Let’s Talk Nutrition for Growing Children!
The importance of a healthful, vitamin-packed diet for growing children cannot be understated. But is following Canada’s Food Guide enough to ensure that your little one is receiving all of the nutrition their growing bodies require?
Let’s break down the top Nutrition Concerns (in my opinion) for children to ensure they are meeting their needs for growth and development:
Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Iron functions as the‘oxygen carrying’ component of the blood and also helps our muscles store and utilize oxygen. Iron impacts motor function (normal activity and movement) and mental function (normal thinking and processing skills). Children have increased iron needs during periods of rapid growth due to their expanding blood volume.
FOOD SOURCES: Iron rich foods include meats such as beef, pork, turkey, chicken and fish. Iron-fortified breads and cereals as well as beans & lentils are also good dietary sources.
CAUTION: Children consuming over 3 cups (24 oz) of milk per day are at increased riskfor iron deficiency since excess milk decreases your child’s desire for food items with greater iron content. Milk is not a good source of iron and decreases the iron absorption from iron rich foods.
Calcium is vital for building strong bones as children grow. Calcium also plays a role in healthy teeth and proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves.
FOOD SOURCES for calcium include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Please note that low fat milk (1%) is recommended for those over 2 years of age. There is also calcium in fortified soy beverages and lower amounts of this mineral are found in dark green veggies (broccoli) and nuts (almonds).
Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2 servings of Milk & Alternatives per day for children.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is imperative to mention with Calcium since the two promote bone formation through enhanced absorption. Rickets is a disease caused by deficiency in vitamin D resulting in softening of the bones due to the inability to absorb calcium.
FOOD SOURCES: There are very few food sources that contain vitamin D and the main source is SUNSHINE. The flesh of fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel) and fish liver oils are some of the best sources. There are also small amounts of vitamin D in beef liver, egg yolks and fortified milk. The dietary requirements for vitamin D can be met with an oral supplement or from D drops. Speak to your dietitian or pharmacist for the right amount of vitamin D for your child.
Fibre is one of my favourite topics since Canadian children get less than half of the dietary fibre they need! Not only does it promote bowel regularity, it also helps prevent obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. These issues are becoming increasingly prevalent amongst children even though they are traditionally ‘adult diseases’.
FOOD SOURCES: High fibre foods include whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats and quinoa. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that half of our grain products come from whole grains. Fibre can also be increased through fruit, veggies and lentil/bean consumption.
Encourage meals with variety of foods from each of the four food groups (grains, milk, vegetables and protein/alternatives). Never coerce or bribe your child to eat ‘healthy’ foods in exchange from ‘less healthy’ alternatives.