With Autumn well and truly here, lets take a look at some important nutrients for children and what food sources have the best nutritional profile, to get them through winter without sniffles & sneezes.
This nutrient is essential for wound healing (speeds up the healing process for all those bumps & bruises), boosts the immune system, essential for bone & tissue health, helps to keep your child’s gums healthy, strengthens blood vessels and has the ability to keep infections away. Vitamin C also helps to absorb iron from non-heme food.
The best food sources of vitamin C for kids are kiwi fruit, red capsicum, citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes.
Zinc is another nutrient that is vital for children. Zinc has the ability to shorten the duration of colds and flus, builds up their little immune systems to prevent bugs, important for growth, repair & appetite control and is needed for the synthesis of over 70+ enzymes that help with digestion and healthy gastrointestinal tract. Deficiency signs include slow wound healing, white lines or spots on fingernails. I see a lack of zinc in many children and they often present with flaky nails with spots, tiredness and sores that take forever to heal.
Food sources that contain zinc are meat (liver is high too if your child will eat it), eggs, seafood, yoghurt, milk, oats and certain children’s breakfast cereal.
Iron is a critical nutrient for growth and development and essential for making haemoglobin. Without iron, the body isn’t able to make sufficient red blood cells (RBC) and tissues and organs do not get enough oxygen. Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia and cause delays in your child’s development – physically and mentally.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, weakness, irritability, pale skin, poor immune response, delayed cognitive development, lack of appetite, rapid heartbeat, problems with regulating body temperature, swollen tongue.
There are two types of iron sources that are obtained from food – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is easily absorbed and found in animal products like meat, poultry, offal, seafood. Non-heme is from plant based iron rich foods and is a little harder for the body to absorb, which is why it’s important to combine your non-heme food with a source of vitamin C (kiwi fruit, capsicum, orange, papaya, broccoli etc) in order to maximise its absorbency. Nails in iron deficient people may look white and have a spooning appearance and/or longitudinal streaks.
Food sources include red meat, poultry, offal, seafood, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, turmeric, parsley.
The reality is children do get sick…they may go to day care or catch a cold from siblings so the best advice is prevention! Build up that little immune system with food and supplements (when needed) because children respond really well to an increase in nutrients. Children are like little sponges, they instinctively observe and copy so start them off early and let them see you eating your fruit and veggies. Spaghetti bolognese, soups, casseroles are all great ways to ramp up their veggie intake and also a way to get herbs/spices into them e.g. turmeric, garlic, thyme, parsley, cinnamon, ginger.
Tips for getting nutrients into fussy eaters…
Smoothies – These usually work a treat because you can add probiotics, vital greens (the absolute bees knees of vegetables & nutrients all in one green powder that’s sweetened with stevia so there’s no bitter taste), and fruit etc. I am yet to come across a child that doesn’t like smoothies so get creative with your little ones and give it a try. This may be a little harder in the colder months however if your child will drink it, give it to them.
Purees – When I ask children what their favourite foods are, I usually get the same three answers….bolognese, pizza and meatballs! All three are the perfect foods to add loads of veggies by either finely grating or if they are super fussy try pureeing first and adding vegetables into the sauce that way. Add in some beans/lentils too for extra protein, zinc and iron.
Snacks – Cut up sticks of carrot, celery or an apple and serve with ABC spread (almond, brazil nuts, cashews). Wholemeal vegetable muffins, mini frittatas, mini meatballs are always a winner too!
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