Fruits and Vegetables for Kids

What to Eat for Growth and Health

Encouraging your tiny tots to eat healthy can feel like a difficult task in a world that glorifies candy and sweets. Intelligent food choices through fruits and vegetables are important for kids’ health and well-being. Children grow fastest between the infant ages of 0-2 years and adolescent years of 10-14 years. This period is referred to as a ‘Growth Spurt’ and need a sound nutritional program to support this.

Growth spurt in infants and toddlers:

An amazing change takes place in small babies between the ages of 0-2. They grow an average of 10 inches and reach triple their birth weight by the age of two. This growth spurt must include foods for kids that have plenty of fruits and vegetables. Young babies and toddlers thrive on fresh fruits and veggies that can be pureed or mashed.

Best superfoods for babies and toddlers:

Check out this age-appropriate fruits and vegetables checklist that can support babies and toddlers whilst they are going through a growth spurt. Mashed or pureed, they can be introduced to your baby or toddler when he/she is ready for them

Bananas:

Bananas are loaded with fiber, potassium and carbohydrates for sustained energy, brain function and a healthy digestive tract. Bananas are also ‘perfectly portable’ with their own ‘ready to peal’ packaging. Young babies can have them pureed or mashed, whilst older toddlers can eat chopped bananas as ‘finger foods’. A delicious smoothie made of bananas and apples is just ideal for your child at 2 years of age.

Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet potatoes are a preferred snack among young babies and toddlers because of their naturally sweet taste. They provide potassium, Vitamin C, fiber, and beta-carotene. Beta carotene is a crucial anti-oxidant that prevents the formation of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds which, in excess, can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Anti-oxidants keep these free radicals in check. Sweet potatoes can be made into a smooth puree and given to your young one. It can also be cut into tiny pieces and serve as finger food. Try mixing it with raisins, cinnamon, applesauce, peaches, rice, lentils, Greek yoghurt and chicken.

Steamed broccoli, peas, and carrots:

Steaming veggies is an excellent and healthy way of introducing your child to this important food group. Broccoli, carrots, and peas are laden with Vitamin C, fiber and muscle-building protein. Carrots contain lutein which supports vision and good eye health. Serve them steamed as sticks with a lemony yoghurt dip or chickpea hummus.

Mashed beans:

Half a cup of mashed beans (approx. 130gm) provides iron required for your child. Black, kidney or white, they can be given mashed to your toddler to keep his/her blood cells healthy as he grows.

Nuggets of knowledge:

Fruit is always better than juice. A raw, pureed apple, or banana, given to your young one has almost ten times more fibre than a glass of juice.

Supporting growth during adolescence

A second growth spurt happens at the time of puberty, for girls at 09-13 years and 12-14 years for boys. By the time girls reach 15 years of age and boys turn 17, puberty ends and they have achieved physical maturation. A corresponding increase in weight is also seen for both genders by about 10kg. Pubescent boys and girls also go through a plethora of changes such as: ·    Sexual maturation ·    Increase in bone mass, fat mass, and water content ·    Hormonal changes which cause mood swings, irritability, and body image issues These sudden and drastic changes can be easily supported with the right nutrition for kids and a diet that is rich in both macro and micronutrients. While fats, carbohydrates, and protein are energy-giving, micronutrients are key to sustain this sudden growth. Many children do not meet the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations. About 40% of daily calories for children from the age of 02-18 years comes from sugar and fats, impacting the quality of their diet. The recommended allowance for fats and sugars should not be more than 25%. *Source: Indian Book of Nutritive Foods by C Gopalan*

Nuggets of knowledge:

Necessary Micronutrients:

Important bodily functions such as digestion, excretion, bone health, protein synthesis, eyesight, and immunity building are supported with the right intake of Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vegetables such as Spinach, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli and Carrots supply these micronutrients in adequate amounts.

Vitamin rich roods:

Food for kids should include leafy green vegetables and colored vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. These are chock-a-block full of vitamins that leave children energized.

Healthy snacks and desserts for adolescents:

Fruit sticks:

Young teens and adolescents need to be cajoled into eating fruits and vegetables. Introducing them in interesting ways will ensure that they get their five serves of fruits and vegetables. Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks with hummus or guacamole is a terrific option for hungry teens who need extra energy. These veggies are full of fiber, Vitamin A, and minerals that give them sustained nutrition throughout the day.

Banana bread:

All young teens have a sweet tooth and tend to reach out for unhealthy snacks. Making this tasty and healthy banana bread will ensure that your child enjoys the occasional dessert without the empty calories. Bananas are loaded with carbs, fiber, potassium, vitamins and phytochemicals which support growth.To make whole-wheat banana bread, take one cup of whole wheat flour, half a cup of jiggery powder, half cup of pureed banana, half cup milk, half cup oil, ½ teaspoon each of baking soda, and powder. Sift all dry ingredients together.Mix in the wet ingredients and fold well. Bake at 180 degrees in a moderately hot oven for 30-40mins. Serve warm with a glass of milk.

Pav Bhaji sans potato:

Most of us eat pav bhaji with mashed potato. Here is an appealing variation that is devoid of potato and will be an instant hit with your kids. Use 5-6 different types of vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, capsicum, cauliflower, peas, carrots, and cabbage. Boil them till they are soft. Now using your regular pav bhaji masala mash and cook these into a ‘bhaji’. Serve with some multi-grain chappatis, bread or ‘pav’. A mix of these delicious veggies gives your child nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin C and antioxidants.

Bengali Raita with a twist:

This is a healthy alternative to sugar-rich desserts. Boil vegetables like peas, carrots, and cauliflower till soft. Chop them very finely and add to regular yoghurt along with jiggery, salt and zeera powder. It takes very little time to make an is an excellent substitute for candy and chocolates.

On a parting note

Do stock up on the above mentioned fruits and vegetables and serve them to your kids in interesting ways. Get them to chip-in with the grocery list and go gaga over a bunch of bananas that they love to eat with peanut butter. Nutrition for kids at the right time and in a conducive manner can help your child reach his growth milestones.