The best thing you can do for your children's health is to serve well-balanced meals when possible and to encourage your kids to be active. While all vitamins and minerals are important, pay particular attention to foods that are rich in B vitamins because they are key players in a child's growth and development.
The B suite of vitamins are essential to creating and maintaining energy, which is vital for children whose brains and bodies need to go the distance during a long school day. In addition, the B group makes red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Every organ and cell thrives on oxygen. B vitamins -- B1, B2, B6 and B12, as well as folic acid -- are essential for healthy eyes, skin, hair and liver. Because the vitamins are water-soluble, the body does not store them, meaning the body replenishes them through foods.
Meats and Fish
Organ meats are rich in B1 vitamins, but kids might prefer pork, which is also high in B1. Make pulled pork sandwiches in a slow-cooker using boneless pork chops or a pork roast cut into smaller pieces. Make a perfect mixture of the tangy-sweet signature taste of barbecue using an apple-cider vinegar and brown sugar mixture that's combined with broth and other spices. Serve the pork with good rolls and cole slaw, potato salad or macaroni salad you pick up at the store.
Salmon is also full of B vitamins, as are tuna, cod and snapper. Any of these fishes are delicious cooked on the grill or under the broiler and served with a lemon-dill sauce or just lemon wedges. Zucchini squash sautéed with sweet white onion and yellow bell peppers in a light olive oil are a fine accompaniment, along with your favorite salad and dressing. If your kids eat all their fish, reward them with a banana split with frozen yogurt and fresh berries or fruit and nuts, where the banana gives them another vitamin B boost.
Dairy and Eggs
Serve kids flavored yogurt because it's a good source of B vitamins. Top it with granola and fresh fruit or drizzle it with honey for extra flavor and texture. Many yogurts freeze well, so put a few in the freezer for an icy sweet treat that seems as indulgent as ice cream. A glass of skim milk with breakfast or dinner delivers B vitamin-rich food to kids, as does a hard-boiled egg. Add a whole-grain English muffin to the meal to round out the folate, which is also part of the B group.
Vegetables and Legumes
Many vegetables are good sources of vitamins, including those in the B group. Make large baked potatoes for dinner. Scrub the skins well and soften them with low-fat butter before baking to entice your little ones to eat the skin, which holds even more B vitamins. Top the potatoes with the basics: low-fat butter, cheese and sour cream. Get more creative and use turkey chili, marinara or light ranch dressing. A cold spinach, pesto and green pea pasta salad delivers B vitamins found in the peas and spinach. A colorful three-bean salad or a confetti bean soup adds B vitamins to any meal. Yams -- not sweet potatoes -- are a sweet treat that can be mashed and drizzled with a little bit of low-fat butter and brown sugar for those picky eaters who demand something sweet for their palate.