Family And Parenting

Nutrition Advice for Early Childhood

Young children need a balanced and healthy diet to fuel their growing bodies and minds.

Young children need a balanced and healthy diet to fuel their growing bodies and minds. You’ve probably heard that before, but what does that mean? What makes up a healthy and balanced diet, and how do you encourage kids to consume one? 

Below we offer nutrition advice for early childhood. We’ll explain what young children need in their diet to thrive and offer a few tips on getting them to eat it! 

What They Need

Everyone over the age of two, including adults, needs similar foods. Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and calcium-rich dairy are vital to a healthy diet.

Fruits and Vegetables

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 suggest their MyPlate Plan for encouraging a balanced and healthy diet at any age. In it, they advise that fruits and vegetables make up half of every meal. 

On top of that, they encourage serving a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors. That’s because different fruits and vegetables offer different nutrients. 

Fruits and vegetables also offer minerals and fiber, both of which are crucial for growing children. Fiber aids digestion, supports focus, and helps prevent heart disease later on in life. And minerals are necessary for humans to survive. 

Lean Proteins

Humans need lean protein, and that includes young children. That protein can come from animal sources or vegetarian sources like rice and beans. 

As children grow, they tend to go through phases when it comes to protein. It’s not uncommon for them to love chicken one week and want to go vegetarian the next. 

If that happens, it’s important not to worry too much. As the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, there’s plenty of protein in milk and peanut butter, which most children will consume even if they decide they don’t want fish, beef, or beans.  

Whole Grains

The MyPlate plan suggests that grains make up 1/4th of every meal, with at least half of them being whole grains. For young children, whole grains are essential because they’re high in fiber and carbohydrates. 

Children are growing and need the energy carbohydrates provide. And as we mentioned before, fiber is vital for helping children focus while they learn, it also promotes good digestion and can prevent heart disease later on. 

Dairy or Calcium-Rich Foods

Calcium in dairy helps build strong bones and healthy teeth in growing kids. Milk and cheese are the best sources of calcium, but those with lactose allergies have other options. Soy milk, tofu, sardines, and fortified cereals all contain ample amounts of calcium. 

Foods to Limit or Avoid 

It’s important to watch out for foods high in sugar, saturated fats, and sodium. Fat and sodium are both requirements in a healthy diet, but high amounts of saturated fats and sodium found in processed food can be detrimental to growing children. 

Table sugar isn’t necessary for any diet, but it’s prevalent, making it hard to avoid. Try to limit the number of sugary snacks and drinks in your house by offering other options, like fruits, vegetables, and water. 

Tips for Getting Kids To Eat Healthy 

Getting young children to eat healthy foods isn’t always easy. Kids tend to go through phases of picky eating, and there’s no end to the number of sugary treats available. 

But there are a few things you can do to encourage healthy eating, such as:

  • Involve your children in grocery shopping and cooking. Letting them pick out and prepare healthy foods with you will make those foods more appealing. 
  • Offer lots of healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables at home, but leave the chips and soda in the store. 
  • Make family dinners a priority. Doing so helps kids view new, healthy foods as a positive thing. 

Final Thoughts

Nutrition advice for early childhood isn’t that different from advice for adults. Children need a balanced, healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and at least one good source of calcium. 

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