In this blog, our food and nutritionist Mohammad Adnaan discusses how supplements can aid a fussy eating child and some of the practical steps you can take to help your child;
Does Your Child Need Vitamins?
In an Ideal world: An eager, hungry 5-year-old sits at his/her perfectly-portioned plate, with a vegetable, fruit, whole grain and protein – accompanied by a glass of milk and a huge smile across his/her face.
In the real world: A picky, fidgety 5-year-old stares at his/her plate on which you have quickly thrown a pile of pasta, a few green beans (which will be pushed aside), and a glass of milk that he refuses to finish.
Food and Health are both gifts and trusts (amanah) from Allah. If they aren’t used appropriately, then it can be an example of lack of gratitude and a break in the trust from our side.
Among us, there are a few lucky parents whose children eat every meal as a very well balanced one. The majority of us struggle with picky eaters, food refusals, busy schedules or a combination of all three. We might get a well-balanced meal in a few times a week, but with a bit of a fight and struggle.
The majority of children do manage to get most of what their bodies need to grow and thrive despite the lack of perfect meals all day, every day. However, if your child has a restrictive diet or is extremely picky, you may need vitamin or mineral supplements. These supplements are not food replacements, rather they are aides which need to supplement a healthy balanced diet.
But what if your kid is one of these kids….
The Meat-Avoiding youngster
Young toddlers are notorious for avoiding meat. Most drink milk and eat a variety of fruits, a few palatable vegetables but turn their noses up at the idea of meat. Lean meats are an important source of B vitamins and Iron, as well as proteins. Low iron is associated with fatigue, cognitive and behavioral problems. Iron is especially important during periods of rapid growth and development because of its role in building muscles and healthy red blood cells. B vitamins are essential for energy and a healthy nervous system.
Symptoms of deficiency include irritability and short attention spans. Non-meat dietary sources of Iron and B vitamins great for toddlers include; hummus, fortified cereals, beans and dark leafy greens. These same deficiencies are seen in vegetarian diets. If you are concerned your child is not getting enough Iron and B vitamins, you could consider a daily Iron supplement or Children’s multivitamin.
The Fizzy drinks fanatic
Teenagers have some of the worst diets. Fast food meals, allowances for sweets and fizzy/sugary drinks, the rebellious nature particular against eating enough fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Calcium and Vitamin D are common nutrient deficiencies in children, that can get worse when they become teenagers. Dairy is a major dietary source of calcium and vitamin D, which as we all know are vital for healthy bones and teeth. Children who do not have adequate dairy in their diet can find calcium and vitamin D in fortified orange juice, kale, salmon, tofu and eggs (D only). Vitamin D and calcium should be supplemented for children at risk for low dietary intake of these important nutrients.
The Fussy Eater
A diet which mainly comprises of carbohydrates and sometimes meats, sound familiar? These children are at risk for deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A and C (found particularly in fruits and vegetables). Diets high in carbohydrates and low in fruits and vegetables do not provide adequate fiber either (found in whole fruits, beans, raisins, and some cereals).
Vitamin A – promotes normal growth and development and healthy skin and eyes.
Vitamin C – essential for a healthy immune system as well as healthy muscle, skin and connective tissue systems. Please see our ‘Wonders of Vitamin C’ guide to find out more about the benefits of Vitamin C.
Fibre – important for heart and colon health.
Children who lack adequate Vitamin C can risk regular infections and poor healing of wounds, while a lack of fiber in their diets struggle with constipation. Children who don’t get enough fiber in their diets and/or who struggle with constipation can benefit from daily fiber supplements. Children with diets low in fruits and vegetables would benefit from daily multivitamins to supplement their missed nutrients.
The Importance of a Well-Balanced Diet
Well-balanced, consistent nutrition is extremely important for growth and development starting from birth and continuing into adulthood. Healthy eating patterns incorporating low-fat dairy products, plenty of fresh fruits and a rainbow of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains should start early in childhood. Model healthy eating for your child. Aim to get your child’s nutrients through foods, but supplement nutrients when needed after talking to your paediatrician.
Nutrient supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA).
If you are uncomfortable with any supplement program, get a second opinion from a knowledgeable professional.
Does taking supplements replace the need for a varied and balanced diet?
Not at all, they are just aimed to ‘supplement’ people’s diets and not replace healthy foods.
Although many dietary surveys have indicated that people do not meet dietary recommendations, everyone should aim to eat as varied and balanced a diet as possible to provide their nutritional needs, avoiding too many processed, fatty and sugary foods. Supplements are to be used as top-ups for any shortfalls in people’s diets and ensure they still achieve ideal intake guidelines.
Concerned about your diet?
Jump on to our Health Hub page and complete the free BMI checker to see if you are a healthy weight. Also, benefit from the free guidance and advice to make sure you are looking after your health, health is a blessing after all!
Further information on eating a healthy and balanced diet can be found on the https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/.