When their daily diet doesn’t give them everything they need, should you help out with vitamin and mineral supplements?
Children’s nutrition is obviously essential to give them a good start in life, but all too often they don’t get what they need from their daily diet. particularly at an early age, some will refuse to eat certain types of food (almost always the types that are good for them), and there can be other causes of nutritional deficiencies such as disease or being on certain types of medication.
To ensure your children develop both physically and mentally, you have to make sure that their diet contains sufficient amounts of nutritional elements such a vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Sometimes it can be hard to work out whether the food they are getting contains the right elements. The NHS says that children aged 7 to 10 years need both energy and nutrients from their food to support their growth.
The amount of energy that food and drink contains is measured in both kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), and is commonly referred to as calories.
The average daily energy requirements for children aged 7 to 10 years old are:
Age Boys Girls
7 6,900kJ /1,649kcal 6,400kJ /1,530kcal
8 7,300kJ /1,745kcal 6,800kJ /1,625kcal
9 7,700kJ /1,840kcal 7,200kJ /1,721kcal
10 8,500kJ /2,032kcal 8,100kJ /1,936kcal
But this only tells you the amount of energy they need; nutritional elements are equally important.
A healthy, balanced diet for children aged 7 to 10 should include:
- At least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- Meals based on starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta and rice (choose wholegrain varieties when possible)
- Some milk and dairy products (choose low-fat options where you can)
- Some foods that are good sources of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils
And of course you should cut down on sugary or fatty foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, and on fizzy drinks.
But even if you are feeding them a proper diet, it can be difficult to make sure they get the correct ‘micro-nutrients’ – factors which are necessary only in small quantities, but which are vital to development.
Children need the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin D is only found in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs. It’s also added to some foods, such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin.
Vitamin A is important for the skin, eyes and immune systems of babies and young children. Sources include dairy products, and dark green vegetables.
Vitamin C is important for your child’s general health and immune system. It can also help their body absorb iron. Good sources include oranges, strawberries and tomatoes.
This mineral helps make thyroid hormones, which regulate cells and the metabolic rate. Good source are sea fish and shellfish.
This mineral is important in making red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. Good sources are red meat and beans.
This mineral is essential in the development of bones and teeth, and is found in dairy foods, green leafy vegetables and bread.
Other dietary requirements include vitamins E and K, and trace amounts of elements such as magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium.
Even if you are serving a healthy diet, it can be difficult to make sure that your children are getting all they need. One way to make sure is through dietary supplements, which can provide missing vitamins, and minerals in an easy-to-manage bundle. To make them more palatable, diet supplements are often supplied in fun forms such as gummy bears. Chewable multi-vitamin and mineral enriched products with a pleasant fruit flavour can deliver a lot of necessary supplements and are suitable for older children, teenagers and adults. Vegan options with no gelatine are widely available.
Supplements can be aimed at particular areas of health; for instance an immune system booster containing vitamin C, iron, zinc and selenium, or an omega-3 fatty acid supplement aimed at supporting brain development and memory. One advantage of getting your omega-3 this way is that it does not contain any of the ocean pollutants usually found in fish.
And if you feel that the kids are getting all the benefits, remember that diet supplements are available for all the family. Vitamin D supplements are vital at times of year when we aren’t getting enough sunlight, and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may also want to top up on folic acid, Vitamin D, choline or omega-3.
So remember, it’s not just the kids whose daily diet might not be giving them everything they need, and diet supplements are there to help you top up on the essentials at any time.