The term “kid food” often conjures images of mac and cheese, chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwiches. When made with the right ingredients, these foods can be nutritionally sound – but many of us tend to rely on boxed, nutritionally inferior versions of these meals.
Even more than adults, children require nutritionally dense foods and healthy fats to help their bodies and brains grow. Instead of thinking of "kid foods" as those that are quick and easy to make, we should think of children’s foods as those that pack the most bang for their buck, nutritionally speaking.
Here are some options to incorporate into your child's diet:
Yolks, especially those of pasture-raised hens, provide the fat and cholesterol necessary for proper brain and nervous system development, in addition to choline, amino acids and vitamin A. In fact, the majority of the vitamins and minerals found in eggs are contained in the yolk, as opposed to the whites. So forget egg white omelets and focus on feeding children eggs with yolks intact.
Pastured, organic, poultry liver is extremely high in vitamin A, which is an important nutrient for developing babies and growing children. It also happens to be one of the best sources of usable iron, along with vitamin B12. It is also packed with other nutrients, such as choline and cholesterol, which are important for healthy brain development. Since liver is an acquired taste, start small. Try shredding a little bit into meatloaf, meatballs or meat sauce for spaghetti, or even shred a tiny bit onto an egg yolk. Freezing liver makes shredding it easier, but always be sure to cook it thoroughly.
These nutrient-dense little eggs have some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids - almost 3.5 times the amount typically found in salmon. Salmon roe is also rich in antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, in addition to being full of zinc and iodine. Try serving salmon roe by itself or incorporated into a soft-boiled egg yolk. You’d be surprised at how much fun small children have eating these little eggs. Since they can be slippery, toddlers will be thoroughly entertained snacking on this highly nutritious food.
Homemade bone broth
As opposed to store-bought chicken broth, broth made from slowly boiled bones is very nutrient dense. As the bones cook, the minerals and nutrients leach from the bones and into the water, filling it with nutrients. Homemade broth is full of minerals, gelatin and glycosaminoglycan’s, which help in the development of healthy bones, hair, nails and joints. So much nutrition is drawn out of the bones that by the end of cooking, the bones typically fall apart when touched. Broth can easily be incorporated into soups, casseroles and sauces for added vitamins and minerals. It can be made in large batches and kept in the freezer.
Beef is a wonderful source of iron, zinc and B vitamins, all of which are important for healthy development. Research has shown that grass-fed beef contains less fat and saturated fat - and more omega-3 fatty acids - than grain-fed beef. Since grass-fed beef can be tough due to its leanness, use a slow cooker for several hours to get a tender product that even young children will love.
Coconut oil, unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut cream and full-fat canned coconut milk provide a powerful nutritional punch in just a small serving. Even though they are high in saturated fat, coconut products don’t contain trans-fats. Coconut products are also known for being high in lauric acid, an immune booster also found in breast milk, and for containing both antiviral and antibacterial properties, which may help keep children healthy.
Unfortunately many food products aimed at children contain ingredients such as food dyes, which according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest may be linked to behavioral issues in children. Including some of the foods listed here on a regular basis, while cutting down on highly-processed foods, can help give children a great nutritional boost.