5 Everyday Foods That Help Kids Grow Strong
There are many simple foods that help kids grow strong. Yet most children are not growing at the appropriate rate. In fact, the “WHO's Member States have endorsed global targets for improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition and are committed to monitoring progress,” according to the World Health Organization.
Some of their targets include:
- 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted
- 30% reduction in low birth weight
- No increase in childhood overweight
- Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%
Despite what the WHO and related organizations are doing, there’s a simple way to do the best you can for your family: choose foods that help kids grow strong. Many of these everyday foods may even already be in your kitchen, so start collecting kid-friendly recipes, starting with our Healthy Height Recipe and Meal Ideas, to highlight these nutritional stars more often.
Eggs are a great source of protein and fat for kids, and is especially beneficial for babies, ages 6 to 9 months. In a 2015 study, 83 babies were fed one egg each day from March to December, and another 80 were not. The final results supported their hypothesis, with a 47 percent reduced prevalence of stunting for those who ate the eggs versus those who did not. There was also a reduction in prevalence of being underweight by 74 percent.
While this study was done with mothers and children in Ecuador, study authors point out the value of this food: it’s accessibility. “Generally accessible to vulnerable groups, eggs have the potential to contribute to global targets to reduce stunting,” they explain.
If you have trouble getting your kids to eat eggs, try different preparations, like egg salad, which allows you to mask the food more effectively. You can even mix scrambled eggs with rice and beans or cheese, all of which can make them more appealing for picky eaters.
Other protein-rich foods:
- Nut butters
Read More: How to Get Picky Eaters to Eat
Nutrient: Vitamin E
Vitamin E has many roles within the body, making it critical to help kids grow. This fat-soluble nutrient acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. It also boosts the body’s immune system and many cells use this vitamin to maintain their functions within the body, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Avocado is a great source of Vitamin E, providing 6 percent of the recommended daily value, in addition to high levels of folate, fat, fiber and potassium. While the percentage seems low, avocado is a great source of Vitamin E because you can manipulate it in many ways. Blend it into a smoothie, smash it onto a sandwich with their condiment of choice, or just give kids half to eat with a fork.
The bright green color is likely to attract the pickiest eater, and young ones will love playing with the soft meat. Not to mention, the creamy consistency makes it easy to feed this to toothless babies and kids.
Other Vitamin E-rich foods:
- Sunflower seeds
- Tomatoes and tomato products
- Sweet potatoes
Calcium is critical at a young age, helping kids develop stronger bones. Experts at the National Institutes of Health explain:
“Bones are the framework for your child’s growing body. Bone is living tissue that changes constantly, with bits of old bone being removed and replaced by new bone. You can think of bone as a bank account, where (with your help) your kids make ‘deposits’ and ‘withdrawals’ of bone tissue. During childhood and adolescence, much more bone is deposited than is withdrawn as the skeleton grows in both size and density.”
One easy way to get plenty of calcium to your growing little ones is yogurt, which is packed with this essential nutrient: 345 milligrams of calcium in one 170 gram container of yogurt, according to St. Joseph Health. It’s also easy to modify so all eaters can indulge and enjoy yogurt on a regular basis.
To help your kids get more from their yogurt, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose yogurt with minimal added sugar.
- Look for the “rBST Free” label.
- Add fruit to increase intake of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.
- Add whole grain granola for a boost of fiber.
Other calcium-rich foods:
- Sesame seeds
- Navy beans
Read More: Is Whey Protein Safe For Kids?
Despite eating an abundance of glutenous foods, like bread and pasta, “Most Americans do not get the recommended amount of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is considered a ‘nutrient of public health concern’ because low intakes are associated with potential health risks,” according to FDA.gov.
Getting enough fiber will help kids grow strong now and in the future, helping to stave off heart disease, keeping them regular, and reducing the risk of obesity. While your kids require less fiber than you, there’s an easy way to figure out their daily requirement: add five to your child's age for the daily number of grams needed.
As you introduce more fiber into your child’s diet, oats are a great place to start. They can be found in many organic, low-sugar cereals, as well as in the usual foods like oatmeal and granola.
Other fiber-rich foods:
- Chia seeds
- Acorn squash
Nutrient: Vitamin A
Foods with Vitamin A are crucial to helping kids grow strong. This necessary vitamin aids in bone growth, contributes to the integrity of the skin and lining of the gut, and is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and developing good vision, according to NCBI.
The benefits of sweet potato are similar to those of avocado: the creamy nature makes it easy to feed to kids at a young age and the bright orange color will attract adventurous young eaters. It can also be cooked many ways: baked fries, sweet potato mash, cubes, breakfast hash and more.
Other fiber-rich foods:
- Red bell peppers
Everyday Foods Can Help Kids Grow Strong
Sometimes, what you need is already in your kitchen. Add these items to your shopping list, and remember: you don’t need fancy foods to help kids grow; just the right vitamins and nutrients, and a few meals they’re willing to eat.