If your kiddo has a nutritional deficiency, it’ll show up in different physical ways. Nature’s Farm’s nutritionists Cyrus Yeong and Yong Wai Chin list the symptoms of nutrient shortfall and relevant foods to add to your munchkin’s diet:
PHYSICAL SIGNS Thin hair, pale skin all around his body and at the lips, sore or swollen tongue, ridged or spoon-shaped nails and bruises or skin is easily bruised.
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Anaemia. If your kewpie becomes anaemic, their blood is unable to supply their body with the necessary oxygen. It also increases your tot’s risk of suffering from infections and slows down his mental development.
EAT THESE FOODS Lean meats, fish, chicken, eggs and enriched or whole-grain products.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 7mg per day.
THE SIGNS Weak and brittle nails, tooth decay, insomnia and muscle cramps.
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Rickets. The disease will cause your child’s bones to soften, resulting in a change of shape. You’ll start to observe bowed legs, slowed growth and muscle pain and weakness. However, Yeong notes that calcium deficiency is rare in babies and newborns.
EAT THESE FOODS Milk and dairy products like cheese, yoghurt, orange juice, tofu, green leafy vegetables like kai lan, xiao bai cai.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 500mg for children aged 1 to 3; 600mg for children between ages 4 and 6.
For children aged 4 years and above, 25 to 35 per cent of their daily calories should come from Omega-3 fatty foods.
Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
THE SIGNS Dry flaky skin and dry hair and eyes, constant thirst.
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other learning disabilities. Yeong cautions other long-term health issues like eczema and other allergies and constipation are also linked to a deficiency in Omega-3 fats.
EAT THESE FOODS “Fatty” fish like salmon, cod and mackerel, as well as walnuts
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE There is no recommended dietary allowance for fatty acids, Yong points out, “Nutritionists typically recommend that a child around 1 to 3 years old consumes a fat intake that’s equivalent to 30 to 40 per cent of their daily energy or calorie limit.” For children aged 4 years and above, 25 to 35 per cent of their daily calories should come from Omega-3 fatty foods.
Vitamin A deficiency
THE SIGNS Dry eyes, skin and hair.
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Night blindness which can progressively lead to permanent blindness. Night blindness is a condition where your tot is unable to see at night or in low light conditions.
EAT THESE FOODS Eggs, dairy products, carrots, sweet potato, kale, spinach and broccoli.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 250mcg for ages 1 to 3. 300mcg for ages 3 to 5.
Vitamin B2 deficiency
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Jaundice. This condition results from the liver’s inability to break down bilirubin in the blood, resulting in the yellowing of his skin. Besides undergoing phototherapy, consuming foods that are rich in vitamin B2 is necessary to prevent and treat jaundice.
EAT THESE FOODS Lamb, spinach, almonds, milk, dairy products and mushrooms.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 0.69 mg for ages 1 to 2, 0.81 mg for ages 2 to 3 and 0.93mg for ages 3 to 5.
“While these signs are useful in pointing out a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, they should serve only as a reference.”
Vitamin C deficiency
THE SIGNS Easily bruised skin, slow-healing wounds and bleeding gums. There’s also the chance that hyperkeratosis — a thickening of the skin resulting in a crusty layer of skin cells — might develop.
SEVERE DEFICIENCY MAY LEAD TO… Scurvy. Vitamin C is essential for the creation of collagen, which is a vital form of protein found in a wide variety of tissues like skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.
EAT THESE FOODS Oranges, lemons, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, green peppers, sprouts and sweet potatoes.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 35mg for ages 1 to 2, 50mg for ages 3 to 6.
Vitamin D deficiency
THE SIGNS The physical signs are similar to that of calcium deficiency because Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium. Look out for weak and brittle nails, dry skin and hair, tooth decay, insomnia and muscle cramps.
EAT THESE FOODS “Fatty” fish like salmon, cod and mackerel, dairy products like cheese and yoghurt and egg yolk. Fortified cereals and soy milk can help, too.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE 10mcg for ages 1 to 5.
There are also other vitamin and mineral deficiencies that don’t show up as observable changes to your sweetie’s appearance, so a visit to the paedi is necessary whenever you suspect something may be amiss.
Yeong stresses, “While these signs are useful in pointing out a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, they should serve only as a reference.” Only a physical examination and other relevant lab tests conducted by a doctor can confirm that your child lacks certain nutrients.
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