This is the last in my series of blog posts about Getting Extra Nutrients into Children’s diets and this week I’m focusing on my FAVOURITE meal – Dinner!
For us, Raffy will sometimes have a ‘picky’ dinner depending on what he’s had for lunch that day. But as I’m a big fan of a hot and larger dinner in the evening, I always try to offer him the same food or meals that I’m having. If I’m honest, dinner in our house is usually pretty balanced with plenty of veggies, usually some protein and some wholegrains.
When it comes to my tips for boosting nutrients at mealtimes, it all comes back to balancing out dinner and making sure you’re ticking off food groups that children need to have throughout the day:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Protein/iron rich foods
- Dairy Foods
Some ideas to Getting extra nutrients into Little One’s dinners:
Veg it up!
Ideally, it’s good to include some vegetables in anything you’re creating for dinner. These can be added on the side, as a salad or included in the dish. For example if you’re making spaghetti bolognaise why not include some red pepper and mushrooms as well as a handful of spinach. You can buy these frozen and so they don’t need to cost a lot but they add fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as colour and texture into a dish. Root veggies, red peppers and foods such as sweet potato can also add sweetness which might help little ones to more readily accept new dishes too.
Spices (although used in small amounts and so don’t usually contribute much to vitamin and mineral contents of a whole meal) can add antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to a dish (albeit small amounts) but more importantly they add a variety of flavours to a dish too. It’s so exciting experimenting with these and can really help to diversify your little one’s palates. Just start slowly by adding a little at a time to children’s foods – especially if they aren’t used to them.
There is a big movement towards everyone (including infants and toddlers) consuming more plant-based protein sources recently, rather than always relying on meat options. Many children don’t eat enough in the way of iron, plant-based sources of protein or even meat and poultry. However I’d encourage parents to experiment a little more with some of those plant-based proteins in little one’s meals. For example including small amounts of lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soya, kidney beans, butter beans in their meals can be a great way to add extra fibre, vitamins and minerals and also get them used to a more diverse diet.
Including meat, fish and poultry is also important for families who choose to eat these foods. Offering them fairly early (fine from 6 months as long as they are well cooked and the right texture) is good to get little ones used to a diet that’s similar to the rest of the family.
Vary your carbs
There are so many different carbohydrates that can be included in children’s diets, but we tend to get stuck on pasta, bread and potatos. Why not try varying it, using quinoa, rice, couscous, buckwheat as well as pasta, breads and potatoes. There are also so many variations within each food. Try sweet potato, purple potatoes, penne, spaghetti, pitta bread, English muffins, crumpets… The more varied your little one’s diet is from the start, the more variety of nutrients they will get and also the more likely they will be to accept and enjoy a wide variety of foods as they get older too.
One of my recipes that went down really well was my mushroom stroganoff, which you can literally serve with anything from rice to potato to couscous or a pitta. Let me know if you give it a go and also if you have any tips of your own for adding extra nutrients into children’s diets!
To see the other posts in this series see the links below and please feel free to add extras to my tips and ideas at any time.