If you are a parent, you know one of your most recurring thoughts is child development and hoping your children grow up to be as strong and healthy as can be. You teach them how to read, walk, share toys, have manners and hopefully teach them how to eat properly. Proper nutrition is important from the moment they are born (even while they are in the womb, but that’s a whole other article…) to promote healthy growth, development, function and prevent any disease and illness.
The Most Important Nutrients For Developing Organs & Systems
By now, you should know the basics of not eating junk and focusing on whole, natural foods, but there are certain nutrients to feed your children that can help the development and function of certain organs and bodily systems. We broke down each main body part, most important nutrient, and what to feed your child to make sure that organ functions and develops as optimally as possible!
Complex carbohydrates are extremely important for natural energy and brain function. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy and in a developing brain, you should choose complex over simple carbs. Complex carbs are higher in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. This can be found in whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and oats.
Essential fatty acids may arguably be the most important nutrient for the brain. They are extremely beneficial for cognitive performance and function. They have even been shown to improve children with attention deficit disorders. Essential means that the body does not make these types of fatty acids, so it must be consumed through the diet and supplementation. Food sources of EFA’s are avocados, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds such as hemp or flax and healthy vegetable oils like olive, avocado and walnut.
Lutein and zeaxanthin can support memory and even improve your child’s academic performance (hello baby genius!). These nutrients are found in dark leafy greens, eggs, kiwi, oranges and grapes.
Choline is an important nutrient for cognitive development and memory function. It can be found in eggs and beans.
Vitamin E is important for memory, vision, hearing and developing language skills. It is found in eggs, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts and most seeds!
Just like an adult, children need adequate of calcium for the construction, formation and maintenance of healthy bones. Many people think that dairy like milk and cheese are the best sources, but in reality, dairy can actually cause the body to LEECH calcium from the bones, so we aim to get plant-based sources of calcium, from sesame seeds, broccoli, almonds and other leafy greens.
Vitamin D helps the body carry calcium into the bones for proper usage so make sure your child is getting enough healthy sunlight! Magnesium and phosphorus both assist in this process and are found in most nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C is another important nutrient for strong bones and can be found in oranges, red peppers, strawberries and kiwi!
A healthy heart in a child is really no different than an adult’s! Children should avoid trans and saturated fats from fried foods and unhealthy refined oils like canola or vegetable oil. Fresh fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy heart development. Rotation of foods is important as well to be sure they are getting a wide variety of nutrients.
Since the heart is a muscle, protein is especially important from quality sources such as poultry, fish, eggs and even plant-based protein such as beans and legumes.
The function of the immune system may arguably the most important aspect of a healthy child. How their immune system develops at a young age can determine the health of their entire life.
Preventing food allergies is a major game-changer when it comes to an optimally healthy child. Constantly consuming food that your child may be intolerant or sensitive too may disrupt a healthy gut flora and the gut is a major part of your immune system. Food allergies can lead to eczema, seasonal allergies, sinus infections and many more uncomfortable and avoidable illnesses. Sugar should be avoided to keep the immune system developing optimally and functioning well. Probiotics should also be a consistent part of your children’s diet to ensure they have a healthy amount of gut flora! Preferably acquired through natural foods, however, supplements or yogurts designed for a child’s digestive tract have been found to help.
A secret “anti-nutrient” that is a culprit for a poor immune system is stress. Now you may not think that children have anything to be stressed about but the family dynamic plays a huge role in children. Do what you can to talk to them and understand if they are stressed, you can help them through it. If not, try outside help.
Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient to fight infections (because let’s be honest, your child will get sick at some point in their life) and it can be found in animal products, especially the liver. Don’t worry, we know your child isn’t going to eat any duck liver anytime soon, so you can make sure their diet is full of beta-carotene! Beta-Carotene is the precursor to vitamin A, which means in the body it develops into vitamin A. You can find it in carrots, oranges, yellow and orange peppers and dark leafy greens!
Just like the bones, vitamin C is important for strong immune function and can be found in citrus, bell peppers and pineapples!
Like the brain, the digestive system benefits from complex carbs to increase nutrient content and prove fiber! Fiber should be a major component of your child’s diet to ensure they are having proper bowel movements. Adequate amounts of water will help this process too.
Folate acid is something we’ve all heard that is important during pregnancy, but it is just as important in childhood for proper development of the digestion system. It can be found in dark leafy greens!
Healthy Meals To Prepare For Your Children
Now that we covered all the bases of important nutrients for your child, it’s important to know how to actually get your kids to eat them. Children like simple meals so save all your gourmet meals for yourself!
Breakfast options can include an omelet made with a variety of vegetables such as red pepper and onions, with a side of whole grain toast topped with almond butter. This meal provides complex carbs for a healthy brain and digestive tract, while the red peppers and almond butter are great for strong bones and functioning immune system!
Lunch could be a soup or stew made with chicken breast to provide protein for the heart, sweet potatoes to boost beta-carotene for proper immune function and dark leafy greens to support the brain, heart and digestive system!
Dinner may be a piece of salmon for a big boost of essential fatty acids, with brown rice for more complex carbs for energy and fiber!
Snacks should be fresh fruit such as oranges, cut up apples and pineapple, grapes and a handful of nuts.
Setting Healthy Examples
One thing that’s easy to forget is that children watch and remember everything their parents and family members are doing. Set good examples with healthy eating and let them learn that it is better for them to eat whole, natural foods and avoid processed and convenience junk as much as possible. Get them involved in the kitchen with preparing and cooking healthy meals to make it fun for them! Try to avoid using food as bribes to prevent any unhealthy thoughts around food.
Children are the future so let’s get them to be as healthy as can be!
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