– By Laurie Heilman Bell
It’s time to head back to school, and children are most able to meet all the challenges of a new school year - ranging from exam pressures to cold and flu season - when they have adequate nutrition to fuel their growing minds and bodies. Despite our ample food supply, children can fall short on many vital nutrients, potentially hindering their mental and/or physical ability to achieve success. The following table outlines some of the nutrients that are important to our children’s health and development.
|Vitamin A and Carotenoids||Visual development, immune and skin health||Brightly colored fruits and vegetables (yellow, green, red, orange), fish oils.|
|Vitamin B Complex||Metabolic function, brain/nerve function, circulation, energy, mood regulation||Whole grains, eggs, fish, vegetables, nuts, brewer's yeast.|
|Vitamin C||Immune health, tissue growth, strength and repair (prevents bruising, nosebleeds), adrenal health.||Berries, citrus fruit, green vegetables.|
|Vitamin D||Bone development, immune health, muscle strength.||Sun exposure, fish, fish liver oil, eggs, fortified milk and milk alternatives.|
|Calcium||Bone & dental health, nerve and muscular function.||Milk and fortified milk alternatives, dairy products, fish (cooked with bones), dark leafy greens, almonds.|
|Iron||Found in hemoglobin (oxygen carrying protein in blood) and enzymes. Required for immune health and energy production.||Meat, eggs, poultry, dark leafy greens, beets, dates, dulse, enriched grain products. *Animal sources are most readily absorbed.|
|Zinc||Skin, immune and reproductive health. Important for growth and tissue repair.||Brewer's yeast, dulse, egg yolks, fish, legumes, meat, seafood and whole grains.|
|Essential Fatty Acids||Brain development, skin health, production of prostaglandins (hormone like regulators)||Fish, fish liver oils, nuts, nut butters, seeds and seed oils, avocado, primrose oil, borage oil.|
Fresh, whole food is our ideal source for nutrients. Organic and free range food sources offer nutrition without the addition of pesticides and other harmful substances. Unfortunately, many children have very different ideas from those of their parents about what is “good” to eat. A new approach to satisfying both concerned parents and picky eaters is to puree the vegetables or fruit that kids refuse to eat and add them to their favourite meals (e.g. pureed butternut squash added to macaroni and cheese). As suggested in “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld, purees can be made in bulk and frozen for convenient use through the week. While this method is not intended to remove whole vegetables and fruit from the table, it can take some of the artificial, flavour enhanced, processed foods that picky kids often favour, and replace them with nutrient enhanced look-a-likes.
Smoothies can be another easy way to boost a child’s nutrient intake. Premade mixes or those created at home using fruit, yogurt, milk or milk alternatives can provide a great medium for other less favoured sources of nutrition like vegetables, flaxseeds, fish oils, protein powders, vitamin/mineral powders, and/or probiotics.
Lastly, for parents who want measurable assurance of their child’s nutrient intake there are now a variety of high quality nutritional supplements available for children and teens. These supplements are offered as liquids, chewables or capsules so children of all ages can benefit. These new generation “multivitamins” are much improved from the cartoon tablets of yesterday, which can contain food colouring, hydrogenated oils and other unwanted additives.
While parents may not always relate to their child’s world, working to provide sufficient nutrition is one way parents can help support their children through our world.
*This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of you health care practitioner. For any health related concerns, please consult your health care practitioner. Community Natural Foods and all of its associates shall not be held accountable for how this information is perceived or utilized.