Eating well is essential for children of all ages and introducing a healthy and varied diet early on is key. Vegetables play an important role, but what should you start with and is one vegetable better than another? Our expert recommends incorporating the following five into their diet to ensure a good balance of nutrients.
Rich in vitamins C, E and B-6, avocados are a brilliant vegetable to offer your children. They are bursting with healthy beneficial fats including omega-3 which is essential for brain development. They are also an excellent source of folate which is needed to make red and white cells in bone marrow and plays an important role in breaking down carbohydrates into energy. Importantly, it is needed during rapid periods of growth during infancy, adolescence and pregnancy.
Healthy avocado recipes
- Mexican penne with avocado
- Avocado & strawberry smoothie
- Chicken, carrot & avocado rolls
- Turkey burgers with guacomole
2. Sweet potato
Not only are they a vibrant colour loved by kids, sweet potatoes are a powerhouse packed with nutrients. Rich in vitamin C, B6 and copper, sweet potatoes are true to their name and have a naturally sweet flavour that can be enhanced by roasting. Vitamin C plays a very important role in the body as it maintains healthy skin, plays an important role in immune function and helps to absorb iron. There is also some evidence that regular high doses (1g per day) may reduce the duration of colds by 13% in children. B6 plays an important role in cognitive development, immune function and the formation of haemoglobin. Copper also plays a role in iron absorption, wound healing and the immune system.
Healthy sweet potato recipes
- Baked sweet potato & beans
- Sweet potato & lentil soup
- Sweet potato falafels with coleslaw
- Salmon & sweet potato muffins
3. Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are great as a toddler snack, or to include as part of a meal. They are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is specifically known to reduce the risk of lung, stomach and prostate cancers in addition to cardiovascular risk. They are also a good source of fibre and can help your child achieve their daily fibre requirement.
Cherry tomato recipes
- Squished tomato pasta sauce
- Cherry tomato, kale, ricotta & pesto pasta
- Spaghetti with cherry tomato & black olive sauce
- Ricotta, tomato & spinach frittata
4. Baby carrots
Naturally sweet and high in fibre, carrots are a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is vital for vision as it forms part of a protein that absorbs light in the eye. It also supports cell growth and is essential in heart, lung and kidney function. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A. It is widely accepted that beta-carotene plays a crucial role in fighting against harmful free radicals in the body.
The humble pea is often underrated, however, fresh or frozen, they are packed with so much goodness, they will benefit any child. An excellent source of vitamin C, K, folate and fibre, peas pack a nutritious punch and offer your kids a number of health benefits. They help to maintain eye, brain and bone health.
Child-friendly pea recipes
- Pea pesto with pasta shapes
- Toddler recipe: courgette & pea risotto with prawns
- Pasta with salmon & peas
- Favourite pasta salad
Don’t be disheartened if your child says no to a new vegetable – it can take some time before they accept a new food. Persevere with patience.
More healthy eating tips for kids
- Healthy food kids will love
- 10 healthy lunch ideas for kids
- A balanced diet for toddlers
- Healthy eating: What young children need
This article was last reviewed on 8th March 2019 by dietitian Emer Delaney.
Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London’s top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.
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