What do I feed my little one? Are they getting enough vitamins? Planning ahead will make sure you are on the right track for the whole family. The dividends of giving your child the vitamins and minerals they need right from the start are enormous.
• Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, inside and out. It functions as an antioxidant, supporting the immune system and is crucial for vision. It occurs in two main forms: retinol, found in animal products such as liver, meat, cheese and eggs; and Beta-carotene, which is found primarily in yellow-orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potato and peppers. Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the Liver.
• B vitamins help us make energy from our food and are also needed for brain function and stress management.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps turn glucose, the brains main fuel, into energy. Children low in Vitamin B1, have a poor attention span and concentration.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is particularly important for hair, nails and eyes. Deficiency signs include eczema, dermatitis and cracked lips.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is crucial to blood sugar balance. Deficiency in this vitamin can result in low energy, headaches, irritability and skin conditions such as eczema.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is your child’s key memory and anti-stress vitamin. Signs of deficiency include muscle cramps, poor concentration, nausea, low energy or anxiety.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is needed for hormone production and to make the happy neurotransmitter serotonin. Signs of deficiency can include depression, irritability, muscle cramps, low energy or flaky skin.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) helps the blood carry oxygen and it is essential for nerves. Signs of deficiency include poor hair or skin condition, low energy, constipation, tender sore muscles and pale skin.
B Vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods. Wholegrains such as oats and barley, and fresh vegetables such as spinach and watercress, are some of the best sources. Vitamin B12 is the only exception here, it is only found in foods of animal origin such as eggs and fish.
•Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is best known for its role in fighting infections, colds and flu. Deficiency symptoms include frequent infections or infections that are hard to shift, low energy or bleeding gums. The best foods to find Vitamin C is in fresh fruits and vegetables such as broccoli.
•Vitamin D plays a major role in bone development, so deficiencies in this vitamin can impair growth. The good news: exposure to sunlight causes the body to produce D — and kids love to play outside! Just remember that in winter, when living in northern climates, like we do, or if you just don’t spend much time outdoors, you might need to supplement.
There have been many studies into the benefits of Omega-3 in a child’s diet. Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s, are crucial for development and health of the brain, heart, nervous system, tissues, skin and immune system and are especially important for school-age children. Cold-water fish (salmon, tuna), flaxseed, dark leafy greens and walnuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Consider supplementing if these foods are not part of your diet. Child-friendly omega-3 supplements are easily available.
A colourful plate of natural purples, blues, reds, oranges, yellows and greens will nourish young bodies with the positive effects of phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, carotenoids and chlorophyll. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables like mangos, carrots, apricots, citrus fruits, plums, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, raspberries, beetroot, salad greens, green beans, winter squash, pumpkin and dark leafy greens
Your child’s body is made largely of water, so ensuring a regular supply is essential for cells, organs and tissues to function. Their brain too, is dependent on water – even mild dehydration can interfere with concentration.