The school endeavours to provide a variety of well-balanced, healthy snacks and meals to students in the school canteen every day.
The cost of daily snacks, juice and the standard set lunch menu is included in the Nanchang International School tuition fees. Students may bring their own food and beverages to eat during break/lunch times if they are unable/dislike to eat the standard menu items. However, we ask parents to refrain from sending chocolate or candy.
Children who lack essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids have shown to perform worse academically at school and are seen to be more aggressive in their outward behaviour
As our children grow taller and stronger in their pre-school years, they also become more independent and start to form their own personalities. This is the time when they also start to control what they will and will not eat – liking vegetables one day (at a friend’s house!), and not the next. We hear parents saying all the time ‘my child is a fussy eater’, but that’s really code for he/she doesn’t particularly like ‘a lot of things’. Anything wrong with that?
Well yes, unfortunately there is. Children who don’t eat a variety of foods could be missing out on some vital essential nutrients that are needed in this development period of their lives. These are nutrients that contribute to excellent growth, clever minds, physical fitness, and great overall health which will take them into adulthood. This is a serious matter. High numbers of children are failing to grow at the correct rate, and have problems at school, or with childhood obesity. Often this is all tied up with nutrient deficiencies in their diet.
According to government figures, 96% of children in the UK do not get enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. Correct bone and teeth development in children is becoming a major challenge, and children who eat a diet lacking in essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (EFA’s) have shown to perform worse academically at school and are seen to be more aggressive in their outward behaviour.
How have we reached this crisis point? One reason is poor awareness of food by both parents and children. The amount of advertising of unhealthy food only compounds the problem, with parents not knowing who to listen to anymore. A ‘balanced diet’ is starting to sound like a mantra, but what is really meant by this?
Making sure your child gets a good mix of the following suggests a balanced diet:
- Starchy foods i.e. bread, pasta and rice (wholewheat is the best source).
- Large amounts of fruit and vegetables – remember to aim for at least five portions a day.
- Protein foods i.e. meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils. At least two servings of fish per week (salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna).
- Dairy products i.e. cheese, yoghurt, whole milk or semi skimmed (not skimmed) need to be consumed every day.
- Yes fat, not the fat around the edge of the lamb chop, which is saturated fat, but essential fatty acids.
So, what are the essential nutrients that may be missing in your child’s diet and where can they be found? Here are the main culprits:
Humans cannot make their own vitamin C, so it must be obtained in the diet. Its function is quite specific as an important synthesiser for collagen and blood vessels.
It is also critical to brain function and is known to affect moods. It is a highly effective antioxidant, which protects the body from free radicals, which can cause cancer.
Key also is that Vitamin C aids Iron absorption. Always give your child a glass of apple or orange juice (not concentrate) with a meal containing meat or fish, and Iron will absorb more freely. Found in dark green vegetables, oranges, dark berries, and of course apples.
Vitamin A is needed for healthy teeth, skin, and produces the pigment in the retina of the eye – so helping your child to see. It is also an antioxidant (like Vitamin C). Found in eggs, meat, milk, cheese, cod, carrots, and many dark green vegetables.
Vitamin A is available in multivitamins and as a stand-alone supplement, often in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate 15). A portion of the vitamin A in some supplements is in the form of beta-carotene and the remainder is preformed vitamin A; others contain only preformed vitamin A or only beta-carotene. Supplement labels usually indicate the percentage of each form of the vitamin. The amounts of vitamin A in stand-alone supplements range widely . Multivitamin supplements typically contain 2,500–10,000 IU vitamin A, often in the form of both retinol and beta-carotene.
About 28%–37% of the general population uses supplements containing vitamin A 17). Adults aged 71 years or older and children younger than 9 are more likely than members of other age groups to take supplements containing vitamin A.
Vitamin D is needed so that the body can absorb Calcium. Without this, bones are not able to fully form and Rickets can occur (this disorder is on the increase due to teenagers not wanting to eat dairy products fearing weight gain). The good news is that the most significant supply of Vitamin D comes from the sunlight – it does not need to be bright sunlight either – so although we can also find Vitamin D in oily fish (i.e. salmon and sardines), eggs and some breakfast cereals, making sure your child spends time out of the house everyday should ensure the correct quota.
Vitamin D regulates our body’s ability to absorb calcium and also controls cell growth. Vitamin D deficiency causes a wide-range of health hazards including muscle weakness, depression, sclerosis and in some cases can also lead to cancer.
While it is easy to avail other essential vitamins through a well-balanced diet, giving your body Vitamin D is slightly difficult. However, there are ways to boost your Vitamin D levels.
Iron is needed for the formation of blood cells. Haemoglobin (the red pigment in blood) is what transports the oxygen around your child’s body – without it, he/she can’t run! So if your child is always tired, iron may be lacking. Iron is found in meat, fish, dark green vegetables (again), dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, wholegrain (brown bread), pulses, beans and lentils. Many foods are also fortified with iron so check labels.
Ever wonder why so many cereals are fortified with iron? Iron is a very important nutrient for a rapidly growing toddler. It might be difficult for a picky toddler to obtain enough from solid foods.
The recommended daily requirements for iron vary by age.
- ages 1 to 3 years: 7 milligrams per day
- ages 4 to 8 years: 10 milligrams per day
Low-birth-weight and premature infants usually require more iron than normal-weight babies.
Folate is very important for the production of new cells. It makes DNA, the building blocks of cells, and is especially important for the rapidly growing infant and young child. Folate can be found in dark green vegetables and spinach is a great source. Lots of foods are fortified with folate, so check labels if your child is not a big fan of spinach.
Also known as vitamin B9, is one substance that should not be excluded from your daily diet. It has countless benefits and studies have consistently proved that it is necessary for a healthy diet. Not only does it prevent the likelihood of depression or birth defects, it also protects the body against Alzheimer’s disease and some types of cancer.
These also cannot be made in the body. Diet has to provide them. There are two families of EFA’s – Omega 3 and Omega 6 – which are needed in balance for efficient brain function, the immune system and overall mental health. Oily fish is the best source of EFA’s, but another great source is Flax oil. If your child is showing signs of poor concentration at school, difficulty in memorising things, is a poor reader, has mood swings, or even difficulty sleeping, it is possible that he/she may be deficient in the Omegas. Supplements are a good second best option for absorbing the Omegas, but only buy a good brand.
Pay little attention to the pervasive hype about low-fat diets. Children need fats in their diets to be healthy. Healthy fats supply nutrients that are essential for growth and are necessary for energy as well as the absorption and metabolism of some nutrients. Fats are vitally important to the brain, which is 70 percent fat. They are used for building the membranes around every cell in the body and also play a role in the formation of hormones. Cold-pressed olive and flaxseed oils, fish oils, seeds, nuts, eggs, avocados, grass-fed meats, and butter and whole, raw milk from grass-fed cows are good fat-containing foods.
When you limit your child’s fat intake, you may be depriving him or her of essential nutrients. Many low-fat diets are low in zinc and vitamin E. Zinc is essential to growth and proper functioning of the immune system, and vitamin E is an important antioxidant that can help protect against disease. Furthermore, when children are eating a low-fat diet, they typically eat more high sugar and starch carbohydrates, which can lead to blood sugar problems and decreased immunity.
This mineral is predominant in the formation of bones and teeth. It can only be obtained through the diet. Calcium regulates muscle contraction (including the heartbeat) and helps blood to clot normally. Without vitamin D, calcium won’t absorb, so the two go hand in hand. Found in dark green leafy vegetables (again!), seeds, nuts, almonds, wholemeal bread, cows milk, dairy products in the main, it’s even in water (hard water that is).
Children need a healthy balanced diet containing plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods.
Encourage your child to choose a variety of foods to get the wide range of nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Remember to include these sorts of foods:
- milk, cheese, yoghurt, soya beans and nuts – these foods are rich in calcium, which is needed for healthy bones and teeth
- fortified breakfast cereals, margarine and oily fish – these foods are good sources of dietary vitamin D, which helps to keep bones healthy
- meat (particularly red meat), which is a rich source of iron – fish, pulses, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals are also good sources of iron
- at least two portions of fish a week – you can give boys up to four portions of oily fish a week, but it’s best to give girls no more than two portions. Avoid giving children shark, swordfish and marlin because they contain high levels of mercury which may affect a child’s developing nervous system
- citrus fruit, tomatoes and potatoes, which are all good sources of vitamin C
The amount of calcium a child needs, increases with age. This table shows you what are the calcium requirements for kids.
Fibre is ESSENTIAL for a healthy bowel movement. Many children in the UK suffer with constipation. The best way to prevent constipation is to increase fibre in the diet. Good sources are fruit, vegetables, wholegrain rice and pasta, nuts, seeds, and cereals.
Why Fiber Is Your Friend
So, what exactly is fiber? Why do you need it and what food should you eat to get it?
The term fiber refers to carbohydrates that cannot be digested. Fiber is found in the plants we eat for food — fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Sometimes, a distinction is made between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber:
- Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water and has been shown to lower cholesterol.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but that’s why it helps with constipation.
It’s important to include both kinds of fiber as part of a healthy diet.
A diet that includes foods that are rich in fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and prevent diabetes and heart disease. When carbohydrates are combined with fiber, it slows the absorption of sugar and regulates insulin response. And food with fiber make us feel full, which discourages overeating.
Also, fiber itself has no calories, and adequate amounts of fiber help move food through the digestive system, promoting healthy bowel function and protecting against constipation.
Figuring Out Fiber
Great sources of fiber include:
- whole-grain breads and cereals
- fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, berries, prunes, and pears
- vegetables like green peas, broccoli, spinach, and artichokes
- legumes (split peas, soy, lentils, etc.)
Water is the best fluid intake a child can get. They should drink plenty of it to prevent dehydration, and constipation, six to eight glasses per day is about right.
Kids Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements
|Total Water (Cups/Day)
|4 to 8 years
|Girls and Boys
|9 to 13 years
|14 to 18 years
Data are from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Tables. Recommended Daily Allowance and Adequate Intake Values: Total Water and Macronutrients.
Overall, fruit and vegetables seem to be the foods to opt for every time to provide your children with the essentials discussed above. The EFA’s are only found in oily fish or flax oil, so try the ‘ten times’ rule where you present a food ten times to your child before you give up. Most children surrender on the tenth go! If all else fails, you can now see that a good mix of fruit and vegetables are a very good plan to make sure that your children don’t miss out on the important nutrients required to make them healthy adults. This can come in the form of fresh produce as well as freshly made juices, smoothies and vegetables soups. And don’t forget to get them to join in with the purchase and the preparation – that always motivates, and can help teach your child essential facts about a balanced diet to pass on to their own kids!
The data has been collated from various websites, kindly verify the correctness and suitability as per your own requirement and need, The School and the author takes no responsibility for the same