4 Food Groups All Kids Should Eat

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Four Food Groups All Kids Should Eat - Holistic Squid As parents we tend to obsess about what our kids eat and fret about the lack of green vegetables in their diets.  Truth be told, there’s a good reason why junior does not crave steamed broccoli or a raw kale salad, and it’s not the fault of bad parenting.  Hooray!

Growing children need nutrient-dense foods, and unlike most of their fully grown relatives, kids need foods that are more calorie dense as well, since they are both growing and constantly moving and playing. In Chinese Medicine, we know that children are born with weak digestive “Qi” (energy) so it makes sense that in their formative years, kids need foods that are easier to digest than Brussels sprouts.

Adults (who often have more years under their belts with less than optimal diet and lifestyle) benefit from the cleansing, hydrating properties of green veggies, and usually have slower metabolism but stronger digestion than their young offspring. So while mom and dad and teenagers can stand to eat a plate of greens (and may even crave them) with their protein and fat, young kids don’t need huge portions of vegetables for optimal nutrition.

So what are the best health foods for kids?  Glad you asked. You may be surprised!

1. Saturated Fats

Despite the demonizing of this nutrient, kids need saturated fats and cholesterol for proper brain and nervous system development, healthy tissues and cell membranes, optimal immune systems, and strong bones and teeth. Children should eat plenty of whole fat dairy, meat (not necessarily lean), and eggs produced from pasture-raised animals.  NOTE: This last phrase is key; animal products from factory raised meat are NOT healthy and should be avoided. This includes meat found in restaurants. Organic is good, but the best option is to seek out local, farm-raised sources near you. Additionally, nuts, avocados and healthy oils like coconut or olive oil are good sources of saturated fat for kids. Traditional fats like lard and tallow, have amazing health benefits when derived from pasture raised animals too.

2. Bone Broth

Homemade broth is rich in vital nutrients that benefit kids far more than a zucchini slice. Bone broth may sound like a strange food, but it is essentially a staple found in most cultures and used as the base of “mom’s homemade chicken soup”.  Bone broth can be easily made from scratch using beef, chicken, fish or other bones. The minerals, gelatin, and glycosaminoglycans in bone broth promote proper development of bone and dental structure, as well as healthy hair, nails and joints. Bone broth can also help with digestive problems, food allergies, and immune health. It is a great medicine food for children’s developing digestive tracts as well as a home remedy for treating the common cold. Want the health benefits of bone broth, but don’t want to make your own? Buy bone broth online here.

3. Cultured Foods

“Cultured” foods have nothing to do with coming from a foreign country or a fancy art gallery, though in the not so recent past, most traditional cuisines always included some cultured foods – from pickled ginger in Japan and Kimchi in Korea to sauerkraut in Germany and yogurt in the Mediterranean. Cultured foods contain naturally occurring probiotics that provide kids with a wide variety of health benefits by populating the digestive tract with healthy bacteria. Cultured foods and beverages are allowed to sour or ferment naturally through a process called fermentation which boosts their nutritional value, making your entire meal easier to digest. The taste of cultured foods may need to be gradually acquired for some kids, so start slow with full fat yogurt and then move into traditional cultured beverages like kombucha or kefir “sodas” before venturing into sweet gingered carrots, pickles, and more adventurous cultured veggies.

4. Seasonal, Local Produce

Now that you know you don’t need to lose sleep over your kid’s lack of green vegetable consumption, lighten up and make veggies fun! While they don’t need to clean their plates, all kids should eat some locally grown, seasonal fruits and veggies daily. In addition to being free of pesticides and other toxins, local organic fruits and veggies have more flavor and nutrients than their grocery equivalents. Take your kids to to the farmer’s market to choose their own fresh produce and let them help prepare it. Better yet, get them involved in a garden project so they can ‘farm’ their own – kids love to taste the fruits of their labor. If farmer’s markets or your own garden are not an option for you, research organic produce and CSA farm boxes for delicious local produce delivered to your door.

This post is featured on the following Blog Carnivals:

Food Renegade’s Fight Back FridayHealthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania,  Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday, Butter Believer’s Sunday School 

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    • Emily says

      Hi Tina – I did consider adding a 5th food group to this list, which certainly would have been pastured meats. But when you include plenty of saturated fats from the right sources, undoubtedly this includes pastured meats. For those kids that are picky about meat, eggs from pastured hens and grass dairy still cover both bases. Thanks for reading!

  1. says

    This is a great little reference article to send people to when they say that my kid will whither and die without bread!
    There’s a great book, called Deep Nutrition, that calls meat on the bone, organ meats, ferments, and fresh produce the “four pillars of nutrition”. It’s interesting to see how similar inputs have led to slightly different – yet remarkably similar – lists from so many people. Thousands of years of human nutritional knowledge can’t be wrong!

  2. Karen says

    I have been doing a lot of gluten free baking and raw foods cooking with a 7 year old and 3 year old in the house. I can’t tell you how much better we ALL feel from no bread/gluten/wheat products! My 7 year old almost never wants a traditional sandwich in his lunch anymore. And I finally have my head wrapped around how to balance the nutrition part of it, so I no longer feel like we all need our bread. There are so many other ways to get grains and the much easier to digest ones. So, I love this article and can really relate first hand to listening to kids’ clues and not forcing them to eat what they don’t want. They often teach us tons if we are listening closely. Thank you for this.

  3. says

    Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. You didn’t link to the post — I had to search for it. Hope to see you next week! Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for
    Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!


    If you have grain-free recipes please visit Wednesday night for a grain-free linky carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge starting Wednesday!

  4. says


    I love this post! My kids are such picky eaters and have food allergies to boot, so its a nice reminder that even though they don’t knowingly eat their greens (usually eaten in a smoothy) that in many ways they are eating very healthy. Thanks for all the great info!


  5. carma says

    Thanks for this informative article! I have always used pasture raised meat and eggs.

    My 5 year old asks for ” green juice” every morning before school, it’s a combo of Kale , spinich, ginger and green apple. I hope this is ok to give him?, somedays i skip just to give him a break.

    • Emily says

      Hi Carma – That’s great that your son likes veggies. As long as he’s getting some saturated fat at breakfast, the nutrients of the juice should assimilate well. :)

    • says

      I would be a little careful with spinach. The oxalic acid in spinach binds calcium and hinders iron from assimilating so well. Perhaps you could consider using spinach sometimes and trying out other greens instead of it every now and then?

      Your green juice sounds yummy by the way :)

      • Roxanne R says

        Combining spinach w/ citrus fruit, or some other fruit/vegetable high in vitamin C along w/ a healthy dose of fat takes care of this problem 100%. Plus, you would need to eat POUNDS of spinach in a week for this to be a real big problem.

  6. says

    I love this list! Makes me feel good that my son doesn’t always eat all the veggies on his plate. :)

    I do have a question, though…. aren’t nuts difficult to digest as well? I personally have had some problems with tree nuts, so I haven’t given my son any yet (he’ll be 2 next month) though I know of many women who use a lot of nut flours in making things for their young children. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Becca says

      Hi! I would recommend soaking and drying your nuts first. Place about a lb. of raw nuts in a bowl, cover with filtered water, add about a Tbsp. of salt, stir, cover with a towel, leave 8-12 hours, then drain and place in a dehydrator for 24 hours or until dry and crisp (if you don’t have a dehydrator, putting them on a cookie sheet in an oven on a very low heat setting should also work). They are then ready to be used in all kinds of recipes without causing digestive issues. Nuts used to give me stomach aches, but no more! I use soaked almonds to make almond flour (by grinding them up in my Vitamix) and almond butter (by grinding them up in my Vitamix with butter). In this way, I give my kids lots of healthy nutty goodness without their ever even knowing it!

  7. Stefan says

    Hello Emily,

    I love your posts and I adore your bravery to speak and educate others. Thank you!
    I have a question, I am currently in Venezuela and my wife is expecting in October.
    In Venezuela we do not have access to organic nothing..Its sad and I know, I have noticed decreased health in my self after being position there. (3 yrs), hopefully leaving by the end of the year…
    Can you give me any advice for my newborn without access to the wonderful world of Organic meats and produce.. I have familiarized myself in cleaning and preparing non-organic produce but the meats I assume are different since the ´´impurities´´if there are embedded in the animal.

    thank you!

  8. Jessa says

    Can anyone provide insight on this problem? My eight-year old daughter is overweight and I cannot figure out why. The other three kids and myself are super thin. We eat so healthfully, mostly Weston price style. We eat very little grains or starches, plenty of meats, eggs, some dairy including raw milk, cheese, butter, tons of veggies raw and cooked, no junk or processed food at all, very little natural sugars mostly in the form of honey but also dates, agave and occasionally xylitol. The kids may eat more fruit than they need, but I can’t imagine that would do it. I’ve cut her portions down (which were already small by American standards) and she just keeps getting fatter. I’ve investigated and she has no access to other food at school and doesn’t really go to anyone else’s home where she could be eating. I don’t think she has any eating disorders but she will eat as much as she is allowed to.

    She gets quite a bit of exercise, 2 hours a week running/walking at school PE, 2 hours a week Kung fu, at least four hours a week on the trampoline and she generally plays outside all day. She is also extremely short. Although her doctor says she is still in the normal range, she is a head shorter than her classmates. She gets an occasional skin flare-up like eczema but she seems otherwise healthy and is very energetic. She is also a very smart, A-student with no behavioral problems. I’m very concerned about her weight and height but her doctor says there is nothing wrong with her. Does anyone have any idea what could be going on with her?

    • says

      I am not a doctor, and I am new to eating a lower carb, higher fat diet, and I definitely do not want to tell you how to mother. I can’t know your whole story, but as a former teacher, it’s hard for me to hear about a kid who isn’t quite fitting into a parent’s expectations. I can’t help but feel that genetics must play a huge role in her physical differences, and that if she notices that you think she’s too fat, it could cause some HUGE problems for her, especially as she enters adolescence soon. I don’t think it is healthy to cut her portions (carbs are stored as fat, but fat is not stored as fat), and since it sounds like you feed your family much better than the average SAD diet, maybe the best option is to keep encouraging healthy habits, and help her navigate the extreme body changes that will happen in puberty. I am currently reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, and it talks about (in a more scientific way) diet in ways that Nourishing Traditions just didn’t really cover. I mean all this to be encouraging, and not judgmental. I’m currently trying to figure out a way to help my son’s winter runny nose go away, since his pediatrician just shrugs his shoulders about it!

      • Jessa says

        Thank you for the perspective and taking time to help Jenn. It is good to remember that she will hit puberty soon since she is so short, she seems much younger. I am concerned about her mental health and body image, etc but feel that her weight will be a much bigger health problem as she grows up. I have been suspecting a genetic cause as well (more than just normal variation though) especially because of the lack of growth and plan to talk to her pediatrician about starting some testing. I’ve heard of that book and will add it to my list!

        • says

          Just another idea: you said she will eat as much as she’s allowed to. What does she tend to eat a lot of? Anything/everything? Carbs and sugars, even “good” sugar from whole fruit, are stored by the body as fat. Also, one big idea I learned from Taubes’ book is that overeating doesn’t cause obesity; obesity causes overeating. Crazy sounding, right?!

          • jessa says

            Since you mention it, yes it is mostly carb and sweet foods she wont say no to, but also nuts and anything that turned out especially good.

        • says

          Sounds like my kids! I often do not serve a starch or fruit until they have eaten lots of protein and fat, because they’d prefer bread or fruit all day, every day! And I highly recommend Gary Taubes books, either Good Calories, Bad Calories (really long and thorough) or Why We Get Fat (a quicker read). Good luck on your family health quest! :)

    • Tara says

      I know this post is very old, but I’d like to chime in for a second and possible hear an update about your daughter! Just an addition to what Jenn was saying: She is right about all of the body image stuff. I don’t let my daughter weigh herself or try to “lose weight” when she sees her tummy getting too big. I tell her that she doesn’t need to worry about her weight, that’s my job. I coax her to make healthy choices, and make sure she’s playing more than watching TV ..I need to remind myself sometimes that if she’s looking a little pudgy around the midsection, it’s probably because she’s about to grow a little taller. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is MUCH more important than what we see in the mirror. Also…if all else fails, have the doctor check her thyroid, and if it’s possible, try an autoimmune protocol Whole 30 to see if she’s reacting to certain veggies, nuts, etc.

    • says

      I would suspect a thyroid issues, slow growth, weight gain and eczema are all symptoms…There are specific tests to ask for they are TSH, FREE t3, FREE t4, Tpo, TgAb, ferritin, B12, Vit D is a good start. I’d be more than happy to talk to you more about this. My blog has my contact email. Good luck!

  9. says

    Great info on this post! I feel a little less weird now after reading this since my 20 month old absolutely LOVES kombucha & requests it often by asking for “boo”!

  10. Lydia says

    Do you have them actually drink the bone broth or do you just use it in your cooking? Trying to figure out how to get everyone bone broth on a daily basis without living on soups.

  11. says

    Admiring the hard work you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.
    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
    the same old rehashed information. Fantastic read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my
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  12. says

    This made me feel SOOOO much better about my son’s disdain for veggies. Thankfully he will eat fruits, fats & cultured foods. Now onto incorporating the bone broth!

    Thank you for putting my mind at ease!

  13. coopmama says

    Amen to this article! Love to use this for our private coop up here in the desert…yep us desert folks are getting the bestest of local and organic produce and food!

    These are staples in our family!
    I make bone broth from local poultry and grassfed bones…so good..even in the heat of the desert of 100 plus we still eat bone broth..not every day but we try!

    Love to share our co-op for anyone in our neck of the desert who like to consider us!

    Supporting local farmers is a plus and we do!-

  14. Jenny says

    This just makes so much sense to me. Thanks for the research and writing. Every since I read that your son loves and eats butter straight, I have fed it to my granddaughter whenever she wants it. I wasn’t at all afraid of it, just didn’t think of it being liked by itself. I “over butter” everything I eat butter on and no longer feel guilty for it. Yes, I’m old enough to have gone thru a time where butter was very definitely a guilty pleasure. Still is for many unfortunately. I have noticed that my granddaughter is getting pickier with vegetables. After having read both ur articles on kids and veggies, I find that interesting. She had pretty much eaten whatever was put in front of her for the first 16 months, especially with fat and sea salt on it. Oh well, she gets plenty of these 4 food groups so shes good. Thanks again.

  15. Jer says

    Hi, I’m new to your page and I love your site. I plan to share it with everyone I know.

    I have a couple of questions, if you’re able to answer I would really appreciate it.
    I didn’t know that my cell phone gave off such dangerous levels if radiation and I have exposed my 10m old daughter to a lot. Is there a way to detox this out of her system?

    Also, I have a very, very heavy and long menstyral cycle. I was put on birth control pills to control it because I would pass out and would also get sick when any bugs were going around. But now that I know BC pills are not good for my body I would like a natural way to help my cycle regulate. Do you have any tips?

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!

  16. Michele says


    Love this blog.

    Curious, at what age can I start giving my baby bone broth? She’s almost 5 months and exclusively breastfed.

    • says

      Hi Michele – Thanks for your question. Bone broth makes a great first food, and I started giving it to my little ones around 3 months. Hope that helps!

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