Superfoods for children

If you’re on a quest to cram your little one full of goodness, try these nutrient-packed superfoods to boost her health and development

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Superfoods are acclaimed for offering powerful nutritional benefits to boost energy and brain power and prevent illness. With their higher content of vital nutrients, they’re great for your child’s development and growth, and many superfoods are inexpensive and widely available.

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Here’s our top 10 list of superfoods: print it out and tape it to your fridge to help you plan nutritious family meals that pack a particular punch.

Onions

Onions contain vitamin C, chromium and fibre, and promote the healthy development of your child’s lungs and heart – plus they’re easily disguised in soups, stir-fries, pasta sauces and pizza toppings.

Berries

Blueberries are the pick of the crop, containing high amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese and fibre; they even improve night vision! Blackberries and strawberries are also packed with nutrients. Berries can be pureed for babies or cut in half for small children.

Oranges, apples and kiwi fruit

High in vitamin C, these fruits ward off colds and are a good source of calcium, essential for healthy bones. They also contain potassium, which counteracts the negative effects of salt: something that’s found in high quantities in processed foods, and can damage your child’s kidneys.

Nuts

Full of healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E and magnesium. Walnuts are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, needed for brain and visual development, while Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which prevents some cancers. You shouldn’t give whole nuts to children under five to avoid choking, but you can give nut butters or include ground nuts in cakes or porridge. Although nut allergy is rare, you may wish to avoid nuts if your baby has a condition like eczema or asthma, or if there’s a family history of allergies.

Oily fish

Mackerel, sardines, herring, salmon and tuna are great sources of protein, minerals and vitamins. Oily fish is also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which keep reproductive, nervous and cardiovascular systems healthy, and prevent heart disease. Fish is suitable for babies from six months and often goes down well in a fish pie or a cheesy tuna melt on toast or jacket potatoes.

Eggs

Known as a brain food, eggs foster better concentration and memory, and contain lecithin, which converts fat into energy and protein faster (essential for healthy bones and muscles), vitamins A and B, iron and zinc. Toddlers love dippy boiled eggs with soldiers, but make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked for babies under one.

Green leafy veg

Kale and spinach are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which prevent eye disease, are high in fibre and help fight certain cancers as they contain beta carotene. Spinach is also rich in iron, and can be pureed and added to other veg or disguised in soups, fish cakes and pasta sauces for fussy toddlers.

Legumes

Lentils, peas and beans are high in fibre for good bowel function, and can also help protect against gastrointestinal cancers and type II diabetes. Soya beans are particularly potent, with the highest levels of protein and healthy fats, but other beans are also full of nutrients – even the humble baked bean.

Milk and yoghurt

Milk is a great source of calcium, vitamins and minerals. Yoghurt is also great for little ones, containing helpful bacteria that prevent stomach infections and gastrointestinal problems. It also contains protein, carbs and calcium, essential for healthy bones. Buy natural yogurt with live bacteria and no added sugar: you can sweeten it with pureed fruit or honey (after 12 months) to make it more appealing.

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Chocolate

Yes, really: researchers have discovered that an ingredient in chocolate can stop obstinate coughs more effectively than cough medicines. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, which promote heart health and lower the risk of cancer. A small serving of good quality dark chocolate is a surprisingly healthy treat for your toddler, once or twice a week.

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