Parents’ Dilemma: The Best Food for Kids

Is your dinner table a battleground, filled with kids’ faces scowling at the foods on their plates? Maybe you’re one of those fortunate parents with ‘good eaters’ but you’re aren’t sure which foods will best support your children’s growth and health. Today is your lucky day! Read on to learn more about the best food for kids, why they’re best, and how to get your children to eat them.

Why are healthy foods important?

Once a child starts to eat solid foods, they’re building a foundation for their lives. Healthy foods provide a strong base for their growth in childhood and into strong adults. Proper nutrition helps to prevent disease, obesity, and some mental and emotional health conditions. Healthy foods can help kids with their energy levels, mood swings, and in many other ways.

While it’s good to limit the amount of junk foods, sugary treats, and fast food meals, an occasional treat is okay. Saying, “No, never!” to a food might make your kid(s) want it more. Think of eating healthy foods as an addition instead of subtraction. For example, if your child eats a bowl of yummy mixed berries rather than potato chips, they might not want the chips later. You win, and your child made the choice!

What Makes the Best Food for Kids?

Two factors identify the best food for kids:

  1. A food with beneficial ingredients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the right amount for the child’s age and size.
  2. A food that your child will eat.
 best food for kids

Now that you know what makes the best food for kids. You need to acknowledge that all the good-for-you foods in the world won’t help your child if you won’t eat them. That said, here are healthy foods to try with your child.

  • Fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber: apples thin-sliced (with skin when age ready), peeled mandarin oranges, berries, bananas, grapes (sliced for toddlers), carrots, corn, peas, green beans, butternut squash, sweet potato, potato.
  • Protein for vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega-3 in fish: chicken, fish, pork, beef, nuts, seeds, tofu/edamame, eggs, high protein milk.
  • Grains for fiber and nutrients: whole wheat / whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal.
  • Dairy for vitamin D and calcium: lower fat milk, yogurt/Greek yogurt, cheese; choose lactose-free products as needed.
best food for kids
  • Fats making choices with mono- or polyunsaturated fats: olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish.

This best food for kids list provides only a sampling of many foods to try. It’s good to introduce one food at a time in case your child has an allergy or sensitivity to something.

How Can I Get My Kids to Try New Foods?

Getting children to try and to eat new foods can be quite a dilemma. They may have tried something before and didn’t like it, so won’t eat it now. They may not like orange food or things that crunch. Many foods can be prepared in different ways to accommodate texture issues, such as raw or cooked carrot. Sometimes, you can’t break the barrier. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Give your kids something they like to eat along with the new food. Let’s say you’re trying to get them to eat fish. Your child likes air-fried potatoes and corn. Serve the tilapia with their two favorite foods, and they might just try it. Multiple attempts may be needed before a child will take one bite.
  • Try a variety of food, including international flavors. Your child may not eat asparagus but maybe they’ll eat a healthy Chinese stir fry including asparagus. Try vegetarian Swedish meatballs made with wild rice, mushrooms, and Greek yogurt, or strawberry Nutella crepes or crepes with other berries that pack that antioxidant punch. 
  • Involve them and make it fun. They can help you: shop, prepare food, arrange food playfully, and set the table. Create special occasions like restaurant night, indoor picnic, or new foods game show.
  • Add vegetables to foods such as muffins, which taste great with zucchini, and meatloaf, good with shredded carrot, celery, and onion.
  • Model the behavior of eating healthy foods. If a parent says, “Yuck!” to green beans, the child may never try them. Your kids need to see you eating healthy foods if you want them to consider eating them.

No parent can solve the healthy food dilemma overnight. With some effort, determination, and a bit of fun, you can help your child try the best food for kids on the way to a healthier life.

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