Important Nutrients Your Kids May Not Be Getting

Healthy Recipes for Busy MomsParents try their best to feed their children well. Sometimes children have their own preferences and thereby miss some of the essential nutrients they need for proper growth and development. Parents can try to mix foods that children may not like to eat with other foods that children naturally like. Getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to growth, mood, and good health is sometimes tricky business with children. Even pureed foods such as spinach or cauliflower (even baby food) can be added to soups, meatloaf or even brownies! Wheat germ or hemp hearts can be sprinkled on cereal. Avocado, a great source of vitamin E can be made into a dip with some herbs or mixed with hummus. Other tips for getting your children to eat healthfully are below.

1) Calcium

About one-third of kids ages 4 to 8 aren’t getting enough calcium. Calcium is important to the development of bone mass, nearly all of which is built during childhood and adolescence. Many high-calcium foods are also rich in vitamin D, which has been shown to strengthen bones. Vitamin D may also help prevent type 1 diabetes and other diseases.

Good sources include:

* Yogurt (even higher in calcium than milk). Plain is best, not low fat for children. Cow’s milk yogurt, sheep yogurt, goat yogurt are available.
* Milk (cow or goat)
* Soy Milk
* Cheese
* Green foods such as Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli

Foods fortified with calcium:
Orange juice (don’t make this the only calcium food)
Some cereals
Tofu (can be used in lasagnas or stir fries). Choose non GMO types.

2) Vitamin E

A whopping 80 percent of kids under the age of 8 — including two-thirds of preschoolers are missing their daily vitamin E needs, according to studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Low fat and fat free foods are low in vitamin E. Vitamin E protects cells from damage. Do not use low fat dressings for children (or yourself) as these are the culprits that deprive us of heart healthy, brain healthy oils, says Parents Magazine advisor Connie Diekman, RD, director of University Nutrition at Washington University, in St. Louis.

Top Tips
Many cereals are fortified with vitamin E, but check the Nutrition Facts Panel to be sure. For kids who are allergic to peanut butter, try swapping in 2 tablespoons of sunflower-seed butter instead of peanut butter. Also, available are almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter. You can make your own salad dressing using olive oil or walnut oil. Sprinkle some sunflower seeds or toasted almond slivers on top of salads as well as steamed veggies.

Best Sources Vitamin E
*peanut butter, almond butter
*sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
*walnut oil, walnuts
*tomato sauce
*wheat germ

3) Fiber

It’s not even digested, but fiber is important for children because it keeps them regular. In addition, eating a fiber-rich diet may help protect them from a variety of chronic diseases later in life. How much fiber? Follow the rule of five, add five to your child’s age in order to get his/her minimum daily grams. For example a 4 year old should get at least 9 grams of fiber a day – that’s the amount in two slice of whole-grain bread, a half of cup of strawberries or blackberries, and a half cup of brown rice.

Top Tips
Breakfast cereal is a great way for children to get fiber. Add fruit. Another good fiber source is beans – (2 tablespoons of hummus has as much fiber as a half cup of brown rice). Add vegetables or whole-grain pita to accompany the hummus for an even greater fiber content.

Best Sources
* fruits, such as raspberries, blackberries, pears, oranges, and apples
* high-fiber cereal
* beans
* lentils
* chickpeas
* whole-grain bread and pasta (not just wheat). Try brown rice pasta, spelt bread, whole rye crackers.
* oatmeal (use whole flakes, not instant)
* popcorn (plain popcorn popped in olive oil)
* nuts (raw is best, and keep in fridge)
* ground flaxseed (keep in fridge)
* sweet potatoes
* green peas

4) Potassium

Children are getting less than 60 percent of the recommended dose of potassium (which is mainly found in fruit and vegetables.) Kid are just not getting enough. Potassium is a key player in maintaining healthy fluid balance and blood pressure and helping muscles to contract.

Top Tips
Cook up some easy sweet-potato fries: Slice sweet potatoes into discs or sticks, toss with olive oil, and bake on a sheet until they’re brown and crispy.
Pistachios have the highest potassium content of all nuts. For kids ages 4 and up with no nut allergies, make trail mix by tossing some (unshelled) into a baggie with dried unsulfured apricots – brown in colour. (Added sulfur makes them stay bright orange and is an unnecessary chemical.)

Best Sources
* bananas
* oranges and orange juice
* white and sweet potatoes
* yogurt
* milk
* cantaloupe
* honeydew
* dried apricots
* tomatoes, tomato sauce
* fish such as halibut and cod

5) Iron

Many children are not getting enough iron, especially overweight children who are getting a high calorie diet, but not enough iron. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to cells throughout the body and plays a role in brain development — and a chronic deficit can cause learning and behavior problems. Also, energy dips can occur when children are low in iron. Low iron levels can lead to anemia. Doctors aren’t sure why, but having low iron levels also ups a child’s risk of lead poisoning because it increases absorption of lead into the bloodstream.

Top Tips
Choose lean cuts of beef by looking for the words “loin” and “round” on the label. Eye round, bottom round, and top sirloin all have less than 5 grams of fat per serving (a chicken breast has 3 grams). Many kids shy away from meat because it can be tough to chew, so try cooking tiny meatballs in tomato or spaghetti sauce, or just use hamburger meat (beef, turkey, chicken, lamb) to add to sauces or stir fries. Look for lean meat.

Iron from plant sources is not absorbed as well by the body as animal-based sources, but vitamin C can help. Serve fortified cereal with fruit like fresh strawberries or orange slices (full of vitamin C), to increase the iron absorption.

Best Sources
* lamb
*tomato paste
*soy nuts
*whole-grain breads, or gluten free breads
*fortified cold and hot cereals

**Reference: Excerpts from Power Foods for Kids, by Sally Kuzemchak, RD, Originally published in November 2008 issue of Parents Magazine,