With obesity on the rise with children, it’s no surprise that we need to have healthier diets for our children. But kids aren’t getting enough of the foods they really need to grow into healthy adults. Knowing what children need to eat is as important as knowing what kids shouldn’t be eating. Learn 5 foods kids aren’t getting enough of, and how you can incorporate these foods into your kids’ lives.
About a third of kids between the ages of 4 and 8 aren’t getting enough calcium, and therefore aren’t eating calcium-rich foods (government statistics). Since children are still growing and calcium is what helps build bone mass (making bones stronger), calcium is a much-needed nutrient for growing bodies. 9 out 10 teen girls don’t get enough calcium, either, and for young girls, calcium is especially important to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Skip the juice and give your kids milk, and they get the added benefit of Vitamin D, which can prevent Type 1 Diabetes in children. Foods rich in calcium are yogurt, cheese, fortified cereals, and orange juice with added calcium. To help your children grow to their fullest, make sure they are getting more calcium in their diets.
80% of kids under 8 years old aren’t getting enough Vitamin E. Vitamin E is essential for cell regrowth and protection of cells within the body. Give your kids more Vitamin-E enriched foods, like peanut butter, tomato sauce (start serving more pasta or sloppy joes), avocados mixed in with salads, low-fat salad dressings which are a good source of Vitamin E, and cook foods with canola, corn, or olive oil to increase Vitamin E intake in your kids. Spinach is a great source of Vitamin E as well, and is super healthy for kids (you can sneak spinach into salads and many pasta dishes). Sunflower seeds and nuts are a great source of Vitamin E as well. Research suggests that you can’t raise your child’s risk of a peanut allergy by feeding them peanut butter, so if you kid isn’t allergic, start feeding them more peanut butter to up their Vitamin E intake.
Kids don’t get enough fiber in their diets, either. Fiber means proper digestion and less constipation, and kids need fiber-rich foods in their lives (up to 25 grams a day, almost as much as you need). Feed kids whole grains (such as whole wheat bread instead of white), and fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, beans, fruit, even popcorn. Brown rice is another great option for getting more fiber into kids, as well as vegetables.
Around 60% of kids don’t get enough potassium, and this is due largely because they are also not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Potassium helps muscles contract, manages fluid levels in the body, and maintains healthy blood pressure. Bananas are a great source of potassium, as are pistachios, oranges, potatoes, yogurt and milk, halibut, dried apricots, and tomatoes. There’s a reason why “growing pains” in the legs are often cured by simply eating a banana- potassium relaxes those painful muscles.
Low iron is common especially in overweight kids, and around 20% of kids between the ages of 1 and 3 aren’t getting enough iron. Iron is essential for brain development since iron helps oxygen get carried throughout the body. Being severely low in iron can cause learning and behavioral issues in children, so getting iron in their bodies is a must. Foods rich in iron include Cream of Wheat (my fave iron source), shrimp, chicken, tomato paste, raisins, beef (go lean), whole wheat bread, and beans.