Fussy eaters? Growth spurts? Keep your kids healthy with these seven essential nutrient tips.
Children need a steady supply of essential nutrients to help keep them happy and healthy. Some children lack the right nutrients, which can leave them feeling tired, grumpy or restless. Fussy eaters or children with special dietary requirements, such as allergies or intolerances, can also have an increased need for certain nutrients.
If your children are struggling to keep up with demands of school, sport and other activities, then topping up their diet with a multivitamin can be a good place to start.
Check out this great list of essential vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids your children need every day to help them keep up with their busy minds and growing bodies;
Also known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’, vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, important minerals needed to build strong bones. Vitamin D is not only important for keeping children’s bones and teeth healthy, but may also help protect against heart and immune problems later in life. Main sources of Vitamin D are sunlight, however Vitamin D is also found naturally occurring in oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil, fortified foods such as milk and yoghurt.
Is essential for carrying oxygen throughout the body and helps maintain a strong immune system. Iron deficiency is considered to be the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Low intakes are linked to learning difficulties in children. Having enough iron helps ensure children have energy to play and learn as they grow. There are two different forms of iron in food: haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron is found in animal-based foods and non-haem iron is found in plant-based foods. We absorb only a portion of the iron we eat. Haem iron is much better absorbed than non-haem iron.
Food sources of haem iron include livers (lamb, chicken), kidneys, mussels, venison, lean beef and lamb. Generally, the redder the meat the higher the iron content.
Food sources of non-haem iron include apricots, figs, tofu, lentils, beans and spinach.
A word on Vitamin C - Vitamin C helps children absorb non-haem iron, so make sure your kids are getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C. Some of these include kiwifruit, oranges, mandarins, tangelos, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, cabbage and red capsicum.
Iodine is needed by the thyroid gland to regulate metabolism, growth and development and brain development. School-aged children in iodine-deficient areas show poorer school performance, lower IQs, and a higher incidence of learning disabilities compared with children from iodine-sufficient areas. Food sources of iodine include iodized salt, seafood, seaweeds such as kelp and karengo.
Magnesium is needed by all parts of the body. In fact, its need for over 300 different reactions in the body! Magnesium helps calm the nervous system, making it helpful for children to relax before bedtime and get a good nights’ sleep. It’s also important for keeping the heart muscle healthy and together with Calcium and Vitamin D, helps to build strong bones. Food sources of Magnesium include salmon, nuts including almonds and cashews, kelp, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and unrefined wholegrains.
Calcium is especially important for growing children as it helps build strong bones and teeth. Children require 200mg to 800mg daily, depending on their age. Calcium is also needed for blood clotting, nerve function, and muscle contraction and relaxation. Food sources of Calcium include salmon, sardines, nuts including almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts, tahini, figs, cheese, yoghurt, milk, kale, broccoli, tofu.
Omega 3 fatty acids are major components of brain and eye tissue and are considered essential as the body cannot make them, so they need to be supplied from the diet. Children’s brains undergo rapid growth throughout the years of birth and early school life. Two special Omega 3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA are found in fish oil assist brain development and vision. Omega 3 deficiencies are found in children with ADHD and autism who experience learning, concentration and behavioural difficulties. Food sources of Omega 3 include oily fish, salmon, tuna, almonds and walnuts.
Are a group of B vitamins that are needed for a comprehensive range of body functions. Some of these include energy production, healthy immunity, nervous system function, red blood cell health, growth and development. Food sources of B-Complex vitamins include wholegrain unrefined complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds.
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