Role & Importance of Essential Nutrients in Your Child’s Health
Healthy eating habits of children play a crucial role in their overall healthy lives. Childhood is a critical time in the growth and development of a person and is a key stage in the establishment of their physical and mental abilities.
Parents play a major role in providing a healthy diet for their children, as well as establishing lifelong habits when it comes to food.
In today’s world of fad diets and conflicting headlines about nutrition and health, it can be confusing for parents to know exactly what and how much nutrients should be given to the child.
Under nutrition and over nutrition, both hinder the development of your child. If your kids are taking a poor diet, they are more likely to develop long term health problems.
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Here are 6 essential nutrients that you must include in your child’s diet.
1. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR PROTEIN
Protein is the major building block for the health of your child. It supports their muscle formation, hormone production, nourishment of the skin, and strengthening their little bones. Protein also helps in transporting the nutrients in the body.
Every cell in your child’s body is important. Most of the sources of proteins provide nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium which are the part of every cell of your child.
The daily requirement of protein – National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that 10% to 30% of the calorie intake should come from protein. It varies with the age of the kid.
- Children aged between 4 to 9 years require 19 grams of protein every day.
- Those aged between 9 to 13 years require 34 grams of protein every day.
But there is advice for all you mothers, don’t think that more protein will mean stronger child. A sports nutrition specialist Diana Schnee says that overdose of protein may also lead to long term health problems in your child.
Sources of Protein:
There are some delicious foods that you can give to your child for fulfilling their daily protein needs. It includes:
- Chicken breast
- Cottage cheese aka Paneer
- Greek yoghurt
- Pumpkin seeds
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2. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR IRON
Iron is the main component of haemoglobin in your kid’s body. It helps in the development of RBCs (red blood cells) that carry oxygen from the lungs to all other parts of the body.
The deficiency of iron can lead to learning and behavioural problems in the kid. It may also lead to iron-deficiency anaemia i.e., the diminishing number of red blood cells in the body. So it is very important to keep a check on the iron intake of your child.
The daily requirement of iron – The amount of iron need varies with the age of kids.
- Infants get enough amount of iron from breastfeeding until the age of 4 to 6 months.
- If your infant ages between 7 to 12 months, then they require a total of 11 milligrams of iron daily.
- Once your kid turns toddler ageing between 1 to 3 years, they require 7 milligrams of iron every day.
- Kids ages between 4 to 8 years need 10 milligrams of iron.
- And older kids between 9 to 13 years need 8 milligrams of iron daily.
- If you are a mother of a teenager, then your boy child should get 11 milligrams and girl child should get 15 milligrams of iron every day.
Sources of Iron:
Iron is present in many vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian foods. Some of the healthy foods that you can give to your child for meeting their iron needs are:
- Legumes like beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans
- Red meat
- Pumpkin, sesame, and flaxseeds
- Nuts like cashews, pine nuts, almonds, etc.
- Vegetables like potatoes and mushrooms
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3. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR CALCIUM
Calcium is one of the essential nutrients required by kids for development for stronger bones. It keeps their muscles and nerves working efficiently. To give your kids strong adult lives, strong bones are plays a crucial role.
Solid bones will reduce the possibility of the child of bone loss later in their lives. Any mistake in fulfilling the calcium requirements can affect the cardiovascular system of your child.
The requirement of calcium – It is mostly advised to give calcium in the diet to kids rather than the supplements. The need for calcium increases with an increase in the age of your child.
- Babies who are younger than 6 months only need 200 mg of calcium and babies of 6 to 12 months to need 260 mg of calcium. This requirement is easily fulfilled with breast milk or formula milk.
- Once your kid starts growing, he/she needs more calcium for strengthening the bones.
- Kids between the age of 1 to 3 years need 700 mg of calcium per day.
- Kids of 4 to 8 years need 1000 mg.
- And kids between 9 to 18 require 1300 mg of calcium every day.
The department of Health and Social Care advises that up to 1500 mg of calcium will not harm a child but above that may result in health issues.
Sources of Calcium:
Being a mother, there are some foods that you must include in the diet of our kids to ensure that their everyday need for calcium is achieved. They include:
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, curd, etc.
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra.
- Soya beans
- Fish where bones are eaten like sardines and pilchards
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4. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin that helps in tissues and bones grow. It also helps the child to repair their organs themselves. Studies have claimed that vitamin C reduces the chances of catching a cold.
Once a child has a deficiency of vitamin C, they will start feeling weak, may get skin related problems, gum problems, and anaemia. It’s better to focus on your child’s intake of vitamin C on an everyday basis.
The daily requirement of vitamin C – The adequate intake of vitamin C differs in five categories. The age of the child depends on their requirements for vitamin C intake.
- Children of 0-6 months: 40 mg per day
- 7-12 months: 50 mg per day
- 1 to 3 years: 15 mg per day
- 4 to 8 years: 25 mg per day
- 9 to 13 years: 45 mg per day
Sources of Vitamin C:
There is a long list of fruits and vegetables that you can give to your child for fulfilling the vitamin C needs.
Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits such as orange and grapefruit
- Berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Red and green peppers
- Sweet and white potatoes
- Spinach, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables
- Winter squash
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5. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR CARBOHYDRATES
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for the body. They help your child’s body to use fat and protein for building and repairing tissues. Carbohydrates come in several different forms (sugars, starches, and fibre), but kids should be eating more of the starches and fibres and less of the sugar.
The daily requirement of carbohydrates – Starting with the age of 1 year, and continuing throughout their teens, children need to consume 130 grams of total carbohydrates daily.
Though fibre is included in the daily intake of total carbohydrates, still it has separate guidelines to ensure an adequate amount of fibre consumption.
- From the ages of 1 to 3 years, all children need 19 grams of fibre per day.
- They should consume 25 grams daily between the ages of 4 to 8 years.
- At the age of 9, boys need 31 grams of fibre daily, and when they turn 14, their requirement increases to 38 grams.
- Girls should consume 26 grams of fibre daily from age 9 to 18.
Sources of Carbohydrates:
The carbohydrates can be consumed from both good and bad for health foods. Being a mother, you must try to give food with good carbohydrates and avoid bad ones.
Good Carbohydrates foods:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Plain, low-fat or fat-free yoghurt
- Whole-grain bread
Carbohydrates foods to Avoid:
- White bread
- Sweetened juice
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6. CHILD NUTRITION FACTS FOR VITAMIN A
Being a mother you should be aware that young children are at high risk of vitamin A deficiency. It is one of those essential nutrients that your baby cannot manufacture, and thus, it needs to be included in their diet.
It makes sure that the growth and development of your child remain normal. It supports the child in maintaining healthy teeth, bones, and soft tissues. It is very important for vision and eye functioning of your child.
Any carelessness in giving vitamin A to the child can cause severe visual impairment and even blindness in some major cases.
The daily requirement of vitamin A – The requirement of vitamin A will depend upon the age group your child lies in.
- If the child is between 4 to 8 years, he/she requires 400 micrograms per day.
- If ages between 9 to 13 years, then requirement goes up to 600 micrograms.
- And if your child is 14 to 18 years then make sure of giving them 700-900 micrograms of vitamin A every day.
Sources of Vitamin A:
Fill the diet of your child with a list of these foods to ensure their vitamin A requirement.
- Pink grapefruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
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Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions by Parents:
- Q: Is it fine to give the same healthy foods every day to my child?
- A: There is a very common saying “variety is the spice of life,” and it perfectly applies to nutrition for kids. Healthy eating not only means adequate vitamins and minerals; it also means a balance of fibre, complex carbohydrates, essential fats, and protein. Instead of offering the same foods every day, it’s best to focus on balance and a variety of healthy foods.
- Q: Giving juice to my child regularly is a healthy choice or not?
- A: There are many different kinds of juices—100% fruit, sweetened from concentrate, and sweetened with natural sources of sugar—but even the pure juice is also full of sugar.
Juices are good in taste but they don’t have any fibre. Fibre helps our kids to keep full. For this reason, experts suggest limiting juice is important. In fact, giving a piece of fresh fruit to your child is suggested.
- Q: Being a vegetarian, how do I ensure my child gets his daily dose of protein?
- A: First of all, always remember to give your child protein according to his age. Though it is right that nonvegetarian foods have more protein but vegetarian foods are also available. You can incorporate Dals and Pulses like Moong, Masur, Tur dal, Soya, etc in his meals. Also try including milk and milk products like curd, paneer, buttermilk in his daily meals.
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- Q: My daughter is suffering from low haemoglobin. What should I add to her diet?
- A: Do make sure that she has green leafy vegetables at least once a day. They are iron-rich sources like dates, ragi, nuts, and garden cress seeds. Also ensure the iron-rich source is accompanied by vitamin C rich sources like lemon juice, amla, fruits like papaya, apple, orange, etc for better absorption of iron. This will help in increasing the haemoglobin level of your child.
- Q: My child feels full in the morning and refuses to eat breakfast. How do I get him to eat?
- A: This is a common challenge faced by many parents. You need to prepare a night before. Close the kitchen by 8:00 p.m. to prevent your child from late-night snacking. Do ensure to give quick, healthy options on hand like low-sugar cereals with low-fat milk, fresh fruit, or whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter. For those who don’t want to eat, sometimes drinking a fruit and yoghurt smoothie works as well. Keep on trying by giving alternatives to your child.