9 Foods that Should Be in Your Child's Diet

In the following article, we'll tell you what the 9 essential foods that should be in your child's diet are so that you can offer them daily.
9 Foods that Should Be in Your Child's Diet

Last update: 08 April, 2022

It’s a fact that children like colorful dishes that are rich in flavor and not always healthy. That’s why you must be aware of the presence of certain foods in your child’s diet, which ensure their correct growth and development. This will reduce the incidence of complex diseases as they age.

Establishing a healthy eating pattern for your child–and your entire family–involves knowing which are the most suitable foods that must be present in your child’s diet on a daily basis. You’ll discover nine of them as you continue reading this article.

What’s healthy eating for children based on?

The foods in your child’s diet are determined by their nutritional needs. In general, those for children are the same as those for adults but adapted to the specific requirements of their age. We’re talking about carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Obtaining all these components from food is vital in order to be able to develop and maintain an appropriate weight for their age. Not only this, but by avoiding excess sugar and empty calories in some products (pastries, processed foods, cookies, energy drinks, etc.), you’re protecting their current and future health.

Little by little, scientific evidence shows what the consequences of a poor diet in childhood are. Apart from the role that excess sugar has in the incidence of dental cavities, it’s also related to other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

So, to ensure the necessary nutritional balance, your child’s diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, accompanied by good sources of protein (legumes, eggs, meat, fish, and dairy products) and fats (oil and nuts among others).

Below, we’ll show you some of the most significant.

1. Whole grain bread

Wholemeal bread.

There’s a widespread belief that bread makes you fat. But as with other foods, this is only true when consumed in excess and above energy needs. You should know that bread is totally necessary for your child’s diet.

Two slices of whole wheat bread provide the amount of carbohydrates they need for energy. It’s also a perfect option to replace industrial pastries and cookies for your breakfasts and snacks (which your children do not need).

Whenever possible, it’s preferable to choose bread made with wholemeal flour, be it wheat, rye, or other cereals. Remember that it’s been shown that fiber is an essential substance to ensure adequate intestinal transit. If possible, you can prepare it at home and add some seeds to make it more appetizing.  

Throughout the day, combine it with other grains and preparations such as oat flakes, rice, whole-wheat pasta, millet, potatoes, or quinoa.

2. Orange

Oranges on an orange tree.

Most people know that experts recommend consuming 3 portions of fruit a day. But it’s also important to know that one of these should be a citrus fruit or any other fruit rich in vitamin C. As you already know, this is the case for oranges, and also for pineapples, kiwis, mangoes, or strawberries.

Many parents tend to serve a glass of orange juice to accompany breakfast. However, this isn’t as recommended as introducing whole fruits, due to the high amount of fast-absorbing sugar juice contains and the loss of fiber that it entails.

A good alternative is to include an orange in their school lunch or as an afternoon snack. This way, they get vitamin C and as little sugar as possible.

3. Eggs are the foods that provide the most protein

Nuts and dried fruits.

Eggs are called the king of proteins and should be in your child’s diet. They’re very easy to cook, combine with other foods, and eat. The value of their protein is high due to their content of essential amino acids.

Due to their practicality when preparing them, you can use eggs at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and present them in the form of omelettes, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, or baked eggs. Take the opportunity to combine them with some vegetables such as tomato, mushrooms, or peppers.

4. Nuts as essential foods in your child’s diet

Nuts and dried fruits.

We’re talking about pistachios, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, or Brazil nuts, among others. These edible fruits are characterized by their low water content and the presence of very interesting nutrients in their composition:

  • Proteins
  • Fiber
  • Minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium
  • Heart-healthy fats
  • Vitamins of group B and E

As indicated by the Australian Nutrition Foundation, eating nuts regularly, as part of a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, improve intestinal transit, and build strong bones.

If your little one is under 3 years old, choose ground nuts or nuts in the shape of spreads. This way, they can eat them safely. The appropriate portion for a child is 20 to 30 grams (depending on their age). Being somewhat energetic foods, it’s better to avoid them at evening meals.

5. Cabbage

Any food in the cabbage family should be in your child’s diet . This includes broccoli , red cabbage, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

These are foods with many benefits. For example,

  • They contain high amounts of antioxidants.
  • They’re rich in vitamin B, which has a calming effect.

The best way to take advantage of their benefits is to serve them boiled or steamed, although they can also be sautéed or roasted in the oven. If your children have a hard time getting used to the taste, try combining them with other vegetables and different dressings.

Vegetables should be present both at lunch and at dinner, either in the main dish or as a side. Don’t forget to add a good variety of all of them. As a guide, you can focus on choosing vegetables of different colors.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the foods that should be in your child's diet.

Within the dairy group, yogurt is one of the preferred options for children. The advantage of this food is that kids love it thanks to its variety of flavors and textures . For this reason, you shouldn’t have a hard time adding it to your child’s diet.

The main benefit of yogurt is provided by its live lactic acid bacteria to the body . Remember that having a good intestinal flora is essential to avoid the effects of poor nutrition and disease.

If now your child already has problems such as diarrhea and constipation, yogurt can help improve the problem. Make sure you choose those options that don’t contain added sugars. These can be mixed at home with chopped fruit, raisins, and other dried fruit for a rich yogurt that your little ones will love to eat.

7. Olive oil

As we discussed in the introduction, fats are an important component of the diet throughout life. What matters most, in this case, is the lipids we choose:

  • Choose vegetable oils such as olive oil to cook and dress all kinds of dishes.
  • Save butter for occasional use.
  • Also add sources of unsaturated fats in your child’s daily diet (oily fish, nuts, avocados, olives) and avoid saturated (especially red and processed meat) and trans fats.

8. Legumes: Foods to promote in your child’s diet

Although they’re part of the list of foods that should be in your child’s diet, they’re one of the foods many parents overlook. They provide protein, fiber, minerals, and some vitamins. About 2 to 4 servings per week are usually recommended.

You can combine lentils, beans, chickpeas, black beans, peas, etc. The possibilities they offer in the kitchen are many, so you won’t get bored: Creams, salads, hummus-type spreads, stews, or vegetable burgers.

9. Meat and fish

Along with eggs and legumes, these are among the most interesting sources of protein to consider for children. These must be present in all main meals and are complemented by the small amounts that dairy products and nuts also provide.

Lean meats and fish are the healthiest choices. Also, remember to include adequate sources of oily fish (which provide omega-3 fats) and red meat no more than one day a week (which is a source of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12).

Have healthy foods on hand for your child’s diet

A good option to make your child’s diet healthy is to have adequate food on hand at all times. As much as possible, avoid having sweets, cookies, and any other food that isn’t recommended at home. This will ensure that you choose healthy alternatives that are ideal for your child’s proper health and growth.

However, we know that children don’t always prefer these as the main part of their diet. So it’s important to create a relaxed and positive environment around meals, not use punishments, not force your children to eat, and have a lot of patience. And above all, remember that your child learns through what they see. So, take the opportunity to apply all these recommendations for the whole family.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Etherton PMK., Richter CK., Bowen KJ., Ray ACS., et al., Recent clinical trials shed new light on the cardiovascular benefit of omega 3 fatty acids. Mehodist Debakey Cardiovasc J, 2019. 15 (3): 171-178.
  • Harvard T. H. Chan. Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate. Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Mayo Clinic. Nutrición para niños: pautas para una dieta saludable.
  • Nutrition Australia Foundation. Nuts, health and kids. Julio 2021.
  • Paglia L, Friuli S, et al. The effect of added sugars on children’s health outcomes: obesity, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and chronic diseases. European Journal of Pediatric Dentistry. 2019. 20 (2).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.