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Back to school: the 5 key nutrients your kids need

Child eating sushiAt the start of a brand new school year parents spend much time considering ways to improve their kid’s nutrition. What should we pack in school lunches? What should we feed them to ensure the most nourishing breakfast? And how can I strike a balance between a quick and easy meal for the entire family, but one the kids will actually eat?

So if your goal is to make sure your family is eating as nutritious a diet as possible, here are a handful of key nutrients to focus on within your meal planning and some ideas on ways to strike the right balance between nutrition and kid-friendly foods.

5 key nutrients your kids need

Omega 3s

Very few Australian adults let alone children get the recommended daily intake of omega 3 fat that plays a key role in brain development and cognitive function. While children may be happy to eat sushi or even tuna, these foods are not overly high in omega 3 fat. Rather salmon, both fresh and tinned is one of the richest natural sources of omega 3s you can find.

If your kids are open to eating fish, include sushi and sashimi in their diet; consider tinned salmon for child-friendly recipes such as salmon patties and simple swaps such as salmon schnitzels and using salmon for fish tacos to boost their weekly intake of these powerful fats.

Iron

Iron deficiency is extremely common, especially for children who are reluctant to eat red meat. While chicken and fish does have some iron, the amounts are relatively small compared to that found in red meat.

If your family consumes red meat, in order to get adequate amounts of iron a small serve of red meat should be consumed 3-4 times each week. Child-friendly options include a cutlet, bolognaise sauce with pasta, meatballs or a lean sausage. Eggs, baked beans and wholegrains also contain smaller amounts of iron.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency is relatively common in Australia as our soil is very low in iodine and while we used to get plenty via our milk, we get far less nowadays that processing methods have changed.

Iodine plays a crucial role in keeping the thyroid healthy, but it also aids cognitive development in children. Iodine is found in shellfish, seaweed and iodised salt so if your little one enjoys sushi regularly it will be adding iodine into their diet and as a safeguard when using salt with your cooking, always choose an iodised variety.

Calcium

With a sudden increase in the consumption of plant-based milks, we are now seeing more and more children who are not getting enough calcium.

Children need a minimum of 3 serves of calcium rich dairy a day to ensure they get enough calcium which means a serve of milk, yoghurt and cheese every day. If your family prefers non-dairy milk, always make sure they contain added calcium.

Dietary fibre

With children’s general preference for all things white, it can be difficult to get the volume of vegetables and wholegrains into their diets that will ensure they are getting the 14-25g of dietary fibre they need for optimal health and digestive comfort.

As a starting point include at least 1 piece of fruit in their diet each day along with at least 1 cup of vegetables and salad. Choosing higher fibre breads and cereals will too help to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of fibre on a daily basis.

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One comment so far -

  1. Hi Susie, thanks for sharing this useful information. The stress of modern life is heavy on kids too and they need good nutrition to stay healthy and maintain a good immune system.

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