store zinc, it needs to be replenished regularly.
Fortified cereals, cashews, and almonds are excellent sources of zinc and aid growth and development.
» More: Top 10 Fun Ways to Get Your Kids Involved in Cooking
Iron is very important for growing children, and kids require around 10 milligrams of it at this age. It’s the main component of hemoglobin in the red blood cells that help transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Foods rich in iron include spinach, dried fruits, green peas, eggs, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, meat, and fish.
Some dishes that can add more iron to 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. Children between 4 and 8 need around 130 mg daily of magnesium.
Be sure you’re meeting your child’s nutritional needs
Between the ages of 5 and 7, your little ones reach many emotional, social and mental developmental milestones. They begin to show more independence, understand their place in the world, pay closer attention to friendships and show more concern for others.
Feeding your child enough protein, vitamins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and minerals is essential for their growth and development.
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