Those of us with little ones know the frustration of trying to get them to eat a well balanced diet. One minute they love carrots, the next… not so much! Not even the airplane spoon will make those greens go down easier. Sometimes it can be difficult to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need for the best start in life.
There are many reasons why your child may not be getting enough of the nutrients they need. These may include:
- A picky eater who doesn’t tend to eat very much, or often enough
- Following a vegan or vegetarian diet (both highly nutritious diets however some vitamins can be harder to obtain from plant sources)
- Dairy-free or has any other dietary restrictions
- On medication, or has a medical condition (please do chat with your doctor particularly in this case)
So what are the exact nutrients our children should be getting? There’s an overload of information out there so we’ve compiled a list of all the important stuff. Highlighting the key benefits to those all important vitamins and minerals for your little ones.
Omega-3 (specifically DHA)
Docosahexaenoic Acid, or DHA for short, is the first we’ll be focusing on. This is one of the main components of omega-3 fatty acids. Playing a huge role in the healthy development of your child’s brain. DHA also plays a role in visual development. Some recent research has shown omega’s may also help children with things such as asthma and ADHD.
Omega’s are commonly found in fish, such as salmon and tuna. Although if you don’t want to harm our fishy friends there are plant options. You can get omega’s through foods like flaxseeds and chia seeds. For any fussy eaters, you could always try flaxseed oil instead. It might be easier to hide in a smoothie or with some peanut butter. [source]
A great source of these awesome fatty acids is from deep sea algae. This is where the fish get their omega’s from too. Here at vegums we’ve cut out the middle man to provide DHA straight from the source: algae oil. Kinder to our sea life friends whilst still giving you everything you need.
Iron is important for everyone, as it helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. It also plays a big part in child cognitive development. A lack of iron in children has been associated with developmental delays, problems with attention, learning and motor skills.
Vegan or vegetarian children are more likely to need a supplement for iron. As it is largely found within red meat. Along with anyone who has a period. During puberty, more iron is needed to help with those growth spurts, and the loss of blood due to menstruation.
Iron can be found in foods such as beans, lentils, tofu and leafy greens among many others. If you’d like a supplement, there are lots of great ones available which have a nice high dosage. Including our gorgeous new blackberry flavoured gummies found here).
We covered everything you need to know about iron in last week’s blog. So if you’d like some more information, click here to give it a read!
B Vitamins (particularly B12)
The B Vitamins are a necessary group to include in your child’s diet. These vitamins play a vital role in keeping the nervous system communicating with the rest of the body. Along with maintaining a healthy metabolism, and energy production. Although I’m sure it feels like your little ones have TOO MUCH energy at times!
One B vitamin which is crucial for your child is B12. Vitamin B12 is formed by bacteria in soil, which is why it’s generally easier to get it from animal products. The animals eat the grass which has grown in the soil, and therefore consume some of the bacteria. Plants also grow in this soil, and this used to be one of the main ways humans got their B12. However, over the years we’ve become more conscious about hygiene. So we now wash all of the soil off our veggies before we eat them. This, along with over farming, causing a decline in soil quality. Which makes it much harder for us to get the B12 we need. This is why it’s no longer just vegans that are at risk of a B12 deficiency! [source]
For those of us who don’t consume animal products, vitamin B12 can be found in some foods which have been fortified. Examples include milk product alternatives, vegan spreads, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast. Many multivitamins will also include B12, along with other B vitamins, especially ones tailored to vegans.
Selenium doesn’t get the same attention as some other well-known vitamins and minerals. Nonetheless it is an essential mineral your child needs everyday. It’s main function is to help support the immune system. Which seems incredibly important right now (if you’re reading this in the future, it’s currently 2020… I’ll say no more), and going into winter too.
Selenium is especially important to think about when your kids are getting their vaccinations. As it will help to stimulate antibodies and therefore make the vaccinations more effective.
How much selenium do children need?:
- 1-3 years = 20mcg (micrograms) per day
- 4-8 years = 30 mcg per day
- 9-13 years = 40mcg per day
- 14+ = 55mcg per day
This mineral is found in soil, and so is mostly found in plant-based foods. Some selenium rich sources include rice, oats, broccoli, and spinach. Again, if you’ve got picky eaters in the house you can get a multivitamin which includes a dose of selenium. [source]
Like Selenium, vitamin D aids your child’s immune system, but it also has some other benefits. Vitamin D works alongside Calcium, and helps our bodies absorb it. It also helps our little ones grow up big and strong by supporting healthy bone growth.
The best source of vitamin D is straight from the sun! Now, some of you might live in beautifully sunny countries, but here in the UK it doesn’t always shine. The NHS advise that between March and September, you should be able to get vitamin D straight from the sun. During the winter months, it may be better to supplement.
This vitamin isn’t quite so easy to find in food – and certainly not vegan foods. Some plant milks, cereals and dairy-free yoghurts are fortified to include vitamin D. Check the labels and try to switch to these products instead.
The last mineral we’re going to focus on is iodine. Now, iodine is not just something used in chemistry class! It turns out, that iodine should be present in our diets too. Our body (and our child’s body) use iodine to help the thyroid gland produce the correct hormones that control growth and metabolism.
Like Vitamin B12, iodine can be found naturally in soil, as well as seawater. This means that the easiest places to find it is in fish, other seafood, meat and dairy products. Thankfully there are also some vegan sources including grains, cereals and soy products. Some supermarkets have a salt which has been fortified with iodine. Although it’s not super easy to find in the UK. [source]
There has been some concern for a few years about how much iodine we are getting in the UK. It seems it’s just not enough. In a BBC study of over 700 teenage girls from around the country, 70% of them had a deficiency. Due to this, it’s recommended to use a supplement to ensure your little ones don’t fall into this statistic.
This all may look a little overwhelming. The good news is that our gummy family caters to all of these. So you won’t need to empty a pharmacy! However if you’re unsure or worried about anything to do with your child’s health. Always consult your paediatrician. That way you’ll be certain that they are getting everything they need in the most nutritious way possible.