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Health & Nutrition Toddlers

Essential Nutrients for Toddlers



Eating well and eating right offers your children with the right nutrition to meet their growing needs.

 

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

– -Hippocrates

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Health Promotion Board of Singapore (HPB), “For optimal growth, development and health… recommend exclusive breastfeeding (with no other food or drink) for the first 6 months (i.e. 180 days) of a baby’s life. Mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding their children until they are 12 months old and thereafter as long as mutually desired, together with the timely introduction of solid food from 6 months of age.”

Breastmilk is the most natural and best milk source for babies, and breastfeeding is encouraged by medical experts. When it is not practiced due to medical conditions or other concerns, formula milk is introduced, and toddlers may continue to consume breastmilk, formula milk or start on fresh milk to complement their diet.

Toddlers require a wholesome diet to support their development, fuelling them with energy and nutrients for healthy growth!

What are some of the essential nutrients toddlers need?

Children from one to three years old enter toddlerhood, and this is also the phase when they undergo development in all areas such as cognitive, emotional, motor skills to name a few. Nutrients from the food they eat provide them with the essential nourishment to promote and support healthy development as their organs mature alongside their physical growth.

Some of the essential nutrients that toddlers need are:

 

Carbohydrates

  • Carbohydrates provide a source of energy to toddlers, and these active bubs need plenty of energy to fuel their daily activities.
  • Food sources: Carbohydrates can be obtained through food such as grains, rice, noodles, bread and cereals.

 Proteins

  • Proteins are necessary to help babies build their bodies and supports their growth. Dietary proteins are digested into amino acids, which help maintain the development of organs, muscles, bones, teeth, hair and skin.
  • Food sources: Offer high protein foods such as vegetables, meats, beans, eggs, dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

Lipids

  • Besides supplying a major source of energy, lipids help reduce body heat loss and act as padding to protect body organs. Lipids also aid in the absorption of Vitamin A, D, E and K, which are needed to build baby’s immunity, vision and skin health. Essential fatty acids (e.g. ARA and DHA) associated with visual and neural development while further studies are warranted (i.e. sample size, duration, dosage)*.
  • Food sources: Fatty fish such as salmon and cod offer healthy fats such as DHA and Omega-3 along with proteins. Avocadoes are fruit sources that provide good fats to support healthy development, and are known as superfoods as they pack wholesome nutrients

Calcium

  • Needed to build strong bones and teeth, calcium absorption is enhanced with the presence of Vitamin D. Experts suggest that an adequate intake of calcium during childhood may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis during the later years.
  • Food sources: Milk is a common source for calcium for children. Besides dairy options such as cheese and yogurt, other non-dairy food with high calcium includes tofu, soy beans and soy milk, oranges, almonds, beef, broccoli, peas and ikan bilis.
To offer variety to your toddler, try cooking food with different methods, herbs and spices so he obtains a range of nutrients.

 

Choline

  • Required for the normal functioning of cells, choline is linked to memory and learning functions of a child too.
  • Food sources: Animal and plant-based sources such as beef, eggs, salmon and cauliflower.

Iron

  • Iron is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, which help to carry oxygen around to the organ and muscles through red blood cells. Research advise that iron deficiency leads to poor weight gain, irritability, pale skin and poor appetite. Toddlers with low iron levels or are anaemic, iron-rich food should be added to their diet. For ideal absorption, consume with food rich in Vitamin C.
  • Food sources: Heme sources (meat) such as beef, pork, lamb, liver, veal, chicken; non-heme sources (plants) such as spinach, broccoli, legumes, beans, eggs, lentils, and iron-fortified food such as cereal, whole grain bread and enriched pasta.

Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A is needed to support toddler’s visual development, immune system and promotes healthy skin and hair.
  • Food sources: Eggs, milk, and dark coloured or orange coloured fruit and vegetables like carrots, spinach, kale, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, papaya and peaches.

Vitamin E

  • A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E helps to protect the body against germs, and supports healthy development in toddlers.
  • Food sources: Nuts such as peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, wheatgerm, broccoli and kiwi.

 

Vitamin C are iron-rich food are friends – when taken together, Vitamin C helps to improve the absorption of iron by the body.

Vitamin C

  • Besides promoting the absorption of iron and calcium, Vitamin C is needed for wound healing and resist infection, and helps maintain bone and teeth health in toddlers*.
  • Food sources: Citrus fruit such as oranges and lemons, guava, kiwi, strawberries, honeydew

Depending on individual babies, nutritional needs may vary. Experts advise that a healthy balanced diet would suffice in providing the essential nutrients needed for toddlers. While supplements should not substitute a diet, toddlers on special diets or have medical concerns may consider doctor-prescribed supplements.

Consult a nutritionist of health expert when in doubt. After all, eating right is key to raising world-ready citizens for our future too.


 

 

Categories
Health & Nutrition Pregnant

Essential Nutrients for Pregnant Mums

Pregnant mums require extra nutrients to support the growth and healthy development of the foetus. Read on to find out the essential nutrients that pregnant mums should be consuming!

 

  • Folic acid/Folate – to prevent birth defects

Folic acid or folate is a B vitamin that is crucial because it prevents babies from being born with neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. In fact, folic acid is so important, it is recommended to consume 400 to 800mcg per day starting from three months before conception and throughout pregnancy.

Sources rich in folic acid include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, lentils and avocado. There is no risk of consuming excess folate from foods that naturally contain folate as it can be easily passed out in urine.

Avocado is rich in folate and contains healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.

 

  • Calcium – to strengthen bones

Calcium is required for strong bones and teeth, as well as to ensure that your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run the way they should. Calcium helps your baby develop a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles and a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities. Apart from dairy products, salmon, spinach, tofu, edamame and almonds are foods rich in calcium. You should consume 1,000mcg daily.

 

  • Vitamin D – for calcium absorption

Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and also helps to build your baby’s bones and teeth. Ideally, you should consume 600 IU per day. Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel contain Vitamin D. Soy milk and egg yolks also contain Vitamin D. Otherwise, 5-10 minutes in the sun lets your body make Vitamin D naturally too.

 

  • Iron – to prevent iron deficiency anemia

Pregnant women require twice the amount of iron to create blood that supplies oxygen to their foetuses. Insufficient iron levels may lead to a condition known as iron deficiency anaemia, resulting in fatigue.

In severe cases, there is a risk of premature birth and postnatal depression. Get your iron requirements met from lean red meat, beans and vegetables. Pregnant women require 27mg of iron daily.

Beef steak is a good source of iron.

 

  • Zinc – to help baby’s cells grow and replicate

Zinc is a necessary nutrient throughout all stages of pregnancy. Pregnant women should consume 12mg to 15mg of zinc daily. Zinc deficiency may cause pre-eclampsia, a condition characterised by abrupt hypertension, swelling and high protein levels in urine.

Fortunately, it is uncommon to suffer from a zinc deficiency as zinc is present in most foods in our diet such as beef, crab meat, poultry, nuts and beans.

 

  • Protein – encourages foetal growth

Protein encourages foetal cell growth and provides amino acids that boosts brain, bone and muscle development. Protein helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow and increases blood supply during pregnancy. Conversely, a lack of protein may cause poor bone, muscle and joint development and birth defects.

A mother should ideally consume 70g of protein daily from foods like peanut butter, eggs, meat and tofu.

 

  • Iodine – to develop your baby’s brain and nervous system

220mcg of iodine per day is recommended to develop your baby’s brain and nervous system and regulate its metabolism. Iodine is also responsible for thyroid gland regulation and a lack of iodine has been found to cause an increased risk of stillbirth, miscarriage and preterm delivery.

While it may sound stressful having to meet the daily nutritional requirements, most of the nutrients are already present in foods that we consume daily. Choose to eat more green leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts to keep a healthy diet throughout pregnancy. Some pregnant mums throw up whatever they eat, and their gynaecologist would usually prescribe multivitamin supplements to help them obtain the essential nutrients a pregnant mum needs.

Pregnant mums, do you take plenty of fresh foods to obtain a healthy mix of nutrition too?