Keeping Kids Healthy and Happy
Nutrition is fundamental for good health throughout life but is particularly important for the growth and development that occurs at such a fast pace during childhood. Whether busy with their active lives or spending more time indoors, is important for kids to be getting enough energy and nutrients to keep them happy and healthy. Micronutrients such as Vitamin D, C and zinc are essential for their growth and development, but they are also important for developing an efficient immune system in both adults and children.
What are some key nutrients for children’s development and immune health?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for children’s development and is important for healthy bone maintenance.1 It plays a role in controlling calcium levels in the blood, cell turnover and regulation of the immune system.2 Vitamin D is therefore important for strong bones and maintaining a healthy immune system. As 90% of Vitamin D intake is obtained from direct sunlight on the skin, it can be helpful to allow your kids to have a little bit of time in the sun outside for a play/break. The remaining 10% can usually be sourced from dietary sources such as fish, eggs and fortified dairy products.3
Vitamin C is really important to support the immune system in both adults and children. As an antioxidant, it helps protect the body from the accumulation of oxidative stress that can occur when your child is run down or unwell. For kids try oranges, strawberries, broccoli and capsicum for a source of Vitamin C! Ensuring that your child is having plenty of different fresh fruits and vegetables is best.4
Zinc is an essential mineral and plays a role in many biological processes within the body. Zinc is important for helping your child’s immune system to run efficiently. It helps the cells of the immune system to signal to one another and is needed to control the immune response carried out by white blood cells. Zinc is found primarily in red meat, seafood and poultry as well as fortified cereals and dairy foods.
Mealtimes and eating patterns for kids
Whether it be a transition to home schooling, having all the kids at home at once or trying to juggle your own working from home; we are all noticing the absence of routine. What it does mean for our children’s health? Children’s eating patterns are strongly influenced by their physical and social environment6. Therefore, this is a unique opportunity to positively support our children’s health and development through sitting down together to enjoy meals.
Why do mealtimes matter for children?
An increased frequency in family mealtimes has been found to be strongly linked to children and adolescents’ nutritional health7. Those that shared three or more meals with their family per week were more likely (increased odds of 24%) to have healthier nutritional habits and eating patterns (fruit and vegetable consumption and eating breakfast)7. Shared meals were also positively associated with intake of fruit, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods, and with intake of protein, calcium, iron, folate, fibre, and vitamins A, C, E, and B-6.6 Overall, families eating 5 or more meals a week together had children who about 25% less likely to encounter nutritional health issues.7 Adults are great role models for kids so if they see you eating and enjoying a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, they are more likely to start doing the same.
A helpful tip for parents: children have been found to prefer to eat nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables, when easily accessible or presented to them, therefore it could help to have these readily available!6
- M. Umar, K. Sastry and A. Chouchane, "Role of Vitamin D Beyond the Skeletal Function: A Review of the Molecular and Clinical Studies", International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 19, no. 6, p. 1618, 2018. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6032242/pdf/ijms-19-01618.pdf.
- L. Wilson, L. Tripkovic, K. Hart and S. Lanham-New, "Vitamin D deficiency as a public health issue: using vitamin D2or vitamin D3in future fortification strategies", Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 76, no. 3, pp. 392-399, 2017. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28347378/?from_term=vitamin+D+AND+%28role+OR+function%29&from_filter=pubt.review&from_pos=5. [Accessed 27 March 2020].
- Nowson C et al Med J Aust 2012; 196 (11): 686-687
- Carr AC, Maggini S. Nutrients 2017 Nov 3;9(11)
- A H Shankar, A S Prasad, Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 68, Issue 2, August 1998, Pages 447S–463S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/68.2.447S