It can be very tricky to plan healthy meals and snacks for kids. From fussy eaters to those who easily become bored, most parents struggle to ensure that their children get everything they need in a day.
And while nothing disastrous will happen after a few imperfect days, a lack of nutrients can add up to serious deficiencies.
At the most extreme end, such deficiencies can lead to children developing everything from brittle bones to weakened immune systems.
We’ll begin by outlining just why healthy eating is so important for kids, considering topics like how many calories kids should eat each day.
From there, we’ll move on to offer suggestions that will help you plan a series of healthy, fun snacks that your kids will love.
Each of the nine healthy eating snacks we recommend is inventive but easy to make at home and ensures that your kid gets all the key nutrients they need.
The importance of healthy eating is even greater in children than in adults.
After all, children age 12 and under are still growing and developing, and they need specific nutrients to do so.
The vitamins and minerals in their diets impact brain function, muscle strength, and everything in between.
Many parents start out with the best of intentions, but quickly end up in despair when kids don’t eat the healthy meals those parents prepare.
As we’ll see, however, the trick is to make healthy eating fun and tasty – providing tasty new flavors and opportunities for play.
First, however, let’s look at the daily intake you should aim for.
Healthy eating for kids trades on similar principles to healthy eating for adults, but the crucial difference is the amount needed.
Children have a much lower need for calories.
Most adults need around 2,000 calories a day if they’re not actively trying to lose weight, but a kind of just three years old needs 1,400 at the absolute most (and may need closer to 1,000).
This raises to between 1,400 and 2,150 calories as children reach the 9-13 bracket, with the variations accounted for by activity levels and height.
Online calorie calculators are a fantastic tool for getting your child’s caloric needs just right.
Now, let’s turn to concrete advice on how you can make healthy eating for kids easier, more delicious, and much more fun for both you and your children.
Here, we’re focusing on small portions – so, food that might suit your child as a snack, aside from the main meal, or a kind of “starter” before eating their dinner.
Some of these examples might spark your own ideas as well, showing you how we can be more playful and imaginative about the cooking process.
And as a bonus, all of these examples are surprisingly straightforward, even if you’re a novice cook.
One of the classic fun, healthy foods, making ants on a log requires celery, nut butter (of some sort), and raisins.
This snack looks fantastic, and it combines the hydration and fiber of celery with the protein and healthy fat of nuts, and the fiber content provided by raisins.
If your kid responds to this, you might find that other “themed” foods work particularly well for them.
Think of ham shaped like dogs or bears, for example, potatoes carved into smiley faces, and turkeys cut into the shapes of dinosaurs,
Guacamole is incredibly good for kids. First, the avocado is a source of monounsaturated fat, which promotes cardiovascular health.
Then, you get the antioxidants from tomatoes, which may reduce cancer risk along with also helping to maintain a healthy heart.
Finally, red onion is packed with energy-giving B vitamins as well as vitamin C to support healthy immune function.
It’s really easy to make, and (like all the best dips) you can adjust what is in it to suit your kid’s preferences.
For example, you might serve it with crunchy celery stalks, or with wholemeal bread dips.
One of the simplest snacks that you can easily whip up no matter how busy you are, tasty yogurt dips paired with fruit will please most kids with a sweet tooth and provide them with a hefty dose of nutrients at the same time.
Aim for low or no sugar yogurts, which are healthier and have the same amount of protein as regular yogurts.
The yogurt’s protein promotes muscle growth and helping your child to feel fuller for longer.
When it comes to fruit choice, you can go for a different selection each time, but apple slices, pear, tangerine, and banana are especially good choices.
Staying with the theme of delicious yogurt treats, another way to use this protein-rich snack food is to make your own frozen yogurt pops instead of buying sugary popsicles at the store.
As well as avoiding excess sugar, you’ll cut out the artificial colorings in many of these popsicles.
All you need to do is get a few silicon molds and you have frozen yogurts to go any time you feel like it.
Plus, this is a snack creation exercise kids can easily help with, making it great fun.
A filling but wonderfully healthy meal, banana bread takes a little while to make but is most definitely worth it.
Set aside about an hour and ten minutes, and get hold of almond flour, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking soda, ripe bananas, eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and dark chocolate chips.
The flaxseed meal is a rich source of fiber and protein, helping boost your energy and digestive function.
Meanwhile, studies suggest the cinnamon can help to lower blood sugar, and bananas themselves regulate blood pressure with potassium.
Inspired by this, different types of bread can also be adapted to be more healthy.
Kids need lots of specific nutrients that support their growth, and few foods better meet those needs than healthy omelets.
For example, they give your kids iron to keep their blood rich with oxygen, B12 to produce energy, and vitamin E to protect cells from damage.
In addition, vitamin A boosts resistance to disease, which is much-needed when they’re playing with their friends and having fun outdoors.
Meanwhile, the egg in omelets is always a top-notch source of protein.
Green foods are good foods. Think of everything from broccoli to spinach, kale to green peppers.
All of them are some of the best sources of vitamins and minerals around, including benefits like vitamin K (for red blood cell production), folate (for healthy cell growth), iron, potassium, calcium (for strong bones), and fiber.
Now, you might already know that most kids aren’t too keen on these foods but don’t fret!
You can hide them in fruit smoothies, mix them into pasta dishes, and you can actually get pasta partly made of green vegetables.
Even when you’re baking, spinach can go into a muffin, for example.
Now, you may have noticed that iron is one of the most important nutrients mentioned above.
The importance of protein is partly related to energy and muscle growth, as noticed above, but for children, it is actually key to all aspects of their development.
Everything in their bodies, from their youthful skin to their changing hormones, and their vital organs are built from protein sources.
So what are some other good sources of protein? Lean meat, milk products, a handful of nuts for a snack (as long as your child is supervised), and beans as a side with dinner are all great examples.
Finally, while white bread, noodles, rice, and pasta all provide your kids with a quick, cheap shot of carbohydrates, the same is not true of the whole grain versions of these foods.
Whole-grain foods are dense sources of fiber to keep digestive function going strong and to provide your child with a long-lasting source of energy that helps them play all day.
The best grains are also bursting with B vitamins to add even more energy, as well as zinc and magnesium to promote heart health and even potentially guard against some forms of cancer.
You now have some promising leads towards new snacks, sides, and small meals for your kids – and you’ve seen that healthy food doesn’t ever have to bore!
However, we all lead busy lives, and if you’re like most parents then you could probably use a bit of health to streamline the work of planning your kid’s eating schedule.
That’s where we come in – you can get a diet plan tailored to your needs as well as your children’s, generating a useful family meal plan that is packed with suggested food for every meal of the time.
Our family healthy meals all come with straightforward recipes too, all of which can be followed by anyone and don’t need any expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. So, why not join us today?