In hotter weather, and when children are more active, fluid loss is greater, explains Turnbull-Bruce. When kids are dehydrated, they can become tired, weak or irritable. In place of calorie- and caffeine-laden sports drinks and pop, she recommends letting kids quench their thirst with water or low-fat milk. “Juice is good, just make sure it’s 100% juice and that you stick with half-cup servings so kids don’t get too much sugar.” Fruits with a high water content, such as watermelon and oranges, are also good options for rehydrating.
Antioxidants – substances found in certain foods that help protect the body from disease and other health conditions – are important at every age. “Bright-coloured vegetables and fruit are the best sources of antioxidants,” says Turnbull-Bruce. “Keep them in the fridge, cut up and ready to dole out when hunger hits.”
Bone formation is greatest when children are growing, so it’s important to make sure they get enough calcium and vitamin D. While a plain glass of milk is always a good bet, Turnbull-Bruce recommends smoothies (made with milk, yogourt and fruit), chocolate milk (diluted with white milk to reduce sugar intake) and cheese or yogourt for non-milk lovers. “Calcium can also be found in foods like salmon, almonds, cooked broccoli and oranges, but it’s best absorbed from dairy products.”
Whole grains have vitamins and minerals that aid growth and development. Plus, some whole grains have fibre, which can help keep children full, preventing overeating. Just make sure you read nutrition labels and ingredient lists, says Turnbull-Bruce. “Choose whole grains lower in sugar and fat and make sure the word ‘whole’ is included before the grain – like whole oats or whole barley.” Whole grain, whole wheat pita bread with hummus and light microwave popcorn are great kid-friendly choices.
Fun with veggies:
Kids love eating foods they’ve helped prepare, and the same goes for food they’ve helped grow! If you have the space, start a small vegetable patch with your kids – from planting and watering to harvesting, they’ll love eating what they’ve sown. “Make sure they get at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day,” she says. For a fun snack idea, set out dishes of cut-up veggies and let kids top their own mini homemade pizzas.