It’s natural for parents to worry if their children are getting adequate nutrients, especially when children are young and exponential growth and development is taking place. However, what many parents don’t realize is that there are actually two types of growth nutrients and each of these types of nutrients impact growth and development in very different ways.
Type One nutrients include all vitamins, most trace elements, as well as iodine, calcium, and iron whereas Type Two nutrients include protein, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, as well as essential amino acids and energy-providing nutrients like fat and carbohydrates.
The difference between the two is that the lack of Type One nutrients shows its effects as immediate deficiencies but, impacts growth only secondary to this. However, deficiency of Type Two nutrients slows growth immediately. That’s why it’s important to manage your children’s diets as deficiencies may be asymptomatic for months, if not years. Here’s a go-to guide of essential nutrients and how to incorporate them more seamlessly into your children’s diets.
TYPE ONE NUTRIENTS
We all know that calcium is one of the most important nutrients to help build strong bones and teeth. If your children are lacking calcium, it may lead to osteoporosis later in life and calcium is also crucial to prevent rickets in children. In addition to calcium, it’s important that your children get enough vitamin D as it is essential for calcium absorption.
How to add it to your children’s diet: Dairy (yogurt, cheese, and milk) is a sure-fire source of calcium. However, this nutrient can also be found in other foods such as small fish with edible bones, nuts and seeds, fortified soy products, as well as leafy greens. Picky eaters might enjoy calcium-fortified foods like flavoured milk, cereal, and bread.
This interesting vitamin is not only found in food but it is made by the skin when exposed to the sun’s rays. Although this may seem like a difficult nutrient to lack, it’s still possible especially if your children don’t get enough time outdoors or if they slather themselves with sunscreen. Vitamin D is important for bone health and prolonged deficiency in vitamin D may lead to the softening and weakening of bones called rickets.
How to add it to your children’s diet: Salmon is rich in vitamin D, especially if its wild-caught. Other fish like tuna, sardines, and mackerel are also high in vitamin D as are eggs and shitake mushrooms. Fussy kids may take to shitake-based soups, scrambled eggs, or tuna salad sandwiches.
TYPE 2 NUTRIENTS
This salty mineral is necessary for controlling water in the compartments of the body and it also aids in healthy nerve and muscle function. Sodium isn’t a nutrient that is often lacking in the diets of children, in fact, the converse is true.
How to add it to your children’s diet: Sodium is naturally occurring in many foods and deficiencies are not common. Make sure to watch your children’s salt intake especially if your children eat a lot of processed foods and meals that are laden with savoury sauces.
This ‘building block’ is one of the most important when it comes to creating, maintaining, and repairing muscles and tissues in the bodies of our little ones. As children grow, it’s essential that they consume enough protein to keep their growth progressing as it should.
How to add it to your children’s diet: It’s fairly easy for your tots to meet their protein needs as it can be found in a wide variety of foods such as dairy products, legumes, lean meats, seafood, tofu, eggs, and nuts and seeds. Although protein is easily found, it’s important for children to eat a variety of foods that contain protein.
Magnesium is responsible for over 700 enzymatic processes in the body. Some of the main jobs of this multitasking nutrient includes boosting concentration, mood, sleep, respiration, healthy muscles, hormone health, and digestion - now that’s one hardworking nutrient!
How to add it to your children’s diet: Seeds, nuts, and legumes are high in magnesium as are whole grains. For a double dose of magnesium, make chocolate coated cashews or whole grain porridge with a sprinkling of nuts and seeds.
Ensuring that your children are getting the nutrients that they need may initially take a little bit of research. But with a variety of resources as well as supplements and nutrient-enriched foods, parents can rest assured knowing that their children are getting a healthy start to life.
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