The development of healthy bones, skin, and brain function in children depends upon certain nutritional elements. Lack of a balanced diet can have unwanted consequences lasting into adulthood. Vitamins and minerals are necessary in specific amounts, or disorders due to deficiencies can result (such as weak bones, frequent bleeding, blindness, and other preventable conditions). Packaged and 'fast food' meals often do not meet overall children’s dietary needs.
Vitamin A in Children’s Health
Skin and eye health are commonly associated with Vitamin A. However, this fat-soluble vitamin is essential for cellular growth and development, as well as immune function. Dark-colored green vegetables, orange vegetables, and fortified breakfast cereals are high in Vitamin A. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) denoted as retinol activity equivalents (RAE) is 300 mcg RAE for ages one through three years. From four to eight years old, the RDA is 400 mcg RAE, and from nine to 13 years old, the RDA is 600 mcg RAE.
Lack of sufficient Vitamin A can result in severe visual impairment. The World Health Organization considers Vitamin A deficiency a major public health problem in Africa and Southeast Asia. In Cuba in the 1990s, an inability to import food as a result of the blockade resulted in a widespread decrease in visual acuity in children and adults (as reported in the the Annals of Internal Medicine). On the other hand, too much Vitamin A can also cause health problems.
Vitamin D and Calcium
The typical manner in which most children obtain enough daily Vitamin D and calcium is through drinking milk—which is associated with healthy bone development. Likewise, ingesting Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium. Lactose-intolerant children frequently develop diarrhea from drinking milk, so are at higher risk of developing osteomalacia or rickets. Approximately 70 percent of the entire global population has primary lactase deficiency (a form of lactose-intolerance) per an article in Pediatrics in 2006. Lactose-intolerant children can benefit from taking a daily children’s vitamin supplement.
Vegetarian Diets and Children
Protein is required for proper tissue development, so a deficiency can have dire consequences. In the United States, protein deficiency is typically not a problem in children. According to the Baylor College of Medicine website, the RDA for daily protein in children aged one through three years is 0.55 gm per pound of body weight (and 0.5 from four to six, and 0.45 from age seven through 14 years).
For children to consume all of the essential amino acids in a vegetarian diet, careful meal-planning is necessary. The inclusion of soy products, lentils, and nut butters can improve the likelihood of complete protein intake. Unfortunately, a high number of children in the United States are allergic to nuts.
Iron deficiency can also be a problem in a vegetarian diet, as beef (especially liver), poultry and eggs are the primary sources. However, dried fruit (e.g., apricots) and spinach are also sources of iron. Meanwhile, “vegans” and “lacto-ovo-vegetarians” children need 1.8 times the iron intake as compared to non-vegetarians due to varying available sources (per an article in Paediatrics and Child Health).
CATEGORIES: Diet, Vitamin, Vitamins & Minerals, Vegan, Vegetarian