Every cell in the body is made of protein, which makes this major nutrient essential for healthy growth and development. Protein is found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, seafood, and meats. In somewhat lesser amounts, it is also in beans, nuts, vegetables, and grains. Boost your child’s nutritional intake with these protein-rich food ideas.
- Even finicky kids love eggs. French toast, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and omelets are kid-pleasing dishes that contain plenty of protein, iron, and other important nutrients.
- Branch out from fish sticks and try salmon dishes that kids will enjoy. Top salmon or other fish fillets with salsa or teriyaki sauce to give your child lean protein along with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Add nuts to cereals, yogurts, or vegetables for added protein, fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats.
Snack idea. Trail mix is a great snack for on-the-go that is also easy to prepare. Throw together a mix of dried fruits such as raisins, bananas, apples, or cranberries, nuts (soy nuts or peanuts), and high-fiber cereal.
Antioxidants help defend the body against harmful substances that can damage the body's cells. Power up your child's diet with foods rich in antioxidants, such as almonds, berries, citrus, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
- Bring orange wedges, 100% citrus juice, fruit, or nut granola bars to the next sports practice for a refreshing and energizing treat.
- Pack school lunches with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or red bell pepper slices for a fiber- and antioxidant-rich lunch or snack.
- Add plenty of antioxidant-rich tomatoes or tomato sauce to pizza, spaghetti, meatloaf, soups, and stews.
Snack idea. Parfaits are beautiful to look at and fun to eat. Make one by layering low-fat yogurt, fresh or frozen blueberries, and toasted almonds into a tall glass.
Children's diets are often lacking in iron, a mineral that carries oxygen in the blood and helps keep kids energized. Boost the iron in your kids' diet with lean meats, eggs, fish, dark leafy greens, beans, dried fruits, and iron-fortified grains.
- Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, so pair eggs with oranges or orange juice.
- Serve spinach salads at mealtime, topped with strawberries, dried cranberries, and/or slivered almonds and a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The fruit will help the body absorb the iron in the spinach, and kids will love the taste.
- When kids refuse a meal, offer iron-fortified cereal topped with low-fat milk or yogurt and fruit as a healthy meal substitute.
Snack idea. Wrap an iron-fortified whole wheat tortilla with sliced turkey, low-fat string cheese, and dried cranberries for a healthy snack.