Yesterday I had a worried parent approach me with her five-year-old kid. Her grouse was that her kid had frequent cough and cold because of which, he would miss his classes a lot. I simply asked the mother one question, ‘Does your child eat his vegetables and fruits?’ The kid would only eat rice and ghee, skipping everything else.
This is not a one-off case, most of the toddlers and pre-schoolers I consult hate to eat veggies and would only fill up on carbs. But in reality, their growing body is still hungry for nutrients.
Indian children falling short on vitamins and minerals
Unfortunately, Indian pre-schoolers are found to be deficient in many micronutrients, most prominently iron, zinc, folate and vitamin A. This is particularly concerning because toddlers and pre-schoolers require 2.5 times more iron, 4 times more calcium and 2 times more energy when compared to an adult.
The varied functions of micronutrients could explain their high needs. Iron is required for physical and mental development. Even a mild deficiency can impair brain development. Iodine is also a nutrient with capabilities to prevent learning disabilities and delayed development in children. Zinc and vitamin A are required for better immune function and for good vision.
Are micronutrients from food really available?
Colourful fruits, green leafy vegetables, eggs, lean meat, fish, dairy products, and fortified foods provide these micronutrients in the diet. But the real problem is, nutrients from these foods are not easily absorbed and available. Below are the reasons:
Preschoolers not so keen about their fruits and vegetables
Tips to ensure your child gets enough micronutrient
Despite all these issues, there are some ways by which micronutrient needs of your child can be met.
Tips for better absorption
Tips for choosy eaters
Finally, discuss with a pediatrician to understand if your child might benefit from supplementation and which one is suitable for your child. It is important to choose a supplement that is low in sugar and fat.
The author is founder chairman and consultant neonatologist at Cloud Nine Hospital.