Children need a lot of attention and loving care to guide them through their developmental years. A major part of that attention involves introducing them to nutritious foods and also supplements to help ensure they are getting all the nutrition they require.
We know it’s tempting to give in to kids’ demands for sugary, fried, and processed foods because they see them everywhere: in every fast food joint, on street corners, in the grocery stores, at their friends’ homes, in commercials on TV and online, and in schools. But it’s important to keep our eye on the goal: healthy, happy, energetic children who are getting their essential nutrients on a consistent basis.
We understand how the following situations can make that goal challenging. For example:
- Finicky eaters, who may steer clear of fresh, whole foods or not consume enough calories or nutrients;
- Chronic health conditions, such as food allergies or intolerances, asthma, or digestive problems, especially when kids are taking prescription medications;
- Special diets, such as lactose free, gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan;
- Drinking a lot of sweetened or carbonated beverages, which can deplete nutrients from the body;
- Insufficient nutrients in soils used to grow produce;
- Emotional and/or physical stress, including exposure to pollutants and food additives, which can contribute to nutrient depletion or malabsorption.
Vitamins your children need
Every child needs certain vitamins and minerals to develop and grow physically, emotionally, and mentally. Although each of these nutrients has its own specific roles in the developing body, they also tend to work together. Let’s begin with vitamins children need to meet their basic health needs:
Vitamin A: “A” could stand for “Absolutely” necessary for normal growth, healthy skin, and good vision. Vitamin A also has a significant role in tissue repair. Foods that are high in vitamin A include: eggs, orange and yellow veggies, spinach and cod liver oil.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): We often think of vitamin C as a potent antioxidant that helps ward off infections, such as cold and flu. It also strengthens skin, muscle, and tissue, boosts the absorption of iron found in plant foods, and breaks down proteins, which aids digestion. A few popular foods that are high in vitamin C include: broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and strawberries.
Vitamin D: This vitamin helps the body form and maintain strong bones and teeth and also facilitates the absorption of calcium. A strong immune system and healthy nervous system also depend on getting enough vitamin D. Some of the foods that contain vitamin D include: fish, cold liver, eggs, fortified milk, yogurt, and fortified orange juice.
Vitamin E: This antioxidant protects children’s cells and tissues from free radical damage. Vitamin E also plays a big role in the health of red blood cells and in healthy eyes and skin. A variety of foods that are high in vitamin E include: nuts and seeds, green leafy veggies, avocadoes, sweet red peppers, mango, and kiwi.
Vitamin K: Perhaps the most important role of vitamin K is to help with blood clotting. Considering how many times children get cuts and abrasions that bleed, this vitamin is critical. It also has a role in supporting bone health. Foods that contain vitamin K include: green leafy veggies (like kale and collards), kiwi, blueberries, pomegranate, meat, and eggs.
B vitamins: The B family of vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, biotin, and B12 (cobalamin). Overall, they work to help produce energy and release it when the body needs it. B vitamins are also involved in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Among the many foods that contain B vitamins include: whole grains, meat, nuts and seeds, bananas, eggs, and dark leafy veggies.
Minerals your children need
The body needs two kinds of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. As the names suggest, the body needs more of the macro (“large”) minerals than the trace minerals (need just a tiny bit), but both types are important. Macrominerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Trace minerals include copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.
Calcium: Children need calcium for healthy bones and teeth as well as optimal growth and development, and those needs begin at birth. Both vitamin D and magnesium work along with calcium to aid absorption. Look for these foods rich in calcium: sesame seeds, chia and poppy seeds, yogurt, beans and lentils, leafy greens, whey protein, and figs.
Chloride: The body needs chloride to maintain a healthy balance of fluids. Chloride also is important for digestion. These foods contain chloride: seaweed (kids love seaweed!), tomatoes, celery and olives.
Choline. Healthy levels of choline are critical for balanced brain function and development, as this mineral plays a role in the process that synthesizes DNA. It also is necessary to produce a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is involved in regulating mood, memory, and intelligence. These foods contain choline: fish, beef, chicken, eggs, whole grains and dairy products.
Chromium: This mineral works closely with the hormone called insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels. Some of the most popular foods that contain chromium include potatoes, green beans, whole grains, dairy products, beef and poultry.
Copper: This trace mineral plays an important role in metabolizing iron. Many enzymes throughout the body also rely on copper to function properly. Dark leady greens, dried fruits, mango, asparagus and potatoes all contain copper.
Iron: Children especially need iron during times of accelerated growth. Iron plays a role in the production of blood and development of muscles. Foods that have iron include: spinach (think Popeye), beans, peas, seafood, red meat and fortified cereals.
Magnesium: This is a very busy macromineral, as it’s involved in more than 300 biochemical processes. Among them is working along with calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones and teeth, promoting muscle health, and supporting nerve function. Unfortunately most of us are deficient in this mineral (70-80% of us), so making sure we get enough magnesium in our diet is crucial. Be sure to eat foods like: pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, spinach, dark chocolate, raisins, chicken breast, apples, and carrots.
Manganese: Although it’s a trace mineral, it plays a big role in the production of enzymes and antioxidants that ward off cell damage from free radicals. Manganese also plays a part in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, as well as supports healthy brain function and nervous system function. These foods contain manganese: chickpeas (bring on the hummus!), pineapple, spinach, brown rice, wheat germ, and mussels.
Molybdenum: We don’t hear much about this trace mineral, but it plays a critical role in your child’s health. That’s because molybdenum activates enzymes that help destroy harmful sulfites and prevents the accumulation of toxins in the body. Foods like legumes (lentils, kidney beans, lima beans), wheat germ, sweet potatoes, brown rice and lima beans, eggs and romaine lettuce contain molybdenum.
Phosphorus: Children need healthy levels of phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth. This mineral is found in every cell and is instrumental in maintaining a healthy acid/base in the body, which is necessary for overall good health. Protein-rich foods like meat, fish and poultry all contain phosphorus, as do dairy, nuts and whole grains.
Potassium: For optimal muscle and nervous system function, kids need sufficient potassium. This mineral is also involved in maintaining proper fluid balance, muscle contraction, and nerve health. Be sure to include potassium-rich foods like bananas, cooked spinach, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beans and avocados.
Selenium: Children need this antioxidant to fight off disease-causing free radicals as well as fighting off infection, boosting immune health and promoting a healthy thyroid. Selenium-rich foods include beef, turkey, chicken, fish, pork, eggs, Brazil nuts, cottage cheese, brown rice, mushrooms and sunflower seeds.
Zinc: Picky eaters could have a zinc deficiency since adequate levels are necessary for a healthy sense of taste and smell. Zinc also is involved in supporting a healthy immune system and sexual development during adolescence. Lamb, grass-fed beef, seafood like lobster, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms, and oatmeal all contain zinc.
Vitamin and mineral supplements for children
If you’re thinking that it may be difficult to get your kids to eat a wide variety of vitamin and mineral containing foods…no worries! We’re here to help your children get the majority of the vitamins and minerals they need in one convenient, tasty supplement. ChildLife Essentials® Multi Vitamin and Mineral has a natural orange and mango flavor and comes in a liquid formula so it’s easy for children of all ages to take.
Note: Parents should discuss any supplementation plans with their child’s healthcare provider.
In a perfect world, our children would happily eat only whole, natural foods, stress would be kept to a minimum, and boys and girls wouldn’t have health problems that compromises their nutritional status. However, in the real world (the one we live in), parents should not only take these factors into consideration but also ensure their children eat the healthiest foods possible and take high-quality supplements daily.
Raising Children Network. Vitamins and minerals. 2017 May 9
Stanford Children’s Health. Kids need their nutrients.