It’s time to add even more nutrients to your child’s diet.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
The experts weigh in on what else is needed for your child and his diet.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps ensure the body absorbs and retains calcium and phosphorus, both critical for building bones. However, Natalie Goh, chief dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital states that human milk only contains around 20 IU of vitamin D per litre which is much lesser than the requirement of 400 IU per day for baby from birth to 12 months old. Children one to three years old also require 400 IU of vitamin D per day (or 10mcg). In addition to dietary sources (e.g. cod liver oil, salmon, sardine, mackerel, vitamin D-fortified milk, egg yolk and shiitake mushroom), babies also obtain vitamin D through exposure to ultraviolet B sunlight. As little as 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight can help to generate 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D.
Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre highlights that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets, a bone-softening disease. Exclusively breastfed babies may require 400 IU of vitamin D via supplement drops daily. Alternatively, the nursing mum should take 400-600 IU of vitamin D supplements per day, so that she can pass this nutrient on to her baby through her milk.
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is needed to support physical growth and for vision development. Good sources of vitamin A are milk, eggs, carrots and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A requirement for babies under one year of age is 300mcg, while children one to three years old require 250mcg.
Iron is an important element in blood production. According to Goh, full-term infants usually have adequate iron stores for growth up to a doubling of their birth weight which occurs approximately at four months. Hence, breastfed babies are at risk of developing a negative iron balance and should receive additional iron by four to six months.
Foods high in iron include iron-fortified cereals, meat, legumes,
egg yolk and green vegetables. Iron deficiency in infancy can affect
cognitive development and lead to anaemia.
Goh states that B-vitamins are needed by the body to help release energy from food and keep our nervous system healthy. Sources of B-vitamins are grains, fortified cereals, eggs, peas, milk, chicken/meat and beans.
5. Folic acid
Folic acid is needed to make healthy blood cells. Sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and orange juice.
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body, says Goh. It is also needed to maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. Vitamin C is one of many antioxidant nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals in the body. Vitamin C deficiency can result in scurvy. Key sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables which are also good sources of fibre.
Chia adds that you should avoid giving high doses of vitamin C
to your child when they are under the weather.
The upper limit for below one-year-old is not established and for
children between one to three years is 400mg.
Preparation of Food to Maximise Nutrient Absorption
Chia advises steaming as it retains the most nutrients while boiling in a pressure cooker loses the most. Some water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin B and C are denatured by heat. Therefore, don’t overcook vegetables as this will destroy water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C. Depending on the food, some of their nutrients available to our bodies increases with cooking. For example, lycopene in tomatoes increases with cooking and eating cooked spinach and carrots results in higher levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene.
Goh adds that besides steaming, light stir-fry, sauté and baking are also encouraged. To inculcate healthier eating habits from young, introduce a variety of food and use different cooking methods to prepare food instead of offering deep-fried food and heavily seasoned food.