Making sure your child is getting the nutrients they need
As parents, we dream of our children sitting down to healthy meals each day – vegetables, whole grains, proteins, fresh fruits, and healthy fats. Perhaps a jug of organic nut milk or mineral water stands nearby.
But in reality, most of us deal with fussy eaters who pick at their plates, only eat carbs, or simply refuse to eat the meals we’ve lovingly prepared.
From toddler tantrums to tired teens, the family dinner table can become a battlefield when it comes to getting everyone to eat.
In desperation, many of us end the night cooking up chips or cheesy pasta, just to make sure our children eat something. And no matter how ‘full’ they claim to be, they always seem to make room for ice-cream.
Firstly, know you’re not alone!
One recent study found family households are spending almost an hour a day arguing – and the main reason for those arguments? Children not eating everything on their plate.
Other top-ranking squabbles were over eating treats before meals, not brushing teeth, and complaining about being hungry, but refusing to eat healthy food.
So a lot of parents are asking the same question: My child doesn’t eat properly, do they need vitamins?
The honest answer is – it depends.
So I’ve put this article together to help you find the answer to that question.
Is your child receiving the recommended daily dietary intake for their age group?
In fact, I think even most adults struggle to achieve the intake of nutrients recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
But if your child’s food intake is significantly short of the recommendations for their age, or they have a restricted diet for any reason, you might want to consider supplementation with vitamins.
You might also like to consider pathology testing to assess nutrient and mineral levels.
What vitamins and supplements does my child need – and why?
Regardless of their age and stage in childhood, all children require these essential vitamins and minerals:
Zinc: Zinc is a trace metal that plays a crucial role in childhood growth and development including cognitive and motor function, activity, attention. social skills and significantly – perception of flavour and picky eating habits
B Vitamins: The B vitamins are vital for children’s physical growth and their mental health. The good ones for children are Vitamin B1 which provides energy and protects the nervous system. Vitamin B6 protects the nervous system, builds strong immunity, and helps the brain to function properly. Vitamin B7 maintains a healthy nervous system and grows strong hair and nails. Vitamin B12 is outstanding for young children, fighting asthma, and fighting the HIV virus.
Iron: If a baby does not get sufficient iron, he or she can experience behavioral and cognitive development problems and delays. Often a baby‘s diet in infancy is deficient in iron. A deficiency can result in cognitive deficits and neurodevelopment deficits, which can be irreversible.
Calcium and Magnesium: Calcium is imperative for childhood bone mass building – it helps to guard against fractures and osteoporosis as children grow up. Both magnesium and calcium are needed for hair health. Because magnesium helps to absorb the calcium, you usually find calcium supplements already have magnesium in. Both these minerals aid children to sleep better as well as relax their muscles.
Vitamin D: Children need Vitamin D because it helps them to absorb phosphorous and calcium. If your child doesn’t get sufficient Vitamin D, rickets can develop – that’s when the bones weaken. Vitamin D contributes towards building strong bones and teeth.
Choline and Iodine: Choline is vital for brain function in a baby and child, as well as the structure of the cell membranes. Choline is usually grouped with the B-vitamins and plays an essential role in the nervous system. Iodine is usually recommended for the thyroid gland to function properly and a child needs it for normal mental and physical growth and development.
Vitamin C: When viruses are rife like the Coronavirus, Vitamin C is the one to run to for everyone. It plays a huge role in supporting the health of the immune system. It promotes cell repair and speeds up sore gums inside the mouths of your children.
Is there a multivitamin that does it all?
All of these vitamins and more come included in the Orthoplex Pure Children’s Essentials vitamin and mineral formula, which comes in a vegan powder form, free from egg, gluten, dairy and artificial flavours. It’s one of the most common practitioner products I prescribe for that reason.
Before you go grabbing a product from the shelf of your local pharmacy, remember a lot of those over the counter options are made from synthetic ingredients, and can contain fillers and excipients, so they may not be the best choice for your child.
As a naturopath, I provide practitioner-only products with proven therapeutic combinations of bioavailable vitamins and minerals, to ensure the best quality and value for my clients.
Prioritise gut health
In addition to this, adding probiotics to your child’s diet can support the health of the microbiome, boosting immune support, and improving digestion and nutrient absorption.
What about food?
Supplements are exactly that – intended to supplement the diet with added goodness, but not to replace real food. Be sure to have this conversation with your child if commencing supplementation.
It’s still vital for children to eat a balanced diet containing healthy, nutrient rich, fresh wholefoods.
I’ve found the best way to encourage children of all ages to eat more vegetables is to disguise them in other foods.
- Bake hemp protein powder into healthy muffins and baked goods
- Add vegetables to spaghetti bolognese and pasta
- Include avocado and leafy greens in juices and smoothies
- Make your own fries from sweet potatoes
- Use wholefood powders to add natural colours and fun
- Disguise vegetables in mini quiches, baked in muffin trays
- Have a family pizza night, making your own pizzas on a healthy flat bread