Is Your Child Getting the Right Nutrition?
We all are aware these days that good nutrition is essential for a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. However, the accessibility of junk food, combined with the fact, that many kids are picky eaters, make it harder for parents to ensure adequacy in their child’s nutritional intake.
Children’s eating habits have changed exponentially in the last two decades. The most notable change has been in their consumption of saturated fats and sweetened beverages, which has increased in leaps and bounds. Another change has been in their consumption of fruits, vegetables and fibre, which has considerably decreased. This has resulted in nutritional gaps in many children.
Signs of Nutritional Gaps
According to the doctors, your child may have nutritional gaps if he or she:
* Is underweight or overweight
* Is hyperactive or lethargic and pale
* Has tooth decay
* Has poor physical growth
* Has sleep issues
* Has trouble concentrating
* Is struggling with emotional developments
* Has dry skin and dry/ brittle hair
* Falls ill frequently
* Complains of leg pains, especially during bedtime
Dealing with Nutritional Gaps
According to Dr. Motti Haimi, nutrient deficiencies are prevalent worldwide, and it is essential to address them early. However, he also assures that most vitamin deficiencies can be managed at home with minor changes to diet. Making healthy food choices and understanding nutritional requirements can ensure that children not only get the right nutrition but that they also embark on a lifelong habit of eating healthy. Nutritional experts suggest the following ways to ensure healthy eating habits:
* Involving your child in planning meals, grocery shopping and food preparation. This will help them understand healthy choices.
* Reducing the frequency of empty calories and sweet treats, and replacing them instead, with healthy snacking alternatives.
* Parents are role models for their children, and their food habits affect children’s habits as well. Therefore, if parents model healthy eating patterns, then it can have a positive influence on the child.
National Healthcare Group Polyclinics dietician, Charmaine Toh, offers a few more guidelines for parents. These include:
* Giving your child more wholegrain food.
* Including two servings of fruits and vegetables (especially, the brightly coloured ones) in your child’s diet.
* Including nuts and fish in the diet.
The main nutrients that your child may need are:
- Protein: Nuts, beans, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, lentils, tofu and soybeans.
- Carbohydrates: Bread, cereals, rice, crackers, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal and bananas.
- Fats: Whole-milk dairy products, cooking oils, meat, fish, nuts and avocadoes
- Calcium: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, egg yolks, broccoli, spinach, tofu, almonds and lentils.
- Iron: Lentils, greens, tofu, red meat, poultry, liver, whole grains, beans, nuts, shellfish and iron-fortified cereals.
- Folate: Whole-grain cereals, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, black or kidney beans and brussels sprouts.
- Fibre: Whole-grain cereals, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, strawberries, bananas, carrots, seeds and avocado.
- Vitamin A: Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, apricots, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, fish oils and egg yolk.
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, papayas and mangoes.
When to see a Doctor?
In spite of changes to your child’s eating habits, if you still feel unsure or concerned about his/ her general health, weight, or wellbeing, do see a doctor without delay. Your GP will be able to refer you to a dietitian for additional support. It is also advisable to see a doctor if your child has been avoiding certain food groups completely or has allergies or food intolerances.