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Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Photography by James Kicinski-McCoy

Building and maintaining healthy eating habits for your kids is important. Start while they’re young and check out these twelve essential nutrients and tips on how to incorporate them into your child’s diet!

Calcium – Contains a balance of high-quality proteins, fat, and essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, phosphorous (helps production of energy and bone formation in the body), Niacin (which keeps enzymes functioning normally and helps the body process sugars and fats), and vitamins A, B-12, and D. Calcium is essential for building strong bones, and muscle and nerve support. Healthy choices include milk, low-sugar yogurt, natural cheeses, fruit and milk-blended smoothies, and milk with nutrient-rich chocolate powder mixed in.

Protein – Helps a child’s body fight infection, build cells, break down food into energy, and carry oxygen. Protein should make up about 12% of your child’s RDA (recommended daily allowance). Some protein-packed options are meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy, seeds, and fish. Try mixed nuts, hard boiled eggs, turkey jerky, cheese sticks, kid-friendly protein shakes, baked fish sticks, natural fruit and nut bars, a peanut butter sandwich, or “ants on a log.”

Iron – Lack of iron can stunt brain development, cause anemia, hurt cell function, and lower a kid’s IQ. Iron-rich foods include red meat, leafy green vegetables, enriched grains, tofu, dried fruits, fish, and beans. Veggie chips or sticks, veggie rolls, dehydrated fruit chips, tuna sandwiches, and iron-fortified cereal bars are great for on-the-go iron-packed snacks.

Vitamin C – Abundant in fruits and veggies, this powerful antioxidant is essential to maintain healthy connective tissue. It protects against heart disease, aids in the absorption of iron, and decreases bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Supplemental Vitamin C may also lessen the symptoms of colds. Healthy sources include fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus with sliced red peppers, applesauce, dried cranberries or raisins, all-natural fruit snacks or roll ups, natural fruit smoothies, organic pureed fruit and veggie pouches, and sliced strawberries.

Vitamin A – Helps skin and mucous membranes repel bacteria and viruses more effectively. It also plays a role in bone growth, reproduction, immune system health, and is essential to healthy vision. The highest sources of Vitamin A are found in milk, fish oils, and eggs. It’s also found in leafy green vegetables, tomato products, and fruits. Try baby carrots and dip, yogurt, pistachio nuts, sweet potato chips, mini cheese rounds, beans, and fresh cantaloupe, mangoes, and apricots.

Zinc – Helps boosts immunity and creates new cells, which allows healthy collagen production and wound healing. It also preserves vision and protects again vision loss. Lean meats, eggs, beans, lentils, peas, soy, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and nuts are all packed with zinc. Give the kids whole wheat crackers with hummus, goldfish crackers, toasted pumpkin seeds, popcorn, hard boiled eggs, dehydrated edemame, and soy yogurt.

B Vitamins – B-12 may be the star of all the B vitamins, but they all play an important role in health. B vitamins help with cell metabolism, and are essential for the skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver, and assisting in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They are found in whole grains, chicken, fish, and dairy. Healthy options are milk, lean meats, whole grain pretzels with natural cheese dip, eggs, pickles, popcorn, cheese, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, and whole wheat pita bread with hummus.

Vitamin D – Assists the absorption of calcium, strengthens immune system, protects against diseases, provides protection against fractured bones, promotes bone mineralization, and may prevent cancer. Vitamin D is harder to get in your diet, even though it’s found in many foods like milk, eggs, tuna, cereals, and salmon. Sunlight causes our bodies to make Vitamin D, so get the kids outside to play! Try fortified-cereals and breakfast bars, tuna sandwiches, chocolate milk, cheese roll-ups, and low-fat ice creams or frozen yogurts.

Magnesium – Essential in maintaining nervous, cardiovascular, and muscular systems. It helps maintain muscles, nerves, and bones, and promotes normal blood pressure and is involved in energy metabolism. It’s found naturally in whole grains, dark leafy greens (mainly spinach), nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans, and fish. Delicious options include guacamole and whole wheat pita chips, baked spinach bites, dehydrated edamame, crunchy nut bars, brown rice bars, black bean soup, and organic pureed veggie pouches.

Potassium – An essential mineral that is required for proper functioning of major organs. Potassium is needed for the heart, muscles, nerves, kidneys, and digestive system to operate normally. It’s also required for the body to maintain blood pressure and the body’s acid-balance. Potassium is naturally found in bananas and other fruits, coconut water, whole wheat breads, almonds, dark leafy vegetables, legumes, potatoes, and milk. Try baked sweet potato fries, bean dip with whole wheat crackers, baked veggie chips or sticks, and whole wheat pretzels.

Fiber – Essential for healthy digestion and keeping cholesterol levels low. Good sources are vegetables, bran cereals, flax seeds, fruit, and whole grains. Try all-natural granola bars, soups, sliced apples and peanut butter, “ants on a log,” goldfish crackers, oatmeal cookies, nut, fruit, and seed bars, popcorn or puffed corn, or flax crackers.

Choline – It’s not considered a vitamin, but a micronutrient. It’s vital for healthy liver function and normal brain development. It helps the body with maintenance of cell membranes, nerve signaling, and muscle function. It’s naturally found in egg yolks, beef, wheat germ, soy foods, brussels sprouts, salmon, broccoli, peanut butter, and milk chocolate. Try boiled eggs, a peanut butter roll up with banana and chocolate drizzle, organic pureed veggie pouches, and beef jerky.

This post is in partnership with CA Milk.

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