Think of your kid’s plate as a canvas. Now paint it with colourful and flavorful food. Healthy food for kids must comprise a variety of foods from all basic food groups like grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy. Top it with an occasional candy-treat, for fun.
A Balanced diet is key for proper child nutrition. A generous spread of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), in the food for kids, balances the child’s diet. Healthy snacks for kids must include substantial nutrients from the list of these essential ones.
While one part of your kid’s diet should be vegetables and fruits, the other half is supposed to be split between whole grains, dairy and protein. Vegetables and fruits provide a wide array of choices for healthy snacks for kids.
Healthy food for kids
Proper and complete child nutrition reduces your child’s chance of developing health problems, as they get older.
Let’s talk about the colourful plate that sums up as perfectly healthy food for kids. The United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) devised the concept of ‘MyPlate’, which is a simple guide for parents and caretakers to know the right way to feed the kids.
According to MyPlate, there are five colours (green, red, purple, blue, and orange) that correspond to five basic and essential food groups (vegetables, fruits, protein , dairy, and grains). A plate full of healthy food for kids should be made with these five colours.
All these nutrients have their own share of importance in child nutrition. But do you need to serve all these nutrients in each meal? To your relief, that’s not a compulsion. Divide the food categories in the meal spread throughout the day. For example: serving fruits & cereal bowls for breakfast, you could slide in the veggies along with a glass of milk as healthy snacks for kids, grains and proteins can be accommodated in lunch or dinner.
1. Green – Vegetables
Green colour, which corresponds to the vegetables, forms the largest part of the plate. These veggies contain a lavish amount of vitamins and minerals required for adequate child nutrition.
Healthy food for kids must include veggies from different groups, namely, starchy vegetables (like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips), dark green vegetables (like spinach, lettuce, broccoli, Swiss chard, kelp), orange and red vegetables (like carrots, butternut squash, acorn squash), beans and peas (like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans), and other vegetables (like cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke, eggplant, parsnips, Brussels sprouts).
These varieties of veggies can very well be used as healthy snacks for kids.
2. Red – Fruits
Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, these juicy treats are perfect for mid-day or evening healthy snacks for kids. Serve up portions of any of these fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, strawberries, grapes, melons, etc. to your children when they feel hungry between meals. They are also a great substitute for the sugar cravings of your kids.
3. Orange – Grains
The other colour that dominates MyPlate is orange, which represents the grains group. It includes wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley, or any other grain. Bread, tortillas, cereal, rice, and pasta also belong to this group. They are a great source of energy and rich in fiber.
Feed your kids more whole grains like oats or whole-wheat bread, as compared to refined grains like white rice or white bread. (Refined grains are more processed and lose many nutrients in that process. )
4. Purple – Proteins
Foods for kids that are high in protein help in the growth and development of their muscles and strength. The iron in beans and peas, lentils, dry nuts, soy, tofu, cheese) help produce hemoglobin for better functioning of blood.
5. Blue – Dairy
Dairy constitutes milk and it’s derivatives like yogurt and cheese. Soymilk and soy yogurt are also considered dairy. These healthy foods for kids contain high quantity of calcium, along with protein and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and helps strengthen bones and teeth. Whereas, butter and cream barely have any calcium content in them, hence they are not considered as dairy in MyPlate.
Bournvita milk, milkshakes, smoothies, glass of plain milk, Greek yogurt, all these are accounted as healthy snacks for kids.
Hydration is an equally important part of a child’s diet. Make sure your kid’s water intake is sufficient. It would be best to offer them water when they are thirsty, instead of offering any sugary energy drinks, soft drinks or canned juices.
MYPLATE Meal example for proper child nutrition
Here’s a sample meal plan, keeping MyPlate in mind, for your kid:
Breakfast: Whole-grain toast with almond butter, a pear, and Greek yogurt
Lunch: Kidney beans or chicken curry with rice, green salad, yogurt or a glass of buttermilk.
Snack: Apple slices with peanut butter
Dinner: Chicken and veggie wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla/roti and a glass of Bournvita milk.
Healthy snacks for kids
There are numerous ways to play around with food, especially when it comes to food for kids. Simple activities like making pancakes in different shapes can also pique their interest. And with today’s high-tech world of social media, there is no end to available creative resources to learn.
Here are 9 creative and healthy snack ideas for kids:
Kick off the morning or evening hours with a delicious strawberry smoothie. All you need is some strawberries, ice and milk. Churn them together for a delightful and healthy snack for your kid. The smoothie is both filling and a healthy food for kids.
2. Fruit chaat
Sprinkle some fun and tastefulness over a bowl of fresh seasonal fruits for your kids. Dice their favourite fruits and add some chaat masala or any other spice of your choice to it. Appease your kid’s tongue and tummy both at the same time.
3. Greek yogurt with fruits and nuts
You could use a flavoured or plain greek yogurt for this recipe. Start with picking the fruit your kids absolutely love. Add chunks of their favourite fruit to the Greek yogurt and garnish it with some healthy dry nuts.
4. Fresh veggies and dip
Replace those nachos or crackers with healthy food for kids. Make a fresh veggies (like carrot sticks, cucumber, boiled cauliflower, or boiled broccoli) platter, with a dip of your choice. Raw veggies are packed with all essential nutrients for proper child nutrition.
5. Cucumber, tomato and cheese sandwiches
Slice up some cucumbers and tomatoes to add to that nutritious sandwich. Make sure you use whole-wheat bread. Slip in a cheese slice in the sandwich or smear some cheese spread onto the bread. This treat is a super healthy snack for kids.
6. Apple slices and peanut butter
Cut up some apple slices and serve with peanut butter for a quick, light and healthy snack for kids. Peanut butter adds a little protien and fat to the snack, while making it flavourful.
7. Fox Nuts mix
Fox nuts, popularly known as ‘Makhane’, is a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. Mix these fox nuts up with chopped tomatoes, onions, and spices of your choice.
8. Banana oat pancakes
These pancakes taste like a yummy treat but are full of healthy nutrients.
9. Grilled cottage cheese chunks with veggies and spices
Famously known as ‘paneer tikka’, this is a very healthy snack for kids. This combination is packed with macronutrients like protein and fat, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Marinate some diced onions, capsicum, tomatoes and cottage cheese in yogurt and spices. Grill the veggies and cottage cheese. Plate up for your kids and serve it hot.
Staying healthy never means doing away with the hunger pangs or cravings of your kids. Instead, embracing those pangs with healthy snacks for kids is a better choice for complete child nutrition. Tools like MyPlate are great to chart out a personalized diet plan for kids, in order to provide healthy food for kids.
The views expressed are that of the expert alone.
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