I try to provide healthy meals with whole foods for my family, but my little sweet tooth son has a penchant for unhealthy desserts after his meals – as do I! – and I’m struggling to break the cycle.
Getting him to eat a variety of fruits is another problem. He loves bananas, but anything else I pack in his lunch box doesn’t get touched. So when I was invited to the launch of the Swisse Kids Health report to hear about the affects of nutrient and vitamin deficiency on children, I jumped at the chance.
One of the most interesting things I took away from the session was how a deficiency in some nutrients and vitamins can impact kids’ concentration. I know many parents face this battle daily, with kids getting sidetracked easily – particularly if homework is involved! There were many other enlightening facts that Swisse Kids spokesperson, Antoinette-Louise Barnardo, shared too. Here, I’ve collected Antoinette-Louise’s best tips on the essential daily nutrients kids require and the effects of nutrient deficiencies…
Q. How can nutrient deficiencies affect kids’ concentration?
A. “Research suggests that learning, concentration and memory are all linked to getting the right nutrients in the right doses. Some of the key nutrients are Vitamin D, DHA & EPA from fish oil or algal sources, and B Vitamins. Although these may be taken in supplements, it is always wise to first provide children with a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle and then to supplement when their diet is unbalanced, when they are unwell or perhaps lacking nutrients from fussy eating.”
Q. Can vitamin and nutrient deficiencies affect children’s growth and development?
A. “Children who lack essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals may suffer from a host of conditions, ranging from impaired learning, concentration problems, immune deficiencies and improper growth and development, for example muscle function or even low energy.”
Q. What are the benefits of probiotics for children’s gut health?
A. “The research on probiotics is still relatively new but a double-blind, placebo controlled study in the journal Pediatrics (2009) showed a reduction in fever, reduced cold and flu symptoms, including runny noses and coughing and fewer absent days from day care when taking a single strain or a combination of probiotic strains. This means that probiotics can assist children with their immune systems when they are most vulnerable, for example during the winter season.”
Q. How do the nutrients fussy eaters lack effect their growing bodies?
A. “Certain nutrients are vital for eyesight, growth, development, immune and brain function and may be lacking in fussy eaters. They are:
“Vitamin A, which comes from liver, meat, milk and eggs and orange fruit and veggies including carrots and sweet potatoes, provide the foundations for good eyesight, skin, growth development and immune function.”
“B Vitamins help release energy from food for effective nervous system and muscle function. These can be found in fish, wholemeal breads, cereals, meats, nuts, eggs, milk and yeast extract, for example Vegemite, to name a few.”
“Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables helps to fight infections and absorbs iron from food that helps keep teeth, bones and gums healthy.”
“Folic acid from green leafy vegetables, liver and wholegrain cereals can help children absorb protein and form new red blood cells.”
“Iron is important for the blood and brain and helps carry oxygen around the body and is typically found in meal, liver, chicken, seafood, egg yolks and fortified cereals.”
“Zinc aids the immune system and can be found in meat, chicken, milk and wholegrain cereals.”
“Iodine is vital for tissue development and normal growth in children and can be found in foods such as dairy products, seafood, iodised salt and breads made with iodised salts.”
“Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth from foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and fish, for example sardines and salmon.”
“This is why fussy eating should be discouraged and a balanced diet across all food groups should be introduced early on.”
Q. Are there any fruit and vegetables loaded with the essential vitamins?
A. “All fruits and vegetables should be introduced to children and no single fruit or vegetable should be singled out or favoured. A broad range of vitamins and minerals can be obtained from fruit and vegetables, grains, lean meats and dairy. Children aged 4-8 years should aim for 1½ serves of fruit and 4½ serves of veggies each day. We do know that the vitamins from a variety of fruit and vegetables serve to nourish children’s bodies and minds.”
Q. How can vitamins counteract the missing nutrients from fruit and vegetables?
“When children are not obtaining all the necessary vitamins from their diet, nutrients can fill some of the gaps, but parents should aim to assist children in getting nutrients and energy from a healthy balanced diet and using supplementation to assist the shortcomings.”
Q. If children have a suppressed immune system, what are the essential nutrients required?
“Vitamin C, zinc and probiotics have been shown to be beneficial for children’s immune systems.”
ABOUT: Swisse Kids has recently launched a new sugar-free, tooth friendly children’s range in June this year, offering Australian families a complete range of products based on scientific evidence. The no-added sugar vitamin and supplement range suitable for 2 to 12 year-olds is a collection of five products especially developed for growing bodies and includes: Multi, Fish Oil, Vitamin C + Zinc, Calcium + D3 and Probiotic. Visit Swisse for more information.
Main image courtesy of GM Photographics.