Being a parent is so rewarding but it can also be challenging at times. Feeding our kids healthy food is one such challenge. If children are fussy, we worry that they are not getting all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Here, I give you 6 tips to increase the nutrient content of your children’s meals.
- Start with breakfast. Send them off on a breakfast that will keep them full until lunch and not cause sugar spikes. Ditch the cereal with artificially added vitamins and make whole-grain porridge with berries, yoghurt and a drizzle of honey, eggs on toast, or nutty muesli with no sugar or sweetener. Make sure their breakfast contains some fat, protein and fruit or veg.
- Add more whole fruit and veg. We all recognise that fruit and vegetables are important in a healthy diet, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Despite the claims on food-labels, cereal bars, dried fruit bars, tins of baked beans, and juice don’t really count as part of your 5-a-day (now 7-a-day). This is because the processing of these foods increases their sugar content and reduces vitamins and fibre content. Try to include natural whole fruit or veg at every meal. But limit fruit to 2 portions a day. A portion is a child-sized handful. Add some berries or banana to breakfast, salad or crudités to lunch, a piece of fruit for a snack and leafy greens and orange/yellow coloured veg to the evening meal. Aim to provide a variety of colours and types of veg – eat a rainbow.
- Add eggs. Adding eggs to a dish increases its micronutrient value including iron, zinc, B vitamins, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants called carotenoids. Stir a beaten egg gently into pasta sauce or a little egg white into porridge (it makes it creamy) or make pancakes with whole-meal spelt flour, whole organic milk and free-range eggs, served with natural yoghurt and fruit.
- Switch to whole (full fat) cow’s milk or whole goats’ milk. Whole cow’s milk contains numerous minerals and vitamins including fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The fat-soluble vitamins are not present in semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. Goats’ milk makes a nutritious alternative as it is more easily digested than cow’s milk and contains good levels of calcium. Also, choose whole fat cheese and butter. Children should have pure butter, never ‘spreads’ made with vegetable oil.
- Make your own bone broth (stock). Bone broth is packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. It’s really easy to make up a batch of chicken stock after a roast. Just cover the carcass with water in a very large pan, add some onion, carrot, herbs and apple cider vinegar (if you have it) and cook gently for a couple of hours, checking occasionally that it hasn’t dried up. Strain and refrigerate in an airtight container like a Kilner jar for up to a week or freeze in ice cube trays. Add the stock to soups, stews, curries, pasta sauces and gravy to boost the nutrition of your meals. You can also buy good quality bone broth online.
- Supercharge the snacks. Many parents give their children breadsticks and rice cakes because they perceive them as healthy but these foods contain no nutrients and cause big sugar spikes from these carbohydrates. To solve this, always serve breadsticks, crackers, or rice cakes with a source of fat to slow down the effects of the sugars. Try adding a slice of cheese, some hummus or nut butter.
If you have any questions or would like further information contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07714 340 345 and Kate will call you back. Kate is a registered Nutritional Therapist with a MSc in Nutritional Therapy from University of Worcester.