Growing kids need nutritional, well-rounded meals to ensure their eyesight and organs develop properly. Of course, that’s easier said than done when the typical preference is pizza, candy, and potato chips.
At its most severe, malnutrition can cause blindness in children, but the average parent doesn't have to worry about such severe vision problems developing in their kids, however, it’s still important to make sure they get the nutrients they need. Rather than forcing them to eat their greens, we have made a list of commonly missed vitamins and how to make sure they’re supplemented in fun and creative ways. Even the pickiest eaters will be asking for seconds of these fun lunches!
Let’s go over some vitamins to include for optimal eye health and a few healthy lunches ideas for kids that incorporate key nutrients.
Iron deficiency is the most common type of anemia, and anemia will have some effect on the retina. The good news is that there’s plenty of foods you can add to have this problem go away on its own, such as: spinach, shrimp, chickpeas (think hummus as a delicious dip), red meats like beef, fish and dark chocolate are just some of the easy options to add into a meal for optimal vision health.
Vitamin E is fat soluble, so it requires fat to be properly absorbed. Vitamin E deficiency can result in weakened light receptors in the retina. The good news? Kids typically love fatty foods, so this one is easy to slide in without much fussing, and it prevents eating junk food. Mangoes, avocados, peanut butter, almonds, spinach, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are just a few options to incorporate into a delicious treat or meal.
Age Related Macular Degeneration is an eye condition that many worry about developing later in life. It’s been proven that a proper amount of vitamin D may help prevent the development of this untreatable illness, and there’s no better time than right now to start preventative steps.
Vitamin D2 is produced by vegetables and D3 by animals. You can find them in coldwater fish like salmon, sardines and canned tuna. Most milk is also fortified with vitamin D2, and mushrooms naturally produce it. Egg yolks also boast high amounts of vitamin D.
DHA is a long chain Omega-3 fatty acid responsible for good brain function and is commonly missed in school-age children's diet.
You can find great sources of DHA primarily in seafood like salmon, trout, shrimps and sardines. Eggs and chicken are also a small source of DHA.
Choline is important to the development of stem cells that form nerve cells in the brain and the retina in the eye. It’s estimated that around 90 percent of the US population doesn’t meet the nutritional requirements of choline, so this one may be better to implement into the diet as a family.
Thankfully, foods rich in choline include favourites like eggs, shiitake mushrooms, beef, chicken and turkey, cauliflower, almonds and red potatoes.
It's easy to sneak nutritional goodies into snack ideas for kids, as almost any meal that has a liquid component like soups, toppings or sides is easy to manipulate. Try our four options below that will boost a child’s nutrition and play with what you know your kids need, but don’t like.
Sneak zucchini, chickpeas, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, cottage cheese, avocados, blended nuts or mushrooms into the mac and cheese sauce for an extra nutritional boost your kids will barely notice. Topping a bowl with some ground beef or chicken will help with extra protein, too.
Tip: Opt for noodles that are made of whole grain, chickpeas, or have additional vegetables already added in!
How can you say no to the melty goodness of a creamy tuna casserole? LIke mac and cheese, you can sneak chickpeas, mushrooms or other vegetables like cauliflower into the mayonnaise. Noodles can become a creative addition of extra vitamins if you opt for non-traditional health options.
Tip: Switch out canned tuna for salmon—most kids won’t notice the difference!
This is the ultimate blend of health! It's incredibly easy to add portions of healthy vegetables and nuts into fruit smoothies. Try blending in kefir, flax seeds, green tea, beets, spinach or oats into the mix. Top it with some favourites to keep the kids extra excited for their daily treats.
Tip: If you pop a slice of a favourite fruit as a garnish, your kid is almost never going to question what’s in their drink.
Blend some disliked fruits or veggies into yogurt, add honey for sweetener and freeze it as a cold treat. Like smoothies, you can add an infinite amount of healthy additions into ice cream. It’s the perfect opportunity to add in dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate or other sweets without the kids noticing.
Tip: Melt some dark chocolate and peanut butter, and drizzle them right on the frozen treat! Top with some crushed nuts for additional nutrition! If you’re staying away from nuts, banana chips are a delicious alternative.
If you’re looking for eye-smart recipes that are healthy, vision health-focused and delicious, check out the recipe section of our website. If you have questions about your child’s eye health or to schedule a checkup, book an appointment at your nearest FYidoctors.