How to Raise Happy, Healthy Children
The decision to be a parent should be made after much serious consideration because the role of a parent is a heavy one, though at the same time, it is a very joyful and meaningful experience. As parents, it is a must that we do our best to raise our children to be happy and healthy. It is not enough just merely making sure they are safe and do not go hungry. Physical and mental health and their neurodevelopment are affected by various factors.
These include a healthy and conducive environment for growth. Parents ought to have coping skills and effective communication with their children as they grow up, teaching and stimulating them for learning and proper adjustments.
Prevention of disease by safety control, good hygiene habits and vaccination goes a long way in making sure our kids are healthy and safe. Nutrition and dietary habits which are the focus of this article is also equally important as the factors I have mentioned above.
In most countries, we rarely face food shortage. However, important elements to complete a wholesome nutritional requirement might still be lacking in our modern dietary lifestyle.
This includes diet for children as well. These elements are vitamins and minerals which are essential and they can only be sourced from diet. However, these vitamins and minerals would be sufficient in small amount only and usually should be easily fulfilled by a balanced and wholesome diet.
Children who are picky eaters would tend to lose out on these important elements due to inadequate dietary intake. For this group of children they may benefit from taking supplement. To put it briefly, children who have poor appetite, with irregular eating habits or part of a peculiar eating lifestyle (vegan/vegetarian) would need supplementation of vitamins. Vitamins A and C intake is usually inadequate for these children.
Let’s go through the important elements that could be easily missed from an incomplete diet.
Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and healthy skin. It also helps in both night (dim light) and colour vision.
Source: Dairy products, yellow vegetables – carrots, corn, pumpkin, green vegetables – spinach, brocolli, cabbage
The vitamins in this group such as Thiamine(B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Pyridoxine(B6) plays an important role in cell metabolism which is important in production of energy and overall health. The B vitamins are also important in red cell production.
Source: Meat (including fish and poultry), liver, milk, whole grains, bread, cereals, eggs
Vitamin C increases resistance to infection, improves healing and strengthen the tissues in our body such as skin and muscle and other connective tissues. Iron absorption is also aided by this vitamin.
Source: Oranges and other citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, strawberries, brocolli, spinach
Vitamin D is vital as builder of bones. It is a regulator of calcium and phosphorus absorption and its overall metabolism in the body. Therefore, a child with healthy bones and teeth must not be deprived of vitamin D.
Source: Sunlight , fish oils, egg yolks, specially fortified dairy products
Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
Babies and young children from 6 months to 5 years old, older people aged 65 above, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people who are not exposed to direct sunlight – those who cover their skin or confined to indoors for prolonged periods. Take note that darker skin individuals need longer time of sunlight exposure for Vitamin D production.
According to South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS) which began in 2009 and involved 16,744 children, almost half of their study population has low levels of vitamin D. In addition to that, more than a third did not obtain sufficient amounts of energy, calcium and vitamin D in the diet.
This mineral is crucial for production of blood as well as muscle building. For a growing child, one must have adequate iron intake.
Source: Meat (beef, turkey), liver, bayam(spinach)
This mineral is vital for bone development and ensuring bone strength. Calcium deficiency will certainly affect growth due to abnormal bone development and also cause osteoporosis in adulthood.
Source: Milk, cheese,yogurt, vegetables such as spinach, brocolli
Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and they are crucial for normal growth and development for the child, and production of antibodies.
9 out of the 22 amino acids (building blocks of proteins) are considered as essential amino acids. This is because food is the only source to get adequate supply of these 9 amino acids.
A WHO study revealed that lysine, methionine, cysteine, threonine and tryptophan as the most important essential amino acids lacking in diet of children in the developing world.
It is important for children to have a good appetite and healthy diet.
One could not over emphasise the importance for children to have a healthy, wholesome and balanced diet to ensure that they would get all the important elements. Eating a variety of food in healthy amount would achieve this aim.
Children who are picky eaters, who have poor appetite or those practicing special kind of diet would benefit from receiving supplements. In summary, we should take steps to help our children to improve their appetite and prevent deficiencies of these important elements so that we can ensure healthy growth and development for our children.