Does Your Child’s Diet Include these Crucial Nutrients?

If the thought that your child is not getting enough nutrients constantly nags you, you are not alone!
Most parents are concerned about how little their child eats or picky eating habits. The concern is real and valid because science says that proper nutrition is essential to the well-being of your body. A healthy, nutritious diet lays the foundation for a robust immune system, optimal mental and physical growth.

Conversely, a diet that is poor in nutrients can lead to stunted growth, impaired focus and cognitive abilities, and poor immune function, along with a range of other health issues. Studies on child nutrition and health show that adequate nutrition also protects against disease besides promoting growth and development. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that providing proper nutrition during early childhood years enhanced educational outcomes in the adolescent stage[1]. There is no doubt that nutrients in food play a vital role in a child’s physical and mental development. So what nutrients that you must focus during the growth years, here is a quick snapshot of some crucial nutrients.

What are the top nutrients a child needs for growth?
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, the three major nutrients needed for growth and maintenance. Besides these nutrients, plenty of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants are also beneficial for boosting growth, development, and maintenance. Here are some specific nutrients you must include in your child's diet.

Vitamin A: It is also called anti-infective vitamin because it promotes the integrity of cells. Vitamin A helps healthy skin, eyes, normal growth, and tissue repair. Children with low vitamin A intake come down with frequent infections and often show skin issues. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable visual impairments in children.

Vitamin B: Helps in energy production, red blood cell formation and aids regular metabolic activity. A diet rich in B complex boosts cognitive function and development. Vitamin B12 and folate are involved explicitly in neural development and cognition. Both B vitamins are necessary for producing norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, crucial brain chemicals that help alleviate depression and anxiety.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for many functions in the body, including promoting immune function, calcium absorption, support hormonal balance, improve growth, reduce the risk of degenerative diseases and depression. Vitamin D deficiency leads to brittle bones, skeletal deformities, frequent fractures and potentially leads to premature osteoporosis in later life. A 2012 publication from John Hopkins Medicine recommends pediatricians screen all kids for vitamin D deficiency and test those at high risk[2].

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is necessary to heal wounds, fight off infection, strengthen tissue and muscles, and promote skin health. Plus, the antioxidant activity of vitamin C protects against UV-induced sun damage to the skin[3]. Because of these benefits, a diet high in vitamin C is helpful for children to protect their skin from all types of injuries, such as cuts and wounds.

Iron: Iron is a crucial nutrient that delivers oxygen to cells and tissues. It is vital for young children as it is involved in accelerated growth, and it is necessary to improve focus. It is also required for the production of blood and muscle building. Children who develop iron deficiency anemia suffer from fatigue, irritability, fuzziness, and difficulty focusing on tasks.

Calcium: Calcium, along with vitamin D, is necessary for teeth and bone formation. Calcium also helps to maintain homeostasis in the body and promotes hormonal balance. Calcium deficiency leads to rickets, malformed teeth, stunted growth, slow development, frequent infections, brittle nails, seizures in children. Calcium deposition into bone is an ongoing process throughout childhood. It reaches maximal accretion during puberty when children hit their growth spurt. Studies on the measures of bone density in adolescent girls indicate that about 37% of total skeletal bone mass is achieved between age 11 and 15, with an average calcium accretion rate of 300- 400 mg per day[4].

Probiotics: Although probiotics are not considered nutrients, they are essential for maintaining a healthy gut. Probiotics are good bacteria that help populate the digestive tract with beneficial microbes that support many functions in the body. Probiotics promote a better immune response and may help reduce constipation, diarrhea, and symptoms of IBS[5] (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Studies show that it may also help prevent allergies and improve skin issues like eczema[6]. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, results of published clinical trials indicate that probiotics render some benefit in preventing acute digestive tract infections in healthy infants and children[7] [8].

Nutrition plays a significant role in many aspects of health for kids- brain function, bone formation, immune health, disease prevention, and more. It is a lot harder to get our little ones and teens to eat the right foods all the time. Adults are no exception either; when it comes to taking a balanced diet. However, one best way to help stay on track is to have a well-stocked pantry with healthy foods and snacks. This also instills healthy eating habits. Another way to ensure that your child gets enough nutrients during the critical growth period is through dietary supplements.
It is also essential to encourage children and teens to stay well-hydrated and limiting added sugars in their diet.

Supplements help if your child is,

  • A picky eater or has poor food habits.
  • Under a restrictive diet due to food sensitivity or allergies.
  • Has a diagnosed nutrition deficiency.
  • Have underlying health conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption.

HMF Intensive by Genestra: If you are looking for a dietary supplement to boost the gut flora, Genestra Brands HMF Intensive is an apt choice. The formulation provides four strains of proprietary human-sourced probiotics that promote optimal intestinal health in all age groups. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, the two bacterial strains, help to effectively colonize the intestines and boost healthy gut bacteria. The product is free of artificial colors or flavors, dairy-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and gluten-free. It also does not have FOS (Fructo Oligosaccharides), which causes stomach and digestive issues for people with lactose or fructose intolerance. The product is suitable for vegan and vegetarians and is available as 1 oz powder and 30 vegetarian capsules. 

Ultra Preventive Kids by Douglas Labs: Douglas Labs' dietary supplement provides vital minerals, vitamins, and trace minerals in a chewable form for children aged four and above. The formulation provides 28 vitamins, minerals in a bioavailable form in amounts that match the needs of growing children. Some top highlights of this supplement include vitamin A in the natural beta carotene form, iodine from kelp, vitamin E as mixed tocopherols, vitamin C from corn-free sources, and antioxidants from citrus bioflavonoids. The combination ensures that all the nutrients are better absorbed by the body and safe for long-term use. The product is available as 60 chewable tablets in grape and orange flavors.

Nordic Berry by Nordic Naturals: A safe, great-tasting gummy berry that is also non-GMO, third-party certified, and free of artificial colors or flavors. Nordic berries provide 100% of the daily value of the most essential nutrients for children - including zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D3, and E. The supplement captures the delicious sweet-and-sour citrus taste of Nordic cloudberries that pleases the taste buds of children and adults alike. Nordic Naturals Nordic Berry is also gelatin-free and allergen-free with no artificial colorings, flavorings, or preservatives. It is safe to consume daily. The supplement provides essential multivitamins and minerals in a formulation that combines organic sugar‚ organic tapioca syrup‚ purified water‚ pectin‚ natural citrus flavor (in sunflower oil)‚ citric acid‚ fumaric acid‚ sodium citrate‚ rice syrup solids. It is available as 120 and 200 count gummies, suitable for kids from ages 2 and above. With no gluten‚ milk derivatives‚ or artificial colors‚ flavors, or preservatives, it is a good choice for children with stomach and digestion sensitivity. The suggested dosage for 2 years and older, four Nordic Berries daily with food, or as directed by your healthcare professional or pharmacist. It is recommended that children chew each gummy thoroughly for best results. 

Junior Nutrients by Pure Encapsulations: The supplement is a gluten-free, non-GMO, hypoallergenic children/teens multivitamin dietary supplement. Pure Encapsulations Junior Nutrients contain Vitamin A and mixed carotenoids, providing beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin for antioxidant protection. It helps maintain macular and retinal health with 3 mg lutein and 500 mcg zeaxanthin Choline and inositol for healthy cognitive function. It offers vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K in highly bioavailable forms. A specific highlight is that the folate (vitamin B9) is available as Metafolin®L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF), the naturally occurring, universally metabolized form of folate. The suggested dosage is 2 capsules daily with a meal for ages 4 to 13; for ages 14 and over, take 2 capsules, twice daily, with meals.

Lastly, it's important to pick high-quality products free of fillers, additives, and artificial colorants when selecting supplements for kids. It is also crucial to follow the dosage recommendation suggested by the manufacturer or follow the healthcare provider's instructions.