The 3 Basic Nutrients for Child Development

Being a parent is hard enough, trying to give the right foods to your child in the right amounts can be tricky. A range of conditions can crop in young children causing stress in both the child and the parents.

Toddler’s diarrhoea is a common condition that causes a child from 1-5 years old to experience mild to acute bouts of diarrhoea. Even when you go to the doctor and your child gets tested, the tests come back clean. Yet, the toddler still randomly experiences the diarrhoea causing irritation to the genitals.

What is the main cause of Toddler diarrhoea? Simple answer is the diet. Parents may know that feeding their child sugary foods and drinks can result in diarrhoea, and children may have an intolerance to dairy.

However, it is other elements in the diet that should be looked at more closely, not just for regular bowel motions, but also for the mental, behavioural, and physical health and growth of the child.

Let’s talk Childhood Nutrition, and why it is crucial to include enough fibre, protein, and fats to provide them with the best start in life.

Fibre

 Fibre comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble fibre, both performing different roles in the body. Fibre is a form of carbohydrate that originates from a plant. The difference with fibre compared to other carbohydrates, is that fibre is not broken down and absorbed by the digestive system.

 Because of this aspect, digestion is slowed, the stools are easier to pass and are softer. With the digestion being slowed, it means the fibre stays in the body for longer, keeping energy levels and blood sugar levels stable. Most foods contain both types of fibre, but tend to be higher in one than the other.

Soluble fibre is incredibly important to firm up bowel movements, as it prevents too much water being left in the digestive system because it absorbs that water as it passes through the intestines.

Nuts, seeds, bananas, apples, legumes, vegetables, barley, oats and oat bran are some foods that are higher in soluble fibre.

If your toddler experiences constipation, then foods higher in insoluble fibre are recommended. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and remains intact as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Whole grain products like bread, pasta, crackers, bulgur wheat, cereals, brown rice and bran are some forms of insoluble fibre.

Fruits and vegetables are generally perceived as encouraging looser bowel movements. However, they too differ in the levels of soluble and insoluble fibre. Plums, nectarines, apples, and dried fruits like raisins and prunes without added sugar are higher in insoluble fibre. Whereas, berries, peas, and citrus fruit contains higher levels of soluble fibre.

Apples is one of those goodies that contains good levels of both in the pectin of the skin.

Ideally, children should get a good balance of both in order to reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea or constipation.

It is recommended for ages 1-3 to get 19g daily, 4-8: year-olds 25g, and 9-13: year-olds 26-31g.

Fat

Children also need enough fatty acids in their diet, in particular Omega-3. Omega-3 are building blocks for cells. Without enough fatty acids, cells do not function correctly – including brain cells, and immune cells.

The brain is made up of around 60% fat, and Omega-3 makes up around 10-15% of this.

Omega-3 is converted into docosahexaenoic acid – DHA. This acid supports brain development and function.

It also assists in improving memory, sleep, depression, behavioural conditions, allergies, respiratory illness, diarrhoea, and healthy bones.

Although fish is considered a good source of Omega-3, many children do not like sea food. And the contamination of sea food reduces the benefits.

So, what foods are high in the all-important EPA – eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA?

Free-range eggs, free-range chicken and other meat, yoghurt, milk, walnuts, and flaxseeds are some foods that can satisfy a fussy eater. And flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds can be added to smoothies and baking to sneak in those important nutrients.

It is recommended that children ages 0 to 12 months consume 0.5 grams/day. 1 to 3 years: 0.7 grams/day. 4 to 8 years: 0.9 grams/day, and 9-13 1-1.2g per day.

We all have enzymes that encourage the conversion of Alpha Lipoic Acid Omega-3 to the vital EPA and DHA. There are several factors that may reduce how much ALA Omega-3 is converted into DHA and EPA, so experts theorize we all may need a little more than the recommended daily intake.

Protein

 Some parents comment how it seems their child never stops eating, that they are always hungry. One thing to consider is just because your child wants to keep eating, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are hungry. Just like adults, we sometimes just eat because we want to, as opposed to when we are actually hungry. Likewise, children may just see a food they want, or just want to eat.

Children are constantly growing, so it does make sense that they get hungry often so as to fulfil both the energy requirements and growth.    However, whether it is children or adults, we can often feel hungry, not because we haven’t eaten enough, but it is what we have eaten.   

That is where protein comes in. Protein is slowly released into the muscles. Instead of being burnt off as energy straight away, it stores in the muscles, and is slowly digested in the digestive system, keeping the person fuller for longer. 

Carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body, just like sugar is. This glucose is then burnt off as energy. Even if it comes from a good source of carbohydrates, it still is burnt off rather quickly. Thus, children get energetic for a time, then they suddenly slump. Resulting in over-tiredness, temper tantrums, and other problem behaviours. When protein is included in every meal and snack, it prevents that slump from occurring.

 Instead of giving your child one protein-rich meal a day, try to integrate small amounts of protein throughout the day.

A small pottle of yoghurt without added sugar for a snack, scrambled or boiled eggs on a piece of wholegrain toast makes a great breakfast or lunch. Slicing up some lean chicken, beef, or lamb on a piece of bread for lunch, or having it with a main meal at night with mashed sweet potatoes and carrots.

Remember, meat-free options are also great. Fry up some seasoned tofu, or roast some chickpeas for a tasty snack, and chickpeas are a great source of fibre and other nutrients!

The last point I want to mention about protein, is that it’s best to stick with only one type of protein with a meal. It’s fine to give a range of different proteins throughout the day, but if children, or for that matter, adults, eat more than one type of protein in a meal, it’s a lot harder for the body to digest it and use it as proper fuel.

Children need around 0.5g of protein per pound of body weight. A child that weighs 26 pounds or 11kg needs around 11-13grams of protein daily, preferably from a range of sources, not just dairy.

How do you sneak in those Goodies they need?

Comment below your favourite recipes that the kids love.

Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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