If you find it extremely hard and tiring to make your kids eat nutritious food, you are not alone. World over, mothers term it as an everyday struggle. While as mothers we try our best to give healthy foods to our kids, the easy availability of junk food and robust food marketing of unhealthy foods has made the task of eating healthy tougher for kids as well as parents. It demands strategies that make eating healthy detectably doable.
Nutrition and development are like Siamese twins. Nourishment at early years forms the foundation for a child’s growth and development. A nutrient-rich diet is one of the time-test health tips for school students. This is why what goes on your kids’ plate should be analyzed to include a balanced meal of carbohydrates, calcium, iron, protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary for the overall growth and brain development.
Apart from the apparent impact on physicality, the habits instilled at a very young age forms a part of what children carry forward to the rest of their lives.Eating habits are no different. Thus, instilling the importance of eating nutritious food and junk food hazards at very young age benefits throughout their lives. Healthy kids are smart enough to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods.
It is important to note that genes usually determine growth factors like height.However, studies have found that environmental factors, like food you eat also make a difference and influence height in the growing years.
The three most important determining factors for growth are genes, lifestyle, and diet. Kids grow between one year and puberty at approx. two inches of height per year. Though this count could vary individually, and a lot depends on genetics, studies have proven that a healthy and balanced diet for kids with adequate sleep and exercise promotes both the cognitive and physical development of a child. A low nutrient diet can stunt a child’s growth, no matter how strong his genes are. Let’s read on to know the best health tips for school students and kids in general.
Essential Nutrients for your child’s growth
Simplifying a balanced diet for kids:
Protein is a macronutrient that plays a significant role in building and maintaining muscles, tissues, skin, organs, blood, hair, and nails in healthy kids. Our body can naturally produce just 11 of the total of 20 amino acids that constitute protein. The rest of the nine amino acids should come from food.Protein is extremely important for school going kids for whom balancing mental and physical growth is crucial.
If you notice a child’s growth not being up to the permissible mark, the chances are that they might not be getting sufficient protein in their diet. The good news is with slight changes in diet; one can recover from this deficiency.Figuring the ideal count is pretty straightforward. For every one kg of bodyweight of a child, he/she needs one gram of protein. To put it in perspective, a child weighing 15 kgs needs 15 gms of protein per day.
Nutritious food that is high in protein includes meats, egg, milk, nut butter like peanut and almond butter, cottage cheese, and tofu.
The body uses minerals to perform its regular functions from transmitting nerve impulses to bone formation. Some minerals are even used to produce hormones and even to maintain a stable and steady heartbeat. It is one of key nutrients to ensure that your kid enjoys a healthy growth.
There are primarily seven macro minerals that support the human body in development, namely sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, chloride, and sulfur. In addition to macro minerals, we need trace minerals— iron (Also read: Iron-rich foods for kids), copper, iodine, manganese, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium, required in small quantities, yet they are crucial. For example, zinc helps to heal wounds quickly.
Nutritious foods loaded with minerals includes grapes, kiwi, lemon; green vegetables, tomatoes and legumes are rich in minerals.
Studies suggest that clinical deficiency of vitamins during the critical period of growing years of brain development causes permanent damage. The brain is responsible for millions of metabolic processes. Each of these requires vitaminB6, B9, and B12 to perform well.
For absorption of the macro mineral calcium, vitamin D plays a vital role. Other vitamins that are significantly needed regularly are vitamin A, E, and C, which aids in proper vision, growth, and a healthy immune system in kids.
For healthy kids over two years old, 50% to 60% of calories should come from carbohydrates. Kids have a high metabolism and need a lot of energy. The key is to ensure that most of these calories come from good sources of whole grain foods like wheat and cereals and that added sugar are limited.
Food containing refined flour, such as pizza, burgers, and white bread is rich in carbohydrates that can be harmful. These are simple carbs that are quickly digestible. Instead, a child must consume a balanced carbohydrate intake from complex carbohydrate sources.
Not all fats are created equally. Besides being essential for brain development,Fats play a vital role in helping the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamin A, D,K, and E.
To ensure good health and optimum height, your child needs the recommended amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed, fatty fish like salmon and eggs. Nutritious food that offers good fat includes ghee, coconut oil, peanut oil, mustard oil, almonds, walnuts, cashew, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and pistachio.
Top 10 Nutritious Foods for Kids
To ensure weight and height, child needs recommended amounts of Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids commonly found in nuts and seeds.
1. Make it nice with Nuts
There is a reason behind the traditional practice of giving students soaked nuts for breakfast in Indian homes. Nuts are a superfood loaded with monounsaturated fat and omega-6 and omega-36, making it ideal for brain development. Nuts satiate hunger and are a suitable replacement for all junk food eaten as a healthy snack or nutritious food between meals. This super nutritious food also contains vitamin E that protects the brain from stress and aids in better concentration.
It should be introduced with caution for younger kids till you identify if they are allergic to it. Children under five years have a risk of choking, and they should avoid whole nuts. Instead, you can add it crushed or powdered to dishes.
Recommended use: You can soak some almonds &walnuts overnight and give them to your child as an early morning snack before school OR powder nuts and add them to porridge or give these to your child as a quick evening snack. Another easy recipe with this nutritious food is ‘energy balls’. Roast and grind all nuts of your choice and mix them with date puree and roll out small energy balls packed with the goodness of all nuts with no added sugar.
Egg yolks provide zinc and vitamins A, D, E, and B12, while egg whites are mainly protein.
2. A breakfast staple – Eggs
The adage of ‘good things come in small packages’ suits this nutritious food. Eggs scrammed with proteins, vitamin B2, D, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and copper, are a superfood for a reason. As a healthy breakfast, eggs are one of the best healthy foods for school students. Egg yolks provide zinc and vitamins A, D, E, and B12 and egg whites are mainly protein. The yolk also has choline, which, according to scientific studies, is crucial for brain health and development. ( Also read: Foods that boost your child’s brain development). Its best avoided if the family has a history of allergies.
Use: Eggs are versatile nutritious food and can be prepared in many different ways, making breakfasts interesting for kids. Boil, scramble, poach, or the good old sunny-side-up! If your kid eats an egg in the morning, he/she would feel fuller for a more extended period from hunger.
3. Go with the Green Vegetables
Green veggies like fenugreek, spinach, amaranth, and lettuce are rich in essential minerals, vitamins, and fibre. Nutrient-dense dark leafy greens are jam-packed with lots of vitamins, minerals, and healthy plant-based compounds with just 10to 25 calories in half a cup.
Green vegetables are high in dietary fibre, low in fats and rich in riboflavin, folate, ascorbic acid, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium.
Nearly30,000 children under five years of age, in India, undergo symptoms of blindness yearly due to Vitamin A deficiency. Add to this the modern-day stress of online classes and increased screen time, kids’ eye health is under a lot of pressure.
As a highly nutritious food for eye health, green leafy vegetables carry plenty ofβ-carotene flavonoids, which get converted in the body to form Vitamin A, which prevents blindness. This nutritious food is packed with antioxidants that help in the growth of new cells and aids in sharper thinking. It is ideal for giving children at least 50g/day of green vegetables.
Recommended use: You could puree the green veggies and sneak them in paranthas or cutlets. You can make palak soup/dal palak curry, apart from traditional Indian recipes like gajar/aloo methi sabzi, palak paneer, Sarson saag, and more.
Sweet potato is a versatile vegetable, which goes with a variety of preparations: Sweet potato parantha, fries, cutlets, chaat, or kheer.
4. In sweet of health with Sweet potatoes
A popular baby food for years, Sweet potato has long been underestimated as a nutritious food for kids. In addition to taste, 100 grams of sweet potatoes contain just 0.1 grams of fat and 86 calories. Filled with desirable calories, it is a nutritious food option for physical development and weight gain in babies, especially if they are underweight. A highly nutritious food, sweet potatoes contain calcium and iron, folate, potassium, vitamin C, fibre, vitamin A, to name a few.
Recommended use: Sweet potato is a versatile vegetable, which goes to a variety of preparations – Sweet potato parantha like aloo parantha, Sweet potato fries, Sweet potato cutlets, chaat, or kheer.
Rich in calcium, a cup of yogurt everyday is good for bone development and digestion. It also boosts kids’s immunity.
5. Say yes to healthy eating with Yoghurt
A cup of yogurt gives 450mg of calcium essential for bone development in addition to protein and phosphorus. Curd is healthy, nutritious food for kids’ school lunch. The probiotics in yogurt help in gut health and that are where whole health starts. It also aids in digestion and helps in building immunity in kids.
Recommended use: Can be had as curd, raita, or buttermilk with Lunch or Breakfast. Due to cold potency, it should be avoided at night. Serving curd with fresh fruit is a good breakfast option.
6. Catch them young with Carrots
Carrots play a vital role in the growth and healthy vision as they contain large amounts of beta-carotene, which breaks down vitamin A in our bodies.
Carrots are also rich in thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and C. Studies conducted by TheUniversity of Newcastle suggest that falcarinol in carrots can help fight certain cancers.
Recommended use: Grate or finely chop carrots and add to carrot halwa, Carrot Pulav, Carrot raita, beetroot carrot juice/soup or simply carrot sticks with hummus is a good idea for kids’ lunch.
Full of fiber and water content, a healthy serving of fruits ensures that the digestive tracts of kids do not get constipated.
7. Fun with Fruits
Every fruit offers a wide variety of mineral and vitamin, essential micronutrients that help boost kids’ immunity and accelerate their growth and development. The water content and fibres in fruits ensure that the digestive tracts of kids don’t get constipated.
Give your child at least 2-3 varieties of fruits a week. This way, he/she will get a steady supply of multivitamins most naturally and avoid processed foods that hinder growth. You can cut fruits in fun shapes and pack it for your kid’s lunch.
•Citrus fruits like oranges, Guava are an excellent vitamin C source, helping develop muscles, bones, and other body tissues. Vitamin C builds kids’ immunity and assists with the absorption of iron from other foods.
•Berries are a super nutritious food that contains potassium, vitamin C, fiber, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. Kids enjoy the taste of berries since they are generally sweet and have a unique flavour and fragrance. Berries are brainfood, and they improve memory function. Additionally, they boost the metabolism and the immune system of kids, making them an ideal natural snack.
•Avocados are rich in essential macro minerals and have unsaturated fats, which are the primary calories for kids (about 25% – 30%). Giving avocado puree or smoothies for babies or giving it as-is for kids improves their cerebral and visual functions.
Recommended use: Fruits are best served whole as a mid-meal snack or as first thing in the morning, and not as juices, as it loses the essential fibre when extracted only the juice.You can also make baked goodies like muffins with most fruits like apples, berries, and bananas to keep kids’ interests high!
8. Go Wholesome with WholeGrains
Unlike processed grains, wholegrain has all parts of the grain namely bran, germ, and the outer layer, all of which provide necessary fibre along with carbohydrates and proteins, giving energy for a child’s growth and development. Whole Grain foods like wheat, barley, rice, amaranth, steel-cut oats, broken wheat also contain vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium. The fibre in these nutritious foods prevents constipation and maintains the digestive health of growing children.
Recommended use: Offer a variety of bread and cereals in the form of Chapatis, Parathas, Porridges, Dal-Rice, Pulao, Khichdi each day.
9.Calcium dose in Cow’s Milk
Unlike packaged milk, organic cow’s milk is considered healthier because of its high vitamin D source, calcium, and phosphorus content. In addition to these bone-building nutrients, cow’s milk is rich in Vitamin B (Riboflavin, B-12,Pantothenic Acid, and Niacin) which gives needed energy, proteins for muscle development, and Vitamin A for strong immunity of kids.
Recommended use: Give a glass of milk to your child as an evening or bedtime snack.
10. Push it with Pulses and Beans
The nutritional needs of children between the age of six months to two years start changing, and it’s ideally the time when complementary feeding starts. In Asian countries, people start complementary feeding with pulses and bean puree of different kinds. Want to know how to introduce new nutritious foods to your kids here – (Also read: How to introduce new foods to kids)
Pulses and beans are excellent sources of plant-based protein but have a limiting amount of amino acids. It’s advisable to combine it with cereals, in the form of khichdi or any other dish, they aid good digestion and proper growth.
Recommended use: As a cereal-pulse combination, offer as dal rice, rajma rice; dal chillas with paneer stuffing; dal rice idli with coconut chutney.
Reduce screen time and encourage the kids to play outdoors.
5 Easy Ways to boost kids’ immunity
Besides nutritious foods, parents need to ensure that understand the importance of healthy lifestyle. Here are a few healthy lifestyle habits for school students:
1. Ensure your child has a regular and uninterrupted sleep routine that is in sync with the child’s natural biological rhythms. The body releases the growth hormone while at rest, so your child must take hours of age-appropriate sleep; infants require 14-17 hours of overall sleep, while three months to one-year-olds need at least 12-17 hours of sleep a day to have optimal alertness.
As the child grows (i.e. 3-5 years old), sleep patterns naturally change, and the duration tends to reduce to 10-13 hours. Kids who get sufficient sleep are more sociable and less demanding. Sleep is essential for healthy immunity in kids aswell as adults.
2. It’s essential to reduce screen time and encourage kids to go outdoors for play, which boosts immunity and gives necessary Vitamin D and exercises his muscles in the process. Too many video games, television, and mobile usage makes a sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
3. Posture is crucial for physical and cognitive development, especially in school going kids. When posture is poor, it can cause low concentration, pain, and even breathing and digestion problems.
Hunching over, slumping, and slouching can make him/her look shorter than he/she is and lead to back and neck pain. Inculcating good posture habits will help your child live to their full potential in childhood and benefit well to their adult life.
4. Exercises can be a sport like swimming, football, and basketball, exercise, specific yoga, and meditation sessions or exercise could also mean any playing that keeps them physically active as well as works wonders for kids’ immunity.What works best is when a balanced diet complements a healthy lifestyle.
5. Parents must lead by example. They can have a healthy lifestyle by opting for nutritious beverages and water over store-bought juices and sodas, snacking on fruits, nuts, and homemade food wherever possible. With healthy lifestyle choices, you can boost your child’s health and height. It is great if a balanced diet for kids is shared and enjoyed by parents too.