Most parents and even teachers know how difficult it can be to get their children to eat healthy food, and it is so vital that they do.

Research has shown that most school children are deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral, and many have multiple deficiencies. Most preschool children do not meet the RNI (Recommended Nutritional Intake) for zinc.

One of the problems encountered was that when children (and adults, of course) are deficient in zinc, they have low-functioning taste buds and very little sense of taste or smell, so they want strong-tasting foods, i.e. strong tasting junk food. Healthy food does not taste nice enough. It takes a while to get children to change their taste buds.

Not until their zinc levels are adequate will they be able to taste the more subtle flavors and start to enjoy them.

Another mineral that is commonly deficient in children is iron. A 1995 survey showed that among children aged 18 months to 2.5 years.

  • One child in eight was anemic
  • Almost one in three had low iron stores.
  • Four out of five preschool children did not meet their RNI for iron

Calcium is also often deficient. If a child is allergic to dairy produce, which is fairly common, then it would be sensible to give a calcium (with added magnesium) supplement. Vitamins A, C and D are commonly deficient in school children. Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables and is particularly needed for the immune system. Vitamin A is found in meat and fish and orange colored fruits and vegetables (carotenes). Vitamin D is found in dairy produce and fish, and midday sun exposure.

In most cases it is a good idea to give a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement as an insurance policy, but always check with a nutritionally aware medical practitioner first.

Latest posts by Teacher Jovelyn Saldaña