There’s a reason dino nuggets and mac and cheese are your child’s favorite— they’re delicious! Although these foods can be included in your child’s diet, it is important that they branch out and try more nutrient-dense foods. Nutritional deficiencies in children can have significant impacts on their growth, development, and overall health, making adequate nutrition essential during childhood.
Nutritional Deficiencies In Children
At Wake Forest Pediatrics, we understand that proper nutrition supports proper physical and cognitive growth, strengthens the immune system, and lays the foundation for lifelong well-being. Continue reading to learn more about nutritional deficiencies in children and how to help prevent them.
1. Iron Deficiency
Iron is a necessary mineral that supports the body’s growth and development. An iron deficiency is one of the common nutritional deficiencies seen in children. This deficiency in children often presents with symptoms such as
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Poor appetite
- Delayed growth and development
To ensure your child is not iron deficient, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that starting at age 4 months, infants who are only breastfed or partly breastfed should be given a daily iron supplement until they begin eating iron-rich foods. Children 1 to 3 years of age should be eating a diet of iron-rich foods, such as legumes, nuts, fortified bread, and breakfast cereal.
2. Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium. This is essential for developing strong bones and overall good health. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include salmon, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, egg yolks, and red meat. If a child is experiencing nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D, they may experience symptoms such as
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Irritability or feelings of depression
- Developmental delays
- A disease that causes thin, weak, and deformed bones, known as Rickets
Your child can also get vitamin D from being out in the sun. However, it is important to protect your child’s skin and always ensure they are wearing sunscreen when exposed to the sun’s UV rays.
3. Calcium Deficiency
A calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia, is when there is too little calcium in the blood. Calcium-rich foods to be sure to include in your child’s diet include dairy products, calcium-fortified foods, and dark leafy greens. If your child is not getting enough of these foods, nutritional deficiencies such as this one can lead to symptoms such as
- Irritability or lethargy
- Muscle twitches
- Dry skin, dry nails, or brittle hair
Hypocalcemia can also be caused by premature birth, infections, maternal diabetes, and some medications. It is important that calcium deficiencies are detected early on, as children who don’t get enough calcium are at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis later on in life.
4. Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is a trace mineral that helps boost your immune system and fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Although your body only needs small amounts, it is still essential for any healthy child. Children who are zinc deficient may experience symptoms such as
- Loss of appetite
- Delayed growth
- Impaired immune function
Foods that provide adequate levels of zinc into your child’s diet include meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, and whole grains.
Introducing your child to new foods is no small feat. However, laying the foundation for your child to lead a healthy life is worth it. Wake Forest Pediatrics is committed to providing quality care to your kids at all times on a wide array of subjects. Do you have more questions on nutritional deficiencies in children? Call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.