In meeting a child’s nutritional needs the first need is for energy (calories); from grains like wheat, oats, rice; roots like potato, squashes etc. and fats and oils from plants and animals like butter or oils, and fats contained in foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and dairy foods. The following outlines the various foods groups and key nutrients needed to meet nutritional needs.
- Proteins from meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts for building and repairing muscles and all other cells are needed daily. Without enough energy, protein will be used for energy, and not for its primary purpose of growth and repair
- Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for growing bones, provided mainly from dairy foods, plant milks, tofu, nuts and seeds and fortified white flour and hard water
- Vitamin D is a hormone-like substance, produced in the body from the sun’s rays on the skin, and not found in any significant amounts in foods except oily fish. All children in the UK need a daily supplement of at least 10ug
- Iron from eggs, red meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, wholegrain, fortified cereals, nuts and pulses is needed for making haemoglobin, an oxygen carrying substance found in red blood cells that carries oxygenated blood to the muscles, body and brain. It’s necessary for brain development in infancy, vitality, appetite, exercise tolerance and concentration
- Essential fats of the Omega 3 family necessary for many aspects of immune function, are found in a range of foods including oily fish, egg yolk, walnuts, flax, chia seeds
- Other nutrients such as iodine are essential for metabolic regulation and thyroid function. B vitamins and magnesium for production of energy. Vitamins A, C, and E to protect cells and zinc to boost immunity and growth
During my dietary assessment, I take care to assess all those nutrients, alongside what is happening in the physical body, experience and behaviours around food and feeding.