Eating your ABCs

Vitamins and minerals are vital nutrients to support our bodies’ functions, growth and development. As our bodies are unable to produce sufficient vitamins and minerals, the best way to get enough of them is via a balanced diet. As we require a little amount of vitamins and minerals, hence maintaining a balanced diet is sufficient to fulfill our nutritional needs.

The 6 essential vitamins and minerals crucial for growing kids are:

  • Vitamin A: Supports growth and development, maintains healthy skin and eyes, and builds the immune system. Good sources include dairy, egg yolk, yellow and orange vegetables (such as carrot, pumpkin, mango, papaya).
  • Vitamin Bs: Aid in energy production, important for brain function and nervous system, and enhance metabolism. Vitamin Bs are abundant in lean meat, organ meat, fish, eggs, nuts, milk, soybean and wholegrains.
  • Vitamin C: Boosts immunity, aids in wound healing, helps to maintain healthy skin, gums, bones and cartilage. Citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberry, guava, broccoli, capsicum and cabbage are some of the foods rich in vitamin C.
  • Vitamin D: Enhances calcium absorption for bone health. Good sources include milk, mackerel, salmon and eggs. Sufficient sunlight exposure helps the skin to synthesise vitamin D.
  • Calcium: Kids not having enough calcium may lead to lower bone density during adulthood, and can increase their risk of osteoporosis in the future. Furthermore, children can absorb calcium more efficiently compared to adults, hence it is important to focus on calcium consumption since young. Calcium rich foods include dairy, anchovies, tofu, soybean, almond, black sesame, broccoli and kale.  
  • Iron: Essential in blood production, and when consumed together with high vitamin C foods can enhance iron absorption. Good sources include lean meat, dark leafy vegetables, wholegrains, egg and legumes.

How can parents adjust their kids’ diet to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need?

1. First and foremost, breakfast!

Study showed that those who ate their breakfast and had a healthy snack afterwards consumed a higher variety of essential nutrients compared to kids who skipped breakfast. So, make sure your kids have a nutritious breakfast and pack them a healthy snack before they head out the door.

2. Avoid picky eating

Parents need to instill good dietary habit into their children, and encourage them to have all kinds of food, especially fruits and vegetables. Adopt the rainbow diet principle, and your children can easily reap the benefits of different phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

It is also crucial for parents to limit kids’ consumption on caloric foods with little nutrients, such as cakes, biscuits, sweets and carbonated drinks, and replace those with nutrient dense snacks like fruits.