Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD
Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Certain essential nutrients have gone missing from our kids' diets. The "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" from the U.S. government encourages children to eat more foods with these five nutrients -- calcium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium -- as part of a balanced diet.
Your child may resist your efforts to help him eat better, so use the stealth health tip in each section to covertly include what he needs to develop a strong, healthy body and ward off common illnesses.
Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium, a mineral that's vital for bolstering bone strength and development in growing children, and promoting normal heart and muscle function and blood clotting. Dairy foods are the best calcium sources; most kids need three servings a day.
Stealth Health Tip: Microwave oatmeal with 8 ounces of milk instead of water.
Fiber does more than keep a kid's digestive system in working order. Getting into the habit of including fiber-rich foods may curb your child's chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes down the road, too. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are generally fiber-rich.
Stealth Health Tip: Prepare your favorite chili recipe with twice the beans and half the meat. Puree cooked white, black, or navy beans and add to soups and stews to boost magnesium and fiber.
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is both a vitamin and a hormone that can be manufactured from sunlight. Vitamin D from food is more reliable at helping calcium get into bones. It’s been called the miracle vitamin, as numerous studies suggest vitamin D goes beyond bone health and may reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Stealth Health Tip: Add low-fat milk to puddings, soups and smoothies.
Potassium means more than orange juice and bananas. Every food has potassium. In fact, meat, dairy, and seafood are packed with the potassium your child's body needs for normal heart rhythm, muscle function, and blood pressure. When it comes to kids getting enough potassium, the fresher the food, the better.
Stealth Health Tip: Make your own high-potassium trail mix with chopped dried apricots or peaches, whole-grain cereal, roasted soy nuts and a few mini chocolate chips.
Make use of these easy hints and stealthy tips -- or come up with your own -- and your kids can easily get more of these five essential nutrients their growing bodies need.
SOURCES: Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010."WebMD Feature: "New Vitamin D and Calcium Recommendations: Experts Weigh In."
The Health News section does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.