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5 Top Nutrients Your Kids Need to Thrive: Kids Eat Right Month®

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

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Daughter chopping veggies by 360Girls&Women® 

During the month of August, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates Kids Eat Right Month® to encourage kids and families to consume healthful foods and be physically active. Celebrate with us as we discuss 5 top nutrients your kids need to thrive! Keep reading, as we’ll also list some foods and meal ideas that contain these nutrients.

1. Protein: The Nutrient of Many Roles

As adults, we only need to eat as much protein as we breakdown. Children, on the other hand, need additional protein for growth. This is known as positive nitrogen balance because the amount of nitrogen we get comes mostly from protein. Protein has so many roles for a developing child. Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen throughout your child’s body. At this young age, your child’s brain may need up to 60% of their body’s total oxygen, which increases the need for protein intake and hemoglobin formation. Protein is needed to transport multiple vitamins within your body, such as vitamin D and E, that help with processes like bone formation and eyesight. Healthy sources of protein foods include beans, peas, and lentils, as well as nuts, seeds, and soy products like tofu and tempeh. Want to increase the protein intake of pancakes? Try chickpea pancakes.

2. Carbohydrates: Fuel for Active Children

Your child's red blood cells and brain cells love some carbohydrates. Matter in fact, carbohydrate is their preferred fuel (adults included). For your teenage girls, eating carbohydrates can support healthy red blood cells at a time of menstrual cycles and blood loss. You should aim to include nutrient dense carb at every one of your children’s meals, to limit use of fat and protein as the main energy source. If too much fat and protein are used for energy, unhealthy ketones could accumulate in their bodies and protein loss could occur. Though carbohydrates have a bad reputation, there are healthy ones that will help the growth of your children. Whole grains, starchy vegetables (green banana, sweet potatoes, yam,etc), fruits, lentils, peas, and beans provide your children with carbohydrates full of vitamins and minerals. If you are looking for a different version of oatmeal, give a barley porridge a shot.

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Almond Butter and Homemade Berry Jam Toast by 360Girls&Women®

3. Fat: It’s All About What Type

Energy is stored, in the form of fat, within your child’s body. Fat also helps your child absorb fat-soluble vitamins and transport them to the different sites in their body. The body can make saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol on its own, but the polyunsaturated fats (omega-6 and omega-3 fats) must be eaten from the diet for a child’s body to properly function. Fat supports the structure of the body, like maintaining the shape of our cells, and it might surprise you that they help produce substances, called eicosanoids, that have important roles in immune health. Polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fats, can be found in flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. You could incorporate flaxseed when you are baking a pudding or cake, and you could add chia seeds to your smoothies.

4. Fiber: Digestive Health Hero

Fiber is a broad term that includes different carbohydrates that are, for the most part, not digested. Some carbohydrates that go under the category of fiber include cellulose and pectin, which are found in plants. There are many benefits if you decide to feed your children more fiber-rich foods. Fiber encourages regular bowel movements and makes children feel more full. If your children continue to eat foods full of fiber into late adolescence and early adulthood, they could dramatically cut their risk of heart disease and cancer down. Beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of fiber. 1 large pear with its skin can provide your child with 7 grams of fiber, and ½ cup of cooked black beans provides 7.5 grams of fiber. Also, 1 cup of cooked, pearled barley can give your child 6 grams of fiber. When a food is more processed, it generally has less fiber. Typical cereals, white rice or white bread, and common pastas have a low fiber content.

5. Antioxidants: Your Body’s Defense System

Did you know that the oxygen that your children breathe is used in the metabolism of their food? But, our metabolism is not perfect and, at times, turns oxygen and other things into something called free radicals. Free radicals do minimal harm if kept at low levels but when they begin to accumulate, then can alter how well your children’s bodies function. The damage that free radicals cause is often called oxidative stress. Antioxidants are your children’s defense against oxidative stress. Antioxidants react with free radicals and remove them from your system. Feeding your children with foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive substances can help build their bodies into strong antioxidant defense systems. You could create as a family a side of grilled red bell peppers and broccoli with their favorite dressing sprinkled on top. This combo adds vitamin C, an antioxidant (which cannot be made by the body and must be ingested through food) to your child’s plate. Sandwiches with avocado and smoothies with almond milk can provide your child with vitamin E. If your children are recovering from a cold, cook some pumpkin or squash soup to soothe their aching throat and give them some carotenoids.

Let 360Girls&Women® Be A Part of Your Village

It can be challenging at times to instill healthy habits in children, so don’t do it alone! 360Girls&Women® provides evidence-based solutions for you and your family, healthy recipes, holistic remedies/therapies, and one on one or group counseling/health coaching to help you implement long lasting lifestyle changes. Get in touch with our founder and women’s health dietitian, Sue-Ellen, and start your family’s journey to holistic health today.

Sue-Ellen Anderson Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, CPT, founder of 360Girls&Women® Nationally recognized nutrition and food expert "What makes us different?" 360 represents completion. At 360 G+W we provide personalized insight to help girls and women dramatically improve their wellbeing. Our mission is to provide evidence-based information and services to help maximize a woman's complete health through the complete life-cycle - preventing, managing, and reversing certain reproductive and chronic illnesses- using nutrition as the foundation along with other innovative holistic practices. Read more.

Blog Medically reviewed by Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, NASM-CPT, Women's Health Dietitian, Wellness Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Women's Fitness Specialist Certified Personal Trainer, & Founder - 360Girls&Women®


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