Your children’s nutrition

Managing children’s nutrition can be a bit of a juggling act. It has been determined with many children in the developed world being overweight and getting less than their recommended dietary intake of essential vitamins and minerals, it’s more important than ever to be aware of what kids need to start the year well.

According to the latest Dietary Surveys:

Kids 4 – 7 years
50% of boys get less than the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for calcium
75% of girls get less than the RDI for calcium

Kids 8 – 11 years
20% of boys get less than the RDI for vitamin A
75% of girls get less than the RDI for calcium
70% of girls get less than the RDI for zinc

Kids 12 – 15 years
84% of girls get less than the RDI for zinc
62% of girls get less than the RDI for iron
31% of boys get less than the RDI for vitamin A

Why your kids need these essential vitamins and minerals?

  • Calcium is essential for growing bones and teeth
  • Vitamins A and C, zinc and iron help build a strong immune system to protect your kids from illnesses
  • B group vitamins help them get energy out of their food
  • Iron, folate and vitamin B12 are needed for growth and development
  • Vitamin A is essential for eye health
  • Iron deficiency can be associated with impaired physical performance as well as affecting memory, concentration and performance.

How can you tell if your child is nutrient deficient?
While there is no simple test for identifying all nutrient deficiencies in children, fussy eaters and kids that often indulge in convenience foods and snack foods would certainly be at risk. Your child’s behaviour may give you clues that they are not getting all they need. Things to look out for include:

  • Behaviour that is out of character
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical symptoms such as slow-healing wounds or frequent infections

What you can do about it…
1. A dynamic diet
The main objective for a balanced diet is variety. Constantly introduce your kids to new foods, ensure there are plenty of different “colours” on their plate, take them shopping with you so they can help you select the different foods available for their meals. Zinc can be found in wholegrains and eggs; yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and yellow squash are brimming with vitamin A, dairy and soy products will ensure your child gets plenty of calcium, and red meat and leafy green vegetables transport iron into growing bodies.

2. Essential exercise
Though we’re constantly warned about the dangers of the sun, it remains the best source for vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for the body’s absorption of calcium. Spending ‘responsible’ time in the sun, 15 minutes without sunblock 4 times a week either early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the sun is kinder, provides your child with all the vitamin D they need. Exercise helps children build a positive image of their body. It also boosts immunity, gives your kids a better appetite, and is necessary for growing strong and healthy bones.

3. Consider supplementation if they need a boost after their diet and exercise needs have been addressed
Let’s face it – we’re not always going to be able to control everything our kids eat and do. If you are concerned that your child is lacking in essential nutrients, talk to a health expert, such as your healthcare professional to discuss your options. For instance, many children do not like fish. If you are concerned that your child may not be getting sufficient oily fish in their diet, then supplementation with fish oil may be required.

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