Food supplements for children often reduce parental anxiety. Nutrients available in fruits, vegetables and other natural sources are often more bio-available. That is, those nutrients are readily absorbed into the body and do their work for better health and well-being.
So it is still much better to offer appropriate nutritious food. However, children with unbalanced diets can gain essential vitamins and minerals from food supplements. Supplements may be given if the child is:
- Was born preterm and was exclusively breast-fed
- Suffers from a chronic disease of food allergy
- Shows signs of specific nutrient deficiency
- Doesn’t eat a variety of foods as prescribed by the Food Pyramid
A child’s food intake should be evaluated by a pediatric dietician who can recommend whether or not supplements are required, including the dose to fill in the specific nutrition need.[pq]Over-the-counter supplements are generally safe, but too much of them—particularly fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K—can also be dangerous.[/pq]
Excessive doses can affect the metabolism and absorption of other nutrients or be ineffective.
Say, iron in large doses causes damage to the intestinal lining that triggers bloody diarrhea and vomiting, while excessive vitamin A can bring symptoms such as headache, hair loss, cracking of lips, dry and itchy skin and enlarged liver or spleen.
It pays to be careful. Talk to your child’s doctor first.
Nutrition experts recommend a daily intake of about 30 grams of fiber. Fiber helps lower the levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, protect against heart disease, and increase elimination of cancer-causing substances produced by bacteria in the large intestine.
Fiber in food consists of complex carbohydrates that hardly break down in the stomach. It has no calories. Fiber intake gives a “full tummy” feeling, which is why those on weight-loss diets go for the recommended daily fiber intake to curb overeating.
A half-cup or beans or peanuts can provide 10 grams of fiber while a half-cup of green peas packs nine grams. A cup of corn has 10 grams of fiber, two slices of whole wheat bread has seven grams. One cup of kamote contains 10 grams. One cup of leafy vegetables can provide eight to 12 grams of fiber—a cup of assorted veggies in each meal can fill in the recommended daily intake for fiber; however a cup of lettuce barely yields a gram. A cup of spaghetti with tomato sauce has six grams.
Excess fiber intake can be harmful, especially in the absence of adequate water intake—that can cause severe constipation.
Fuel up and rev up
Food is energy released during digestion. The energy—measured as calories—enables the cells to perform their tasks to maintain the body’s health and wellness. The energy can be used immediately or stored for later use.
Energy needs vary from 1,000 calories to more than 4,000 calories depending on age, sex and physical activity. Sedentary women, children and other adults need about 1,600 calories daily. Older children, active adult women and sedentary men need about 2,000 calories a day. Active adolescent boys and young men need about 2,400 calories.[pq]Appetite is a reliable gauge for children’s energy needs.[/pq]
To fill in such need for energy, one gram of carbohydrates and protein yields four calories; a gram of fat provides about eight calories. The optimum distribution of calories in the food intake would be: 11 percent proteins, 35 percent fats, and 60 percent carbohydrates.
For Filipinos, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute recommends:
- 90 to 100 calories/kilogram of body weigh for three-to six-year-olds;
- 80 to 90 calories/kilogram of body weight for seven-to-nine-year-olds;
- 70 to 80 calories/kilogram of body weight for 10-to 12-year-olds;
- 55 to 65 calories/kilogram of body weight for 13-to-15-year-olds.
When intake of calories exceeds the body’s immediate needs, the excess energy is stored as fat in the liver or muscles—and the body gains weight. A daily excess of 200 calories in 10 days results in a gain of one-half pound, mostly fat.
Fuel is burned to move an engine and gain mileage. You got to move it to lose it by physical activity:
30-minute activity Calories burned
Bed rest, sleeping 30
Brain work; study, desk job, computer work, heavy concentrating 55
Leisurely walk, five mph 90
Brisk walking or easy run, five mph 310
Brisk running, 10 mph 500
Skipping rope 420
Biking, six mph 120
Biking, 10 mph 180
Leisurely swimming 150
Fast swimming 360
Dancing to rock and roll music 200
Football, basketball 230
Tennis, singles 255
Badminton, volleyball 170
Yoga, breaking a sweat 115
Martial arts, tai chi, karate (no rest breaks) 170
Heavy housework; scrubbing floors on hands and knees,
Hand-washing walls, cleaning the garage (with lots of
Up and down body motion) 110