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When choosing healthcare for you and your family, nothing is more important than being able to trust the medical advice and service you are given and knowing you are receiving the highest standard of care.

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GMCClinics Dietician Carina Khoury Nutrients for kids

TOP 6 Nutrients your Children Needed

Nov 20 2017 By Carina Khoury - Dietician

I am sure many of you parents worry if your kids are getting the adequate nutrition they need to support their growth and development. You may even find yourself clueless when it comes to what nutrients and how much you should serve your child, especially when you are dealing with fussy toddlers and teenagers. Here are the top 6 nutrients you should care about when offering a balanced diet to your children.

Vitamin D

Why is it important?

For calcium absorption, immunity, as well as reducing risk for chronic and autoimmune conditions.

Is your child getting enough?

Vitamin D is not very common in dietary sources, unless the food is fortified.

The best way to get enough vitamin D is through regular exposure to sunlight or by getting a supplement.

Best dietary sources:

Fortified dairy products, fortified cereals, egg yolk, cheese and fatty fish.

 

Iron

Why is it important?

To help supply oxygen to cells, support rapid growth, and plays a vital role in brain development.

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in small children may lead to low immunity and cognitive issues many years later.

Is your child getting enough?

Your child may not be getting enough iron if:

He is a typical picky eater avoiding meat, fish and beans

He is vegan or vegetarian

Best sources of iron:

Liver, red meat, egg yolk, chicken meat, iron fortified cereal, sesame seeds, beans, green leafy vegetables.

Include these iron rich foods into your child’s diet twice a day.

To help your child absorb more iron, combine iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods, like fruit and vegetables.

 

Omega 3 fats

Why are they important?

There are 3 main omega-3 fatty acids. Two of them, EPA and DHA, are especially important in early childhood for various functions in the brain, cardiovascular system and immune system.

Did you know that about 50% of brain is fat and most of it is Omega 3s?

The third main omega-3 fatty acid is the plant-based ALA.

It can be converted to EPA and DHA however neither efficiently nor sufficiently.

So if your toddler or child is vegan or vegetarian, he may need a supplement to meet his omega-3 needs to support his growth and development.

Is your child getting enough?

If he does not eat enough fish or is following a vegan diet, then most probably he is not meeting his omega-3 needs! Since ALA (plant type of Omega 3) is not absorbed as efficiently as DHA or EPA (fish type of Omega 3).

Best sources:

DHA and EPA are found in cold water fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, fortified eggs, fortified milk and breast milk. ALA comes from plant foods like nuts and seeds and their oils.

Serve to your child up to two servings a week of fish.

 

Fiber

Why is it important?

Fiber helps prevent constipation, is also a great source prebiotics – perfect food for gut-benefiting probiotic bacteria. It may also reduce risk of many health conditions including inflammatory disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Is your child getting enough?

Most likely, no. Most children (and adults) in the developed countries barely get half of the recommended minimum of fiber.

Toddlers, teenagers and picky kids of all ages are more likely to not be meeting their fiber needs because they are not eating enough whole grains, fruit, vegetables and other fiber rich foods.

IMPORTANT: Too much fiber may be not a good thing either, especially in small children under 2 years of age. Since fiber speeds up the food movement in the digestive tract, it may interfere with nutrient absorption.

Best sources:

Beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, berries, bran cereal.

Serve your child one fiber rich food with each meal and snack.

 

Protein

Why is it important?

Protein is essential for proper growing, development and immunity. It is our bodies’ structural block which is used to produce enzymes, antibodies and hormones.

Is your child getting enough?

Most kids get enough protein. But if your child is a picky eater, avoids dairy and meat, or is vegetarian or vegan, he may be at risk.

Best sources of protein:

Meat, fish, poultry, cheese, yogurt, milk, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and grains.

Try including a good source of protein in each meal and snack your child is eating.

IMPORTANT: plant-based milk are low in protein so make sure your child is getting enough protein from other sources.

 

Calcium

Why is it important?

To support optimal growth and development of bones, preventing teeth decay, and to help nerves, muscles and heart to function properly.

It is very important that children consume enough calcium in early life to ensure optimal calcium deposition in bones and prevent osteoporosis later on.

Is your child getting enough?

If your child is a typical milk and cheese lover, he is most probably getting enough calcium. Make sure to serve your child 2-3 servings of calcium rich sources daily.

A cup of milk or 30grams of cheese account for 1 serving of calcium rich sources.

But if your child avoids dairy products, you need to be more cautious in planning his meals to ensure his calcium needs.

Another risk group is teens whose calcium needs are higher than younger children.

Best sources:

Milk, cheese, yogurt, fortified plant drinks (300mg/cup), fortified orange juice (270 mg/cup), fortified cereals, tofu made with calcium sulfate, canned sardines and salmon (with bones), tahini, beans, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables and greens such as kale, collard greens, and bok choy.

 

Final note: 

A balanced diet is important for children but it is unrealistic to expect them to eat a perfect meal at each sitting.

If you are wondering if your child is getting the nutrition he needs, aim to serve nutrient dense meals and write down everything he eats over a week or two. In most cases, you will see that he is eating enough of nutrient rich foods.

If your child is very picky, omitting whole food groups or vegan, you may need to talk to a dietitian like myself to help you ensure he is getting enough nutrition.

Finally, before giving your child any supplements, it is best to discuss it with your doctor first.

 

 

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