Parents have faced many challenges during this global pandemic. Empty store shelves, children always at home, and possibly a tight grocery budget. The frustration around preparing food at home or trying to find the right types of foods or even coping with budget concerns have challenged the best of us. You strive to provide your child with the right foods, but they can still sometimes fall short of enough nutrients.
So, how can you ensure your child receives optimal nutrition? Step one: Learn which nutrients to focus on. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children don’t get enough of these four key nutrients in their diets.
Calcium is well-known for its critical role in bone and teeth development in younger years. This mineral is also needed by the body for muscle contraction, nerve signaling and blood clotting.
How to get more calcium: Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are top calcium sources. But, what if your kid can't tolerate dairy? Children who follow a milk-free diet can still get a lot of calcium from leafy greens, such as broccoli, kale and bok choy, or foods like almonds or edamame. Additionally, some foods and drinks are often fortified with calcium, such as orange juice, soy milk, tofu and cereal.
Dubbed the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is the only nutrient that our bodies can make from sunlight. In addition to working hand in hand with calcium to build healthy and strong bones, vitamin D also has a role in immune support for kids.
How to get more of this nutrient: Vitamin D is found in very few foods especially ones that children enjoy eating on a regular basis. Technically, we can make our own supply by soaking up the sun. However, it's rare for children to synthesize enough vitamin D for optimal health unless they spend time outside every day with available sunlight. That's why it's important to include vitamin D sources in your child's diet when you can. Fatty fishes such as salmon, tuna, rainbow trout and sardines are excellent sources of this immune-supporting nutrient.
If your child has an aversion to fish, you could give them beverages that are fortified with vitamin D, which can include cow's milk and orange juice. Another good option if your child is behind in growth, is PediaSure Grow & Gain, which contains 30% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin D per bottle.
Potassium doesn't always get the credit it deserves. This electrolyte is vital for keeping our muscles and nerves healthy. Potassium is also instrumental in maintaining proper fluid balance throughout the body, which promotes healthy blood pressure and allows the kidneys to efficiently remove waste products and toxins. Recent data in the US shows that fewer than 10% of children ages 1 through 5 consume the recommended daily amount of this mineral, even though it's an essential nutrient.
How to get more of this nutrient: Lots of plant foods contain potassium but in small amounts. To help your child get enough of this electrolyte, you can offer them a variety of fruits, vegetables and beans with meals and as snacks. Avocados, watermelon, sweet and white potatoes, bananas, spinach and dried fruit are some of the best sources of potassium.
Most of us think of digestive health or regularity when we think of fiber. But, fiber also nourishes the gut, which is home to 70% of the immune system as well. Although it sounds like one nutrient, fiber comes in several different kinds with different benefits for all ages.
How to get more of this nutrient: For optimal health, your child needs a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber in their diet. Top soluble fiber sources include oats, grains, nuts, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, and peas. And, whole grains and vegetables, especially wheat bran, cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are excellent sources of insoluble fiber.
When Food Alone Isn't Enough?
There are various reasons for why your child who is behind in growth may not be eating well or enough of the right foods. When your child is sick, they may not have much of an appetite. Or, perhaps they are going through a phase of kid-independence with selective or picky eating behaviors. Oral nutrition supplements such as PediaSure® may provide your child who is behind on growth with the critical nutrients they need when they aren't getting enough of them through diet alone.
PediaSure provides three of the key nutrients mentioned above: calcium, vitamin D and potassium. It also has high-quality protein and additional vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants that help support your child's immune system, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and zinc. PediaSure comes in an easy-to-drink shake that can also be added to delicious recipes to amplify their nutrition content.
If needed, work with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian to create an eating plan that your child will enjoy and that incorporates key nutrients they may be missing in their diet.
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