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Essential nutrition for children for all ages and stages

 

How and what your children eat can vary depending on which life stage they are in. Eating well is critical for their health and wellbeing and during the childhood years eating preferences and habits are formed that often last a lifetime.

Encouraging good nutrition during weaning, fussy phases and food rejection can be challenging, so it’s important to be aware of the key nutrients to support childhood health and development.

 

Babies


New parents can face challenges with baby feeding, choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed is just one.  During early infancy, vitamin D and beneficial bacteria have been highlighted as important nutrients for babies in their first year of development.

Public Health England recommend 400iu or 10 micrograms of vitamin D for everyone irrelevant of age except for formula fed babies that consume more than 500ml of formula.

When it comes to a baby’s microbiome, research has shown that beneficial bacterial, can play a positive role in their early life. It is considered that a natural birth will inoculate a baby with beneficial bacteria.  Further exposure occurs from the birthing staff’s skin, breast milk and the home environment.  Infant eczema or food allergies are suggested to be related to a lack of microbial diversity.  A study which introduced Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG strain to infants with food allergies showed an increase in beneficial short chain fatty acid butyrate in their microbiome and an improvement in food tolerance.  It is amazing what bacteria can do.

Fortunately, nutrients that are limited such as vitamin D and beneficial bacteria can be easily solved with food supplements. 

 

Toddlers


Although it may be concerning for parents when a child refuses to eat, it is a normal developmental phase, and part and parcel of food exploration where children explore new tastes and textures. 

The challenge lies in getting a child to eat a variety of nutrient rich foods.  Parents in this situation may find food supplements for toddlers useful.  A quality multivitamin formulated for children will provide toddler-specific amounts of all the nutrients necessary for health and if necessary additional vitamin C, vitamin D and omega-3 essential fatty acid rich nutritional oils can be added during the especially fussy phases.

 

Pre-school


Pre-school increases the exposure to other children and tests natural the body’s immunity.  Although, the immune system benefits from exposure to a variety of illnesses, bacteria and virus, a sign of immune strength is a short lived and mild illness. 

Beneficial bacteria that is in the gastrointestinal tract ferments fibre from fruit, vegetables and pulses to produce immune supporting substances, that along with vitamin C, zinc, selenium and vitamin D help to prepare the immune system for childhood infections and illnesses.

 

Primary school/5 to 11


Child development in the primary school years involves growth, learning and knowledge acquisition, besides hobbies and interests.  Schooling starts as educational play and becomes more academic as the child progresses through the years.  Subsequently, a range of nutrients are to be considered to support brain health and learning.

  • Choline, B1, B2, B6, B12 and folate, besides vitamin C, vitamin D, and carotenoids support brain health.
  • Calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium are essential for bone growth.
  • Iodine, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and beneficial bacteria support immunity.

 

Teenage years


During the teenage years, nutrition requirements increase because of extra demands placed on the body. Growth and muscle development occurs, often in growth spurts with growing pains.  While academic studies conclude with exams, brain support becomes vital.  This can also be a stressful time, friendship groups may evolve, and pressure felt from upcoming examinations and career choices, while sporting interests and hobbies may become serious.  All while experiencing puberty, which is characterised by the increased production of sex hormones and changes in the brain to account for the influx of hormones. Here are the key nutrients to consider

  • Bone health is supported by calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
  • Muscles require protein to grow.
  • B vitamins, especially Choline, B1, B2, B6, B12 and folate, besides vitamin C, vitamin D, and Carotenoids support brain health.
  • Energy is supported by B vitamins and magnesium, plus carbohydrate rich foods.
  • Stress can be supported with B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and theanine.
  • Hormones can be supported with B vitamins, magnesium and healthy fats.

Where to find nutrients for your children

Nutrient

Food

Children’s food supplement

Vitamin B1

Fish, beans, peas, lentils, yogurt

Multivitamin

Vitamin B2

Dairy, yogurt, eggs, salmon, chicken

Multivitamin

Vitamin B6

Poultry, fish, chickpeas

Multivitamin

Vitamin B12

Eggs, fish, poultry, meat, fortified nutritional yeast

Multivitamin

Folate

Green leafy vegetables, dairy

Multivitamin

Choline

Eggs, beans

Multivitamin

Vitamin K

Green leafy vegetables, dairy

Multivitamin

Calcium

Yogurt, Milk, Sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables

 

Zinc

Fish, shellfish, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds

Multivitamin

Selenium

Brazil nuts, wholegrains

Multivitamin

Magnesium

Green leafy vegetables, sprouts

 

Iodine

Fish, Shellfish, seaweed

Multivitamin

Iron

Offal, dark green leafy vegetables

Multivitamin

Carotenoids

Peaches, squash, nectarines, apricots, sweet potato, carrots

Multivitamin

Beneficial bacteria

Yogurt, Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, Sauerkraut

Beneficial bacteria/probiotic supplement

Theanine

Green tea

 

Protein

Meat, dairy, poultry, fish, beans, peas, quinoa, nuts

 

Carbohydrates

Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, rice, wholegrains, root vegetables

 

Healthy fats

Oily fish, algae (Spirulina, Chlorella), nuts and seeds

Nutritional oil

 

Conclusion


Babies, children and teenagers have different nutritional needs. An awareness of the range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements will help your offspring grow healthy and build the foundations to long-term wellness.  Incorporate a balanced, nutrient rich foods into your children’s diet, food supplements can be a helpful way to bridge any nutritional gaps.

For more information about supporting your child’s nutritional needs, visit your local independent health store: findahealthstore.com

 

Author: Jenny Carson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Services Manager at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science and is a Master of Research (MRes) in Public Health.

 

References

Berni Canani R, Sangwan N, Stefka AT, Nocerino R, Paparo L, Aitoro R, Calignano A, Khan AA, Gilbert JA, Nagler CR. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG-supplemented formula expands butyrate-producing bacterial strains in food allergic infants. ISME J. 2016 Mar;10(3):742-50.

Hueston CM, Cryan JF, Nolan YM. Stress and adolescent hippocampal neurogenesis: diet and exercise as cognitive modulators. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 4;7(4):e1081.

Kumbhare SV, Patangia DVV, Patil RH, Shouche YS, Patil NP. Factors influencing the gut microbiome in children: from infancy to childhood. J Biosci. 2019 Jun;44(2):49.

 

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.




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