Spring is the season of fresh vegetables and the all-time favourite of children – strawberries. It’s also the time of the year when our bodies suffer from the greatest lack of nutrients after the long and exhausting winter and we need wholesome and vitamin-rich food to recover. So let's talk about nutrition and specifically about how to ensure that young kids receive the best meals possible to develop in the best way possible.
Food is critically important for children’s healthy development. It’s key to the growth of both body and mind. Food determines whether children will have good or bad health, calm or hyperactive behaviour, academic success or learning difficulties.
Did you know that?
Up to 75 percent of each feeding goes to the development of your baby’s brain .
Unfortunately, nowadays there are many children who suffer from “hidden hunger” . They don't look too thin. On the contrary, they are sometimes even chubby. Their bodies receive energy mainly from energy-dense but unhealthy and nutrient-poor food such as pastries, hamburgers and candy. Even if children feel full, their bodies are actually “hungry” for vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A and D and many others. Without these nutrients, children lag behind in growth and development, have weak immunity and are at risk of developing diseases.
These children grow but do not thrive.
Therefore, offering varied and healthy food to our growing child is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Their stomachs are small, not bigger than their fists, and literally every bite counts.
It’s important to clarify that up to 6 months babies need nothing but breastmilk, because it contains all the necessary nutrients for their organism. After the 6th month, we can introduce different types of food, while breastfeeding as before. Here are the main foods your child needs and why we shouldn't overlook any of them:
✔️ Grains - bread, rice, oats, pasta, buckwheat, millet, etc.
Grains give children a lot of energy. Plus, there isn’t a child who doesn't love bread and spaghetti. However, the more processed and “white” grains are, the less nutritious they get. It’s therefore best to replace white bread with whole grain and diversify the flour-based breakfast with easy-to-prepare buckwheat or millet porridge, for example.
✔️ Legumes - beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, etc.
Legumes are very affordable and at the same time super nutritious staple food for children. They are a very good source of protein and fiber. They also help build the brain and maintain good health.
✔️ Animal products - meat, fish, eggs, dairy products
Animal products are particularly important for growth and development. It’s recommended that they are consumed daily. Even small portions provide key nutrients and make children stronger and more energetic, strengthen the bones and heart and improve brain function.
✔️ Fats – vegetable oil, olive oil, butter, etc.
Fat has a bad reputation as something that leads to obesity and disease. This is true if you eat too much fatty and fried food and choose harmful sources of fat such as margarine. On the other hand, children have a higher need for quality, healthy fats, which we find in fish, nuts, olives, vegetable oils and avocado. They increase energy, help cell functions and play a key role in the absorption of certain vitamins.
✔️ Nuts and seeds – walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
Nuts and seeds are a very valuable source of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. It’s healthiest to eat them raw and pre-soaked in water.
‼️ Under the age of 4, nuts should only be given ground or in the form of tahini, because they are a choking hazard! In addition, we must watch for possible allergic reactions, especially if there is a history of allergies in the family.
✔️ Fruits and vegetables
There is a famous Bulgarian children’s song titled “Those Who Don't Eat Vegetables”. As it says, without vegetables a child simply can’t grow up to be healthy. Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables supports all body systems and protects us against disease. Brightly coloured vegetables (orange, red and dark green) and those that are freshly picked carry the most health benefits.
But consider the following! Even though fruits and vegetables are very good for our health, we must be careful with them. This is because in modern agriculture, most fruits and vegetables are treated treated with pesticides, herbicides and other harmful substances. This is especially true for seasonal strawberries and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce. To remove any harmful chemicals, experts recommend washing fruits and vegetables with salt water. Another option is to dissolve some baking soda in a bowl of water and soak them in the solution for about half an hour, before washing them up thoroughly.
Stinging nettle - the Bulgarian superfood!
Finally, we present to you a typical Bulgarian green leafy plant that grows freely during the spring season and has a range of health benefits. Nettle is very rich in healthy nutrients, richer even than spinach. It is abundant in our nature and lacks pesticides if it grows in a clean area. The plant is most nutrient-rich in the spring while it’s still young. Nettle puree or porridge can be included in the baby's menu at about 9-10 months. We offer you the following recipe for a delicious nettle soup that is suitable for young and old alike.
Tips on what to feed infants and young children | UNICEF URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdu-MonY4-U
"This publication was created with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The entire responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Health and Social Development Foundation and under no circumstances can it be assumed that this publication reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria."