As parents, we want nothing more than to see our children healthy and thriving.
One of the most important factors in achieving this is their diet. However, despite our best efforts, sometimes our kids still develop dietary deficiencies that can lead to various health problems.
It could happen for several reasons, including picky eating, food allergies, or simply an inadequate diet. So, it should never be seen as a failure of parenting. However, if your child is prone to dietary deficiencies, they must be managed effectively.
Rest assured, with the right approach and guidance, parents can quickly help their children overcome these deficiencies and develop healthy eating habits that will benefit them for life.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways for you to do that to help you get them back on track.
The first step in managing a dietary deficiency in your child is to identify the deficiency. Some of the most common dietary deficiencies in children include iron, vitamin D and calcium, and each one can have different symptoms.
For instance, iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Similarly, Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone and muscle weakness, while low levels of calcium can result in extreme tiredness, a lack of energy and a general feeling of sluggishness.
Keep an eye out for these symptoms and general patterns of behaviour. Be sure to look out for signs of food allergies as well, as they can be indicative of the presence of a deficiency.
Even if your child is not displaying signs of a dietary deficiency, it is worth monitoring their intake of food.
Keeping a food diary or using a food tracking app can help identify what nutrients your child has been eating regularly and which ones need topping up.
For example, your child might not have eaten red meat or leafy greens for a while, which potentially could point to a lack of iron. By monitoring their intake, you should be able to identify trends like this.
Additionally, talking with your child about the importance of healthy eating and encouraging them to make healthy choices can help them develop healthy habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.
If you suspect your child has a dietary deficiency or food allergy, you should consult with a paediatrician immediately.
A paediatrician can perform tests to confirm whether they do have one or the other and also recommend a good course of treatment.
In some cases, dietary changes alone may be enough to correct the deficiency. This can include any alternative formulas for toddlers such as lactose free or soy free solutions. If you're curious about these, check out the Aptamil range of alternative toddler formulas.
Whatever they recommend, it is important to work in conjunction with the paediatrician to ensure your child receives the appropriate treatment for their specific deficiency.
In many circumstances, dietary changes are the most effective way to manage dietary deficiencies in children.
For example, increasing the intake of iron-rich foods like red meat, poultry, fish, beans, and dark leafy greens can help manage iron deficiency anaemia.
Similarly, eating more fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, and cereal can help manage vitamin D deficiency.
Overall, aim to eat a more balanced diet that provides all the nutrients your body needs to function at an optimum level.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in children, especially those who live in the northern hemisphere, where there is less sunlight.
Overall, sun exposure is the best way for the body to produce vitamin D naturally. So, if your child suffers from a deficiency, encouraging them to spend time outdoors can be an effective way to deal with it.
That said, it is important to take precautions to protect your child's skin from the sun. So, make sure they Slip, Slop, Slap the sunscreen and wear protective clothing if they plan to spend an extended amount of time out in it.
Fortified foods can be a good way to increase your child's intake of certain nutrients. Many foods, such as milk, cereal, and bread, are fortified with nutrients like vitamin D and iron.
It is important to read food labels carefully to ensure that the fortified food is appropriate for your child's age and needs.
Additionally, you should be mindful of added sugars and other unhealthy ingredients that might be present in them.
Picky eating can be a challenge for parents when it comes to managing dietary deficiencies. Children who are picky eaters may refuse to eat certain foods. So, this can make it difficult for parents to ensure that they are getting all of the nutrients they need.
One approach to managing picky eating is to offer a variety of healthy foods and encourage your child to try new foods. You can also involve your child in meal planning and preparation, which can help them feel more invested in the food they are eating.
Also, think about the presentation of the food you serve them. Like adults, our children eat with their eyes first. So, the more creative and visually appealing you make their meals look, the more likely they are to try and enjoy them.
Some cultural, lifestyle and religious factors can also play a role in your child developing dietary deficiencies.
For example, those on vegetarian or vegan diets may not be receiving enough iron due to not eating red meat, poultry or fish.
Should your child be on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is important to be aware of this potential and consult with a paediatrician to make sure they are getting enough of the nutrients they need.
Managing dietary deficiencies in children can take time and patience. It is important to be patient and persistent in your efforts to ensure that your child is getting the nutrients they need.
It can also be helpful to involve your child in the process and to make healthy eating a positive and enjoyable experience.
Praising your child for trying new foods or making healthy choices can help reinforce healthy habits and encourage them to continue making healthy choices.
Overall, managing dietary deficiencies in children requires a multi-faceted approach that starts with identifying them.
It is important to consult with a paediatrician and also make certain lifestyle and dietary changes. Congruently, supplements, formulas and fortified foods can also help, as can addressing picky eating.
Although it might be a long and concerning road, just by taking these steps, parents can ensure their children are getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop healthily.
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