This week we spoke with Penelope Klebe about children’s dietary needs. Penny is a highly regarded Specialist Nutrition Support Dietitian, registered with HCPC and working within the NHS. Penny obtained her BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics from King's College London. She’s also a wonderful mum of two young children and knows the challenges parents face with healthy eating.
I asked her some common questions parents and care providers have, and asked for advice on how to get children eating healthily.
How do children’s nutritional needs differ to adult’s needs?
Children are growing fast so have higher energy needs for their body size compared to adults. They also need additional micronutrients of vitamin A and D.
Get advice from your health visitor on whether your infant needs additional supplementation of vitamins.
The NHS website recommends:
Taken from NHS England’s website
Vitamin A is important for making immune systems strong and healthy, helping our vision in dim lighting and keeping our skin healthy.
Good sources of vitamin A include:
Vitamin D is important for calcium and phosphate absorption. These nutrients maintain teeth, bone and muscle health, which is particularly important for the growing body of a child.
Good sources of vitamin D include:
Do you think it is important to get children engaged with healthy eating from a young age?
Yes. It is so important that parents and children are educated to have a better understanding of a healthy balanced diet.
Children need to be weaned onto a good variety of different foods and textures to avoid fussy eating behaviours, and to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.
If fussy eating develops, it usually resolves in time. Most babies need to be offered new foods up to 10 times before they accept it. If you are struggling to get your infant to try new foods, there are some great tips on this link:
For further advice:
Could you offer any top tips on how to get children interested in healthy eating?
Getting children trying new foods is so important! Here are some suggestions:
Eat as a family at the table, avoid TV dinners or toy playing during mealtimes
For further advice:
What are the most common nutritional problems seen in childhood and what are the warning signs?
The common nutritional problems:
In pre-schoolers most of these issues would be picked up by your GP, practice nurse, or health visitor.
If you have any concerns, speak with your health visitor.
For further advice:
Are there any super foods you would recommend for workers that are rich in nutrients to give children?
There are no such things as 'super foods'. This is a marketing slogan. It takes a mix of lots of food groups to have a healthy and balanced diet and get all of the nutrients you need.
Follow the eatwell plate guide, although things do differ slightly from adults for toddlers. Toddlers need some more white alternatives - high fibre wholemeal options are very filling and therefore a toddler may struggle to eat enough to get all the nutrients they need if only consuming fibrous options, and give them extra oils, butter and margarine. You can base this on healthier fats such as olive oil or avocado if you prefer.
Source: NHS website.
The following are very harmful and should be avoided:
For more information visit: Infant and Toddler Forum.
Look at this to get some examples of healthy snacks:
For further UK Government advice: here
Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge Penny! You have given a brilliant overview of dietary needs and advice with children, and its greatly appreciated.
Have you found any of the above particularly helpful?
Are your children fussy eaters?
Do you have any healthy recipes or top tips for healthy eating with children?
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Nogrady, B. (24th November 2016). Why there is no such thing as a ‘superfood’, BBC news. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20161124-why-there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-superfood