Get Strong & Healthy: 9 Foods That Help You Grow

Want to know about foods that help you grow? Certain foods help with growth and development, not just for your body but also for your brain. Look no further than these 9 important foods that have essential nutrients to help support your muscles, bones and nervous system. With protein, minerals, and healthy fats, these foods can nourish your body and help you reach your full potential. Whether you aim to build muscle, improve bone density, or simply optimise your overall health, incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into your diet is necessary. Plus, discover some delicious, sweet and savoury recipes to get you started.

The Importance of Food & Your Growing Needs

It is no secret that food can make a big difference to your health and well-being. Eating the right foods can help you reach your growth and development goals and contribute to improved physical and mental performance. 

But how influential is food compared to our genetics with regard to growing up tall, strong and healthy?

A recent study published in Nature found that the predominant lifestyle factor influencing a child’s height is their nutritional status. While height can be affected by our genes and environment, the study results from 45 groups of twins over the first 20 years of their lives demonstrated that how and what people eat has the most significant impact on height during childhood.

With a balanced diet, you can experience more energy, better concentration, and enhanced muscle mass. That's why adding nutrient-rich foods that are high in specific nutrients that govern muscle, bone and brain growth is key. It can make a profound difference in helping you achieve a more muscular, healthier body while promoting good cognitive functioning. 

9 Foods That Help You Grow

These 9 foods are all great sources of the essential nutrients needed for growth and development, making them an important part of any healthy diet.

  1. Almonds
  2. Chicken
  3. Eggs
  4. Fresh & Dried Fruit
  5. Grass-Fed Beef
  6. Legumes
  7. Oily Fish
  8. Spinach
  9. Yoghurt


Almonds are high in healthy omega-3 fats, are a rich source of plant-based protein and contain essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, manganese and phosphorus. These nutrients help with proper muscle growth, bone development and brain function across the lifespan. Dror et al. (2011) affirm that vitamin E deficiency can cause impaired physical growth and low immune function in children in underdeveloped countries.

Almonds are also the highest nut source of vitamin E, which is essential for muscle activation, gene expression, and nervous system function and protects brain cells against oxidative damage. Getting a daily dose of almonds in your diet is an easy and delicious way to ensure you stay strong and healthy.


Recent research reveals that animal protein in the diet effectively maintains muscle mass as we age. Chicken is a great source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor nutrient to serotonin. Serotonin has many bodily roles, including mood regulation, appetite, sleep and cognition. However, it also has a role in producing hormones that govern tissue growth during childhood and adolescence. Including chicken in the diet is a simple and delicious way to include a food source that helps you grow and supports optimal health.

A close up of a man holding organic eggs in his hands


One of the most nutritious and affordable foods available is eggs. Eggs are a robust source of essential amino acids that help to build muscle tissue. Eggs also contain vitamin A, choline, B12, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. The brain-loving nutrients in eggs make them a fundamental food to sustain brain health and cognitive performance. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that moderate egg consumption positively influences cognition and a healthy brain. Eggs are nutritionally complete and a super versatile food as well. They can be part of any main meal or included as snacks during the day. Enjoy eggs as a fantastic food that helps keep you strong and healthy.

Fresh & Dried Fruit

Fruits like bananas, blueberries, kiwifruit, oranges, mango, cherries, and pineapple (all of them!) are full of vitamins such as vitamin C and potassium, which are important for cell growth and skin and muscle regeneration. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, essential for proper brain development in children. Most fruit is also high in B vitamins and magnesium that help regulate blood sugar levels and maintain energy metabolism. Dried fruits like figs, dates, apricots, sultanas, cranberries and prunes all have various health benefits. In fact, prunes have superpowers in maintaining bone health and skeletal function. Consuming fresh and dried fruit as part of a well-balanced diet is a great way to encourage growth and keep a strong and healthy body.

Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-fed beef is an important source of essential amino acids and unique nutrients that aid muscle growth. Grass-fed beef is high in carnitine, which is a compound that's vital in cellular energy production. The carnitine content in beef also supports muscle recovery and growth, making it particularly beneficial for people who perform resistance or endurance training. It's also an abundant source of B vitamins, including folic acid and riboflavin; both nutrients are essential for energy metabolism, red blood cell formation and nervous system function. Beef also contains healthy fats and minerals like zinc and iron, which affect immune health, growth and development.


Legumes provide an excellent source of plant-based protein that is a great option for vegans and vegetarians. Legumes such as lentils, navy beans, chickpeas and white beans are also high in dietary fibre, which helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. Eating legumes can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and provide important minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and iron that assist bone health, energy metabolism and healthy nerve function. Legumes are a vital food for growing and developing strong muscles, bones and brains.

Oily Fish

The consumption of fish, particularly oily varieties like mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon, is integral in supporting optimal growth and development. These fish species are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of essential fat that significantly contributes to healthy brain development and function. Omega-3 fats are also vital for heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties that can lower the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein for developing and repairing body tissues. Fish is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, B2 and calcium. It further bolsters its importance in a nutritious diet, promoting bone health and supporting the immune system. Including fish in your macronutrient-balanced diet is a potent way to fuel your body's growth and sustain overall health.


Spinach is a versatile leafy green and a powerhouse of nutrients that contribute to growth and development in various ways. Packed with vitamins A, C, K, and numerous B vitamins, spinach bolsters the immune system, promotes healthy skin, and aids in producing energy in our bodies. High in iron, spinach ensures an efficient oxygen supply to the muscles and tissues, fostering growth and enhancing physical performance. Including spinach in our diet provides a variety of nutrients that collectively contribute to overall growth and development.

A strainer with fresh spinach in it


Yoghurt is an excellent source of protein to help build and maintain muscle and contains important minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It is also a natural probiotic food containing beneficial bacteria that help with digestion, immune function and absorption of nutrients. Yoghurt is a delicious food choice to include in your diet if you're looking for a healthy snack or meal option that helps keep you strong and energised. Yoghurt is an excellent addition to smoothies, homemade ice blocks, and breakfast bowls enjoyed with fresh fruit and nuts as an easy snack option during the day.

Recipes To Help You Grow 


Chicken Gyros with Herbed Greek Yoghurt

A tantalising fusion of protein-rich chicken and calcium-packed Greek yoghurt, this recipe is the perfect meal for promoting growth and development.


  • 4 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 4 Greek-style pita breads
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • Lettuce leaves

For the Marinade:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Herbed Greek Yoghurt:

  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the chicken slices and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl for the herbed Greek yoghurt and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Heat a grill pan or barbeque over medium heat. Cook the chicken slices until they are cooked through and slightly charred, around 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Warm the pita bread in the oven or on the grill for a minute.
  5. Assemble the gyros by spreading a generous amount of herbed Greek yoghurt on each pita bread, then layering it with chicken, onion, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce.
  6. Roll up the gyros, cut in half if desired, and serve.

Mexican Chili Con Carne with Refried Beans and Avocado Salsa

This hearty dish brings together protein-rich beef, fibrous beans and the healthy fats of avocados, making it a perfect meal for supporting growth and development.


  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

For Avocado Salsa:

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are slightly softened.
  2. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until browned. Drain the excess fat.
  3. Stir in the bell peppers, tomatoes, chilli powder, cumin, and kidney beans. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. While the chilli is simmering, prepare the avocado salsa. In a bowl, combine the diced avocados, chopped red onion, lime juice, and cilantro. Season with salt and set aside.
  5. Warm the refried beans in a small pan over medium heat.
  6. Serve the chilli con carne over a bed of refried beans, topped with fresh avocado salsa.

Natural Yoghurt, Almond and Summer Fruit Parfait

This delightful parfait combines yoghurt’s protein-rich goodness, almonds’ healthy fats, and vitamin-packed summer fruits. It’s a perfect snack or dessert for supporting growth and development.


  • 2 cups natural yoghurt
  • 1 cup granola with chopped almonds
  • 1 cup fresh summer fruits (like strawberries, blueberries, peaches or mangoes)
  • Honey to taste


  1. Begin by preparing your chosen summer fruits. Wash and cut them into small, bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a glass or jar, layer the ingredients starting with a spoonful of yoghurt at the bottom.
  3. Next, add a layer of granola or chopped almonds, followed by a layer of the prepared summer fruits.
  4. Repeat these layers until the glass or jar is filled, finishing with a layer of fruit on top.
  5. Drizzle honey over the parfait to sweeten as desired.
  6. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a chilled treat.

Salmon En Papillote with Wilted Spinach and White Bean Mash

This wonderful French-style recipe combines salmon’s rich omega-3 fatty acids with the iron-packed goodness of wilted spinach and the protein-rich white bean mash. 


  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon slices
  • Fresh dill
  • Baking paper for wrapping


  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
  2. Take two large pieces of baking paper and place a salmon fillet in the centre of each. Season with salt and pepper, then top each fillet with a few lemon slices and a sprinkling of fresh dill.
  3. Fold the baking paper over the salmon, and cinch the paper together by folding it over itself along the edges. Make sure it's sealed well so that the steam won't escape.
  4. Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the salmon is cooked through.
  5. While the salmon is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the spinach and cook until just wilted.
  6. In a separate pan, heat the white beans until warm. Mash them with a potato masher or a fork, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve the salmon on a bed of wilted spinach and white bean mash.

Traditional Caesar Salad

This salad is not only delicious but also packed with nutrition. Its main ingredient, Cos lettuce, is rich in vitamins A and K, while the Parmesan provides a good dose of calcium and protein. The croutons give the necessary carbohydrates for energy. This delightful dish aids growth and development while adding flavour to your meal plan.


  • 2 heads of Cos lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup of croutons
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Anchovies (optional)


  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the minced garlic, egg yolks, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice in a bowl. Gradually add the olive oil slowly, and steadily, whisking continuously until the dressing is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the romaine lettuce with a generous amount of the dressing. Add the croutons and half of the Parmesan cheese, tossing again to distribute evenly.
  3. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top of the salad. If desired, add anchovies for an extra punch of flavour.
  4. Serve the salad immediately.

Article References

Damani, J. J., De Souza, M. J., VanEvery, H. L., Strock, N. C. A., & Rogers, C. J. (2022). The Role of Prunes in Modulating Inflammatory Pathways to Improve Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)13(5), 1476–1492.

Derbyshire E. (2018). Brain Health across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review on the Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. Nutrients10(8), 1094.

Dror, D. K., & Allen, L. H. (2011). Vitamin E deficiency in developing countries. Food and nutrition bulletin32(2), 124–143.

Jáuregui-Lobera I. (2014). Iron deficiency and cognitive functions. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment10, 2087–2095.

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Khadangi, F., & Azzi, A. (2019). Vitamin E - The Next 100 Years. IUBMB life71(4), 411–415.

Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Centre, Other Nutrients, Vitamins, Vitamin E, viewed 29 Aug 2023

Reid-McCann, R. J., Brennan, S. F., McKinley, M. C., & McEvoy, C. T. (2022). The effect of animal versus plant protein on muscle mass, muscle strength, physical performance and sarcopenia in adults: protocol for a systematic review. Systematic reviews11(1), 64.

Réhault-Godbert, S., Guyot, N., & Nys, Y. (2019). The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health. Nutrients11(3), 684.

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