What do you do to ensure your child’s health is on the right track? How do we know if they are getting the right nutrients for growing bodies and eager minds?
We have different nutritional needs according to our stage in life and the early years are without a doubt the most crucial time. It’s all well and good to hear that your kids are on track if they eat a ‘balanced diet’ but what does this mean and what signs show us otherwise?
Common signs of nutritional deficiencies in children can include:
- fatigue and low energy
- poor immune function
- pry, scaly skin
- swollen, bleeding gums
- poor growth
- learning problems/ trouble paying attention
- fragile/frequently broken bones
Children can have their own agenda when it comes to food and certainly, picky eating can raise a cause for concern. More serious issues such as celiac disease and cystic fibrosis (due to lack of pancreatic enzymes) where our bodies have problems digesting and absorbing foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies, but for the most part, it’s rare to find malnutrition in developed countries.
Generally, signs such as good appetite, bright skin and eyes, regular bowel movements and uninterrupted sleep are good signs that should give us a comforting sense of security.
It’s a well-known fact that many children are not eating the recommended amounts of everyday core foods from the five food groups and instead of eating too much-processed foods high in added sugars, fat and salt. It’s this imbalance which can result in nutrient gaps in their diets. It helps to know some basic facts about what to look for so you can keep an eye on their overall health.
5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Health Through Nutrition
1. Some nutrients help others be absorbed
Iron helps our children with their growth, learning and behaviour. Simply by consuming another form of Vitamin C (think oatmeal and strawberries, dark leafy greens and tomato) when we eat iron-rich foods, this will aid the absorption of this valuable mineral. By spending a few minutes in the sun each day (as most kids in Australia do) helps in the absorption of calcium. Fat-soluble vitamins like K (leafy greens) should be eaten along with foods rich in good fats (e.g. fish).
2. Don’t overdo certain nutrients in vain
We get drilled into us that children require calcium for strong teeth, muscles and bones but filling up on too much milk, for example, can lead to a drop in appetite for other nutrient-rich foods. Aim for around two-to-three serves of calcium a day in the variety of milk, yoghurt, cheese, dark leafy greens and beans.
3. Help fight infections
Our kids are forever in the wars with scrapes and bumps on their bodies. Help wounds to heal with plenty of Vitamin C rich foods such as strawberries, broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes, melons, kiwifruits and oranges.
4. Increase their energy
Just about any of the core food groups will help increase energy. Foods high in Vitamin B such as chicken, meat, leafy greens, wheat germ and dairy are the perfect way to up their alertness without creating sugar hits.
5. Boost their immune systems
School is one huge immune tester and there always seems to be something that’s ‘going around’. Vitamin A is the first line of defence that will help boost our child’s immune system and do its best to ward off their classmates’ coughs and sniffles. Carrots, oranges, melons, apricots, sweet potato, tuna and milk are great sources of Vitamin A that will also help their eyesight too!
Sugar has been shown in many clinical trials to actually suppress immunity so it’s in your child’s best interest to limit this as well.
A variety of colours in the diet is the key to our children’s good health and of course eating as close to how nature intended as well. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s health it’s best to talk to your GP or other health care provider.