Starchy foods i.e. bread, pasta and rice. Large amounts of fruit and vegetables - remember to aim for at least five portions a day. Protein foods i.e. meat, fish, eggs and lentils. At least two servings of fish per week. Dairy products i.e. cheese, yoghurt, whole milk or semi-skimmed need to be consumed every day. And essential fatty acids. So, what are the essential nutrients that may be missing in your child's diet and where can they be found?
It's 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. Vitamin C also aids iron absorption. Always give your child a glass of apple or orange juice with a meal containing meat or fish. Found in dark green vegetables, oranges 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. Found in eggs, meat, milk, cheese, cod, carrots and many dark green vegetables.
Vitamin D is needed so that the body can absorb calcium. Without this, bones are not able to fully form. The most significant supply of Vitamin D comes from the sunlight. We can also find Vitamin D in oily fish, eggs and some breakfast cereals. Make sure your child gets the correct quota.
Iron is needed for the formation of blood cells. Haemoglobin 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, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, wholegrain (brown bread), pulses, beans and lentils.
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 child. Folate can be found in dark green vegetables and spinach is a great source.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
There are two families of EFAs - 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 EFAs. If your child is finding difficulty in memorising things, has mood swings, or even difficulty sleeping, it is possible that he/she may be deficient in the Omegas.
This mineral is predominant in the formation of bones and teeth. Calcium regulates muscle contraction (including the heartbeat) and helps blood to clot normally. Found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, almonds, wholemeal bread, dairy products in the main.
Fibre is essential for a healthy bowel movement. Many children suffer with constipation. The best way is to increase fibre in the diet. Good sources are fruit, vegetables, wholegrain rice and pasta, nuts and cereals.
Water is the best fluid intake a child can get. They should drink plenty of it to prevent dehydration, and constipation, about six to eight glasses per day. Nutritionist Ramola Kumar agrees, "A balanced diet for children should be a mix of protein, fibre, salad, carbohydrate, calcium and protein for over all growth. "While nutritionist Rekha Gupta advises mothers, "Avoid junk food totally and always feed your children homemade foods. "You can try '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, 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.