Do you worry about your toddler having nutritional deficiencies? It’s a common worry for many parents.
Toddlers can have erratic eating habits, and change food their preferences daily. This means can be hard to keep track of what they are eating and what they like day to day.
Generally looking at your child’s diet through the week, rather than day by day you may find they are eating better than you thought.
The most common nutrient deficiencies are listed below:
Iodine is rich in sea food and dairy. A recent study showed people who don’t eat any dairy may be at risk of iodine deficiency (which would have a negative impact on our thyroid, impacting our metabolism). This is because milk alternatives don’t include iodine.
But dairy isn’t naturally rich in iodine, it’s added to cattle feed (so higher in winter when cows are kept indoors more) or used as a sterilisation for udders and milk containers and gets into milk that way.
However you don’t need to get your iodine from a milk! The best sources of iodine are seaweed, cod, scallops, prawns, sardines and salmon. Eggs follow very closely behind milk on a like for like basis. You only need a tiny sprinkle of seaweed on a stir fry or in a soup to get your requirements, and it adds a lovely flavour.
Toddlers who have a low intake of iron may be at risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
The most available sources of iron for us is from meat, especially red meat. Vegetarians can focus on including green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, pulses and whole grains.
When you’re eating plant based iron foods you can help your child absorb more iron by offering foods rich in vitamin C such as cauliflower, red pepper, tomatoes or fruits.
Many children today eat less fibre than children used to. This is due to the swap in white bread, white pasta which are low in fibre.
Fibre, found in whole grains, pulses, beans, vegetables and fruits, is important because it feeds the bacteria living in our gut.
Gut bacteria helps to keep us healthy by taking to our immune system, and helping to create our neurotransmitters and hormones. There are lots of different types of microbes, all with different impact on our health. The healthy types we need more of love to eat fibre.
Without enough fibre we can grow colonies of unhelpful bacteria that are more associated with obesity, chronic health conditions like diabetes and IBS.
Focus on getting the 5 a day, and more veg if you can! Use brown bread, brown pasta. Include beans and pulses to bulk up sauces.
A recent piece of research in the UK showed children aren’t eating enough oily fish. Average intakes of oily fish ranged between 5-10g/week in those aged 4-18 years, which is equivalent to less than 0.1 portion/week; lower than the recommended two portions per week.
If you don’t eat fish you may consider a supplement. Algae based supplements are available for vegans in a gelatine free capsule. These can be opened and added to a spoon of children’s porridge.
The type of Omega 3 fats in plant based sources like flax seeds, hemp oil or walnuts is limited, and needs conversion in the body to become bioavailable.
We’ve previously written about supplementing Vitamin D for babies
In the UK the NHS advises parents to give children Vitamin D until age 5, but everyone is advised to take it during the winter months.
Anna is a Nutritional Therapist working with babies and children in Bristol and online. Weaning Consultations, and 1:1 Children’s Health appointments available to support the whole family.