Back to school is looming in a few weeks...

Published on 2014-07-31

  • Back to school is looming in a few weeks...

Going back to school for parents can be a worrying time. It is an expensive time with uniforms, books, shoes, sports gear etc. to buy.

Children usually love going back to school, meeting their friends, a favourite teacher and children do like and benefit from routine.

But, children do get tired, maybe become fussy eaters, don’t like their packed lunch etc. All outside school activities start again, drawing on the children’s energy levels as well as the parents who are driving them everywhere.

So, do children need vitamins at this time?

In an ideal world. No would be the answer. Most parents do their level best to give their children the very best of food, fresh and wholesome and a wide variety. However in an increasingly busier world, with parents working long hours and after school care etc. convenience can come into it and processed food can become part of the daily diet.

Below is a short guide to vitamins important for children.


Vitamins for Children:

Ideally, children should get their vitamins from a balanced, healthy diet that includes:

  • Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt (preferably low-fat products for kids over age 3)
  • Plenty of fresh fruits and leafy, green vegetables
  • Protein like chicken, fish, meat, and eggs
  • Whole grains like steel-cut oats and brown rice.


 Children who would benefit from a Vitamin Supplement:

  • Kids who aren't eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods Finicky eaters who simply aren't eating enough
  • Kids with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems, especially if they're taking medications (be sure to talk with your pharmacist and GP first before starting a supplement if your child is on medication)
  • Particularly active kids who play physically demanding sports
  • Kids eating a lot of fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods.
  • Kids on a vegetarian diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need a calcium supplement), or other restricted diet
  • Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies


Top Six Vitamins and Minerals for Children.

In the alphabet soup of vitamins and minerals, a few stand out as critical for growing children.

  • Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development; tissue and bone repair; and healthy skin, eyes, and immune responses. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow-to-orange vegetables like carrots and squash.
  • Vitamin Bs. The family of B vitamins -- B2, B3, B6, and B12 -- aid metabolism, energy production, and healthy circulatory and nervous systems. Good sources include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, beans, and soybeans. Green vegetables are also important along with enriched grains, cereals.
  • Vitamin C promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin. Good sources include citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and watercress.
  • Vitamin D promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Good sources include milk and other dairy products, and fish oil. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight.
  • Calcium helps build strong bones as a child grows. Good sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
  • Iron builds muscle and is essential to healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency is a risk in adolescence, especially for girls once they begin to menstruate. Good sources include beef and other red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.

Megavitamins -- large doses of vitamins -- aren't a good idea for children. The fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be dangerous if children overdose on excessive amounts. The same applies with iron. Children can get too much of a good thing.

Vitamins fall into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K — dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body. The water-soluble vitamins — C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folate) — need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Because of this, your body can't store these vitamins. Any vitamin C or B that your body doesn't use as it passes through your system is lost (mostly when you pee). So you need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day- hence the 5 portions off fruit and vegetables daily.

  • Vitamin E protects cell membranes and prevents the blood from clotting when unnecessary. Good sources include oils, nuts and seeds.
  • Vitamin K aids in strengthening calcium, which leads to increased bone health and helps with proper blood clotting. Good sources include green vegetables and Liver.

Look to Fresh Foods for the Best Vitamins

Healthy children get their best start from what you put in your grocery trolley.

Good nutrition starts by serving a wide variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible. That's far better than serving up fast foods or convenience foods -- and hoping that taking a kids' vitamin will undo any nutritional no-no's. You'll find the most vitamins and minerals in foods high in carbohydrates and proteins (rather than fats). By far, the most high-vitamin foods of all are fresh fruits and vegetables.

To give children more vitamins, aim for more variety -- not simply more food. Twice as many children today are overweight than just two decades ago, so use children-sized food portions, which are one-quarter to one-third the size of adult portions.

Spread the variety of foods into several small meals and snacks throughout the day. If your child won't eat a particular food for a few days -- like vegetables -- don't worry. Reintroduce those foods again a day or two later, perhaps prepared in a different way. 

Vitamins and Healthy Kids: Five Tips

If you do give vitamins to your children follow these tips:

  1. Put vitamins away, well out of reach of children, so they don't treat them like candy.
  2. Try not to battle over foods with your children or use desserts as a bribe to "clean your plate." Instead, try giving a chewable vitamin at the end of a meal. Fat-soluble vitamins can only be absorbed with food.
  3. If your child is taking any medication, be sure to ask your pharmacist about any drug interactions with certain vitamins or minerals. Then the supplement won't boost or lower the medication dose.
  4. Try a chewable vitamin if your child won't take a pill or liquid supplement.
  5. Consider waiting until a child reaches age 4 to start giving a multivitamin supplement, unless your child's doctor suggests otherwise. In in doubt speak to your pharmacist.

Sound nutrition plays a role in your child's learning and development. Commit to feeding a range of healthy foods to your children.

Brain Food for Back –To-School.

Smart food choices affect long-term achievement and day-today functioning in school. Poor eating habits can lead to students who are bored, restless, inattentive and sleepy or who have a bad memory. By choosing the right brain food, students can help to improve their ability to pay attention and concentrate in school.

Choose foods rich in the following

  • B Vitamins (especially B-complex vitamins such as, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 –important for nerve and brain health) helps to metabolise food into energy.
  • Omega – 3 – fatty acids. Some evidence suggests they decrease the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and developmental coordination disorder (DCD) in children. Stabilize mood and help in cognitive development. Good source – cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, certain margarines, fortified dairy products and fortified eggs.
  • Zinc- can improve attentiveness, memory, problem solving and hand-to-eye coordination. Good sources- lean meat, legumes like chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans, dairy products and whole grains.
  • Iron- Iron deficiency can be characterised with symptoms such as a lack of energy and sleepiness. Too little iron results in low blood levels making it harder for the brain to get the necessary oxygen. Eating foods like meat, legumes, whole grains and fortified cereals, along with foods rich in vitamin C for maximum absorption will maintain proper iron levels.

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