Right from the first moment, that precious bundle is placed in your arms, you are forever protector, guardian, personal nutritionist and teacher all-in-one. And even though we watch every little shift and change, nutrition can be one of the biggest challenges for parents everywhere. As children’s tastes shift and schedules get packed delivering the many nutrients essential for a growing child can become a truly gargantuan challenge.
Especially when it comes to picky eaters who tend to repeatedly eat the same food over and over again, there could be many nutrients missing in a child’s diet. According to a study by Dr. Srihari Seshadri published in Indian Pediatrics Journal, iron, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D are the most common nutrient deficiencies in affluent Indian school children.
If your child is frequently tired, lethargic and you suspect that he or she is growing at a slower pace than expected, a lack of iron could be the culprit. One telling symptom is a constant pallor on child’s face. An iron deficiency or anemia may manifest itself as a lack of focus in studies. The best way to determine this is by getting the hemoglobin of the child checked.
A diet with plenty of iron rich foods like organ meats especially liver, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grain cereals like pearl millet (bajra), broken wheat (dalia), dried fruits, fruits like dates, watermelon and citrus fruits helps. For vegetarians, it is important to take vitamin C rich food like amla or citrus fruit along with a vegetarian source of iron to help in its absorption.
The child could also be anemic due to the low intake of folic acid which helps in red cell production along with iron. Folic acid is very important as it is required for tissue growth and repair and for DNA production. Since growth, repair and DNA production is rapid in growing years, enough folic acid diet in a child’s diet is crucial.
Giving a diet which has whole grain cereals, beans, legumes, spinach, broccoli, orange, pork, poultry, shellfish, dried yeast helps provide folic acid to your child
A very crucial vitamin in a child’s growth and development, it is essential for the functioning of normal immune system and any deficiency can make your child more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Indian children are susceptible to its deficiency as intake of vegetables and fruits are low. According to WHO, India has the world's 37% vitamin A deficient children.
Include seasonal green leafy vegetables like spinach, chulai, fenugreek, mustard leaves etc. Orange and yellow colored fruits and vegetables like papaya, mango, sweet potato, pumpkin, apricots, carrots, whole cream milk, ghee, butter and eggs are other rich sources.
Vitamin D is again a crucial vitamin for the child in growing years. This is because it helps in absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. It further helps in deposition of calcium and phosphorus in the bone structure, making them strong. This means a lack of vitamin D could make children’s teeth and bones weak.
Despite good sources of Vitamin D such as fish, eggs, butter, ghee etc., children and adults alike are deficient in this vitamin. The reason is the pollution cover engulfing our atmosphere, preventing the conversion of this vitamin in its active form on our skin. Regular supplementation of vitamin D3 is hence, required for all children now.
This Vitamin has an important role in the formation of normal red blood cells, proper functioning of the digestive tract and nervous system. It helps in improving immunity and blood clotting. Inadequate intake can lead to anemia in your child. If your child complains of numbness or tingling sensation in fingers and toes the reason could be B12 deficiency.
Milk, eggs, and fish and poultry are good sources of Vitamin B12. This deficiency is extremely common especially for those with vegetarian diets. It often manifest as pernicious anemia and needs supplementation, where the diet alone does not suffice.
The way forward is to watch your growing child, especially picky eaters for signs of inexplicable exhaustion, lack of focus, aches, pains or crankiness. It is important that as parents we don’t just dismiss symptoms as character traits of the child. Deficiencies often go undetected and untreated because for a majority of parents, the idea simply does not occur to them. A combination of a healthy diet and supplements can help us to ensure that our growing children are deficiency free and making the most of their precious growing years.