A dietitian’s tips for preparing healthy foods for children.
During a child’s growing years, foods that supply protein, calcium, iron and vitamins are critical to their growth and development, says Dr Han Wee Meng, Head and Senior Principal Dietitian at the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH). Without them, children may be stunted and, in serious cases, it can impact the development of their mental and motor skills. These nutrients are present in the major food groups – grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein foods.
Here are Dr Han’s 10 top picks for a healthy diet for your child:
Strawberries and blueberries are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals. They protect healthy cells from damage, boosting the immune system.
High in protein and vitamins, eggs are one of the richest sources of choline – an essential nutrient that aids brain development.
- Cow’s milk
It is a good source of calcium and phosphorous, which are important for building bones and muscles. Serve full-fat milk, not low-fat or skimmed varieties, if your child is not yet two years old. Unless she is overweight, she will need the extra energy to grow.
- Peanut butter
Rich in monounsaturated fats, peanut butter provides children with energy and protein. However, some brands contain added salt, sugar, palm oil and partially hydrogenated fats, which reduce nutritional quality.
- Wholegrain foods
Fibre in these foods maintains digestive health and prevents constipation.
It is a great source of protein and iron. Iron optimises brain development and function, and supports the immune system.
Packed with protein, fish helps build healthy muscles and bones. Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which support eye, brain and nerve development.
Filled with protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D, cheese is great for healthy bone growth.
It is packed with nutrients that optimise eye development and ward off cell damage. It also provides lots of fibre that boosts digestion and prevents constipation.
- Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables
These include carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, tomato and papaya, which are high in beta carotene and other carotenoids that are converted into active vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for good skin and vision, growth and repair of body tissues.