Post on: August 27, 2015.
Posted in: Read.
You can put it on their plates, but you can’t make them eat it. Let’s face it, we can’t tell exactly what our kids are eating. Even as a Nutritionist, I can’t be sure what my toddler’s actually consuming; particularly since in the end her plate looks like a Picasso disaster with everything mixed together and a bite out of this and that. Nor, can we as parents guarantee if the dog ate the brussels sprouts off your eight year old’s plate – what does got tossed on the floor when you’re not looking? One way to ensure your child gets the minimum required amounts of the nutrients they need is to use a quality children’s multivitamin.
Dealing with a Picky Eater
Experts agree that feeding little ones can be a challenge, particularly if you have a picky eater at your dinner table. As parents, the best plan of attack is to keep offering our kids lots of nutritious foods on their plates, in a variety of colours to ensure their being exposed to many different nutrients. And, what if they refuse to eat it? You can offer something else – but, it has to be equally healthy. Giving into cookies or ice cream after they don’t eat their veggies and dip isn’t helping anyone. If your picky eater consistently snuffs their nose in the direction of one particular food group, consider adding in an appropriate supplement to help fill the void in their nutritional intake.
Importance of Supplementing Children
Unfortunately, children are at risk when their diets are inadequate. When nutrients aren’t present in sufficient quantities in their diet, children’s bodies cannot grow and develop optimally. This can affect their cognitive development, motor skills and mood. Talk to a qualified health professional for help with what nutrient, when to start, and how much your child may need to be supplemented with.
It is estimated that worldwide about 300 million children of preschool and school age are anaemic due to a lack of iron in their diets (or an over consumption of milk products…milk inhibits iron absorption so serve water with your iron-rich meals instead of milk). Studies have shown a positive effect with iron supplementation (at least 2 months) on cognition in anemic kids. Iron is also important in eyesight. Studies have found that a diet lacking in iron (meat, leafy greens), iodine (added to table salt in Canada) and vitamin A (carrots, meat) damages eyesight. Iron is present in leafy green vegetables and meat products. If your child is anemic, an iron supplements is an optional way to help increase their body’s iron levels. Iron supplements can be constipating, so consider increasing your little one’s fibre intake if you’re supplementing. There are also herbal-based iron supplements available at health food stores (and some supermarkets) that can be less constipating.
Our “Western-style” diet is high in fat and refined sugars, and low in essential brain-boosting, anti-inflammatory fatty acids (EPA, DHA). EPA and DHA are well-researched fats that promote optimal brain functioning: cognition, learning, mood and behavior. Fish can be a tough sell to picky eaters, and even some ‘good’ eaters. If this is the case in your house, consider fish oil supplements – they comes in all sorts of supplemented forms and flavors to help you sneak this brainy nutrient into your kid’s diet.
The sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, has been a hot topic of late. This is because children’s diets lacking in this vitamin have been linked to the development of type 1 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight but, most of us here in Canada just don’t see enough sun year-round to get sufficient amounts. Supplementing with vitamin D is becoming a popular choice – even Health Canada recommends vitamin D for breast-fed babies and people over 50 years of age. If you live on a cloudy-rainy coast or see very little sunlight in your day, you may also want to consider seeking out a bit more vitamin D from foods and supplements.
Us old folks know we need calcium to keep our bones healthy, but think about the amount of calcium it takes to grow bones! Kids need calcium too. Plus, new research is linking calcium with cognitive decline in older adults – yes, calcium is used in the brain to help transmit information. And, if your little one is always on the move, remember that every time one of their muscle’s contract it used calcium. Calcium comes in many foods including dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt), nuts, seeds and broccoli. If your picky eater doesn’t like some of these food sources of calcium, there are specially formulated calcium supplements available just for kids!
Down in One
Some parents ask me about a multivitamin for their kids. There are many on the market for kids in all shapes, characters and flavours – I choose to use one that contains very little added sugar or colours. Taking a closer look at your children’s diet is a great start. Do they eat a wide variety of colours and food groups? Are they a picky eater? Does your lifestyle include foods that fill (instead of foods that nourish) as you’re on-the-go a lot? On the research front, there is some suggestion that multivitamins may be a good idea for certain children. Researchers have found that many young children don’t get enough key nutrients (particularly iron, zinc, calcium), including children in daycare settings. There have been studies showing that multivitamins can have positive effects on children – one study out of the United Kingdom investigated if a multivitamin could help improve cognitive function and mood in healthy children. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study had 81 children (ages 8-14) take a multivitamin for three months. The children who took the vitamin/mineral supplement preformed more accurately on some of the battery of cognitive tasks they were asked to do.
Does your child need supplements? They may, and they may not. Kids need nutrients to grow…something they are always doing, right Moms…”Hey, didn’t we just buy you new shoes…how come your toes are at the end already?!” Take a look at what they are actually consuming. Try making a list for 2-3 days of what they swallow and see if you can find a variety of colours and food groups in there. For more specific help, talk to a qualified health or nutrition professional for some one-on-one help.
From this parent to another – good luck! May your kids grow each day in a healthy and happy way.