Nutrition – 7 reasons why your child may not be getting enough

By Diana Fatayerji, M.S., Ph.D.

The role of childhood nutrition cannot be underestimated relative to health. The childhood diet lays the foundation for good health throughout our lives, and the earlier that good nutritional patterns are established the more likely that the healthy habits will stick over the years1.

Early eating habits set the stage for your child’s growth, strength, immunity and intelligence. They also influence the development of diseases such as allergies, asthma, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Health Trends In Children

Obesity Affects 1 in 5 children in the US2, 3 From 1963-1980 increased by 54% in children 6-11 yrs.
Cancer A leading cause of death in children
In the last decade it has increased by 11%4
Allergies Rate has doubled since 1980
Low calcium leading to osteoporosis The average calcium intake in children is half the RDA5
AD(H)D In 1998 it affected 3-5% of school age children

Unfortunately, healthy eating is not a reality for most children. As a result many children fall short of their nutritional requirements. Preschoolers typically eat less than half a serving of fruits or vegetables per day, and half of this comes from fruit juice6. Most children do not even get the Recommended Daily Allowance for nutrient such as vitamin B6, calcium, iron, zinc and fiber7.
Poor dietary habits in children are the norm, not the exception. Children are often picky eaters and end up eating foods with little nutritional value. In addition there are many factors common in our modern lifestyles that increase our nutritional needs. These include the poor nutrient quality of many foods, poor nutrient absorption due to impaired digestion, toxins, stress, and nutrient depletion by certain medications.
There is a great need for diets rich in fruits and vegetables that are better able to counteract the nutritional burden of our lifestyles.


Modern food preparation techniques and declining soil quality mean that many foods have lower nutrient levels compared to fifty years ago. Soils that are deficient in nutrients such as selenium and zinc produce crops that are low in these nutrients.
The boom in fast foods and convenience foods is a result of our busy lifestyles. These foods are very low in nutrition because each stage of their preparation results in a nutrient loss. Most canned and shelf-stable prepared foods have no nutritional value.
Plus, in order to ensure the freshness of food when it arrives at the store many fruits and vegetables are harvested before they are even ripe. Research shows that fruit picked green contains less vitamin C and that it loses nutrients the longer it is stored8. Fruits and vegetables purchased at the start of the week lose nutrients as they sit on the counter or in the refrigerator. Cooking further reduces the nutritional value of food. By the time it is microwaved and served the following day as leftovers, the nutrient value has deteriorated significantly. A simple step to increasing your families’ nutrition is to purchase organic foods, buy them fresh and prepare dishes at home.


Poor digestion and food allergies can result in nutritional deficiencies on even the best diet. Symptoms of poor digestion and food allergies include gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
It is important to identify and treat these conditions. Poor digestion can be treated with digestive enzymes, while food allergies can be identified through saliva or blood tests and treated by eliminating the offending foods from the diet.


Our environment is more toxic than in the past. Today’s children are exposed to more toxic challenges than their grandparents. This is a result of the increased level of air pollution, water pollution, pesticides, preservatives, genetically modified foods, unhealthy fats and stress. Without adequate antioxidant levels these toxin can cause cell damage.
Pesticides are used to increase crop yields. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides due to their smaller size, faster metabolism, less varied diets and lower detoxification capacity. Exposure to organophosphate insecticides has been linked to nervous system damage. Where possible buy organic produce, peel fruits and vegetables, or use vegetable rinse to reduce pesticide levels. Foods with the highest pesticide levels are apples, green beans, grapes, spinach, peaches, pears and winter squash.

Most cooked and cured meats contain nitrates to preserve their pink color. Nitrates are abundant in typical kid foods such as hot dogs, bologna and luncheon meats. They can cause breathing difficulties, dizziness, headaches, nausea and lead to leukemia. Only purchase meats that are nitrate free.

Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods remain controversial. They contain DNA from a variety of sources including plants, animals, bacterium, fungi and viruses and there is concern that the new genetic material may result in lower nutrient levels or may create unforeseen health risks including allergies and toxicity.


Certain medications cause nutrient depletion. It is important to be aware of which nutrients they deplete, as well as which nutrients may cause an adverse reaction if taken in combination with the medication. The chart below shows drug-nutrient interactions and depletions for some medications commonly prescribed for children.
Drug- Nutrient Interactions

Adverse interaction
Depletion or interference
Penicillin Antibiotics   Helpful bacteria
Tetracycline antibiotics   Helpful bacteria
B Vitamins
e.g. Streptomycin
  Helpful bacteria
Vitamin A
B Vitamins
MAOI Antidepressants   Vitamin B6
Tricyclic antidepressants St. John’s Wort Co Enzyme Q10
Vitamin B2
B Vitamins
Effexor 5-HTP
St. John’s Wort
Celexa Ginkgo biloba
Prozac 5-HTP
St. John’s Wort
Folic acid
Aspirin   Vitamin C
Folic acid
Pantothenic acid
Ritalin Alcohol  
Adderall Alcohol
Vitamin C
Vitamin B6


Antibiotics are prescribed to deal with infections. All antibiotics kill helpful bacteria as well as the pathological ones. Scientists have discovered that the helpful intestinal bacteria are intimately involved in functions such as digesting and absorbing nutrients, producing vitamins, preventing various forms of cancer, detoxifying pollutants and metabolizing cholesterol. They also provide resistance against infections and support our body’ immune system. After taking an antibiotic it is essential to rebuild the helpful intestinal bacteria by eating “live” yogurt and taking large doses of helpful bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidus.
There are many natural alternatives to taking antibiotics that can be used. These include homeopathic preparations, Cranial Osteopathy for recurrent ear infections, Lymphatic Massage and children’s herbal preparations such as Echinacea.


To increase your child’s nutrition try to incorporate “super foods” into their diet. Super foods are foods that have particularly high nutrient values. They include green vegetables, fruits, omega rich eggs, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, flax seeds, brewers yeast, dark molasses, miso and plain live yogurt. (See suggestions and recipe.)
Green powders can provide many of the benefits of fruits and vegetables. They can be added to juices, smoothies, soups, or taken as capsules (Doctors for Nutrition Inc.)


Because of increased nutritional requirements most children will benefit from a good quality multivitamin. I would also recommend a good quality fish oil and helpful bacteria. With regard to specific individual nutrients it is best to work with a nutritionist to determine your unique requirements. Taking individual nutrients without a true understanding of their interactions and functions can be damaging.
There is a lot of confusion regarding choosing nutritional supplements. Many companies use binders and fillers, starches and sugars, artificial colors and preservatives. Not only do these reduce the availability of the nutrients, but they can also cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. In general, look for companies that participate in clinical trials and have certificates of analysis available. Choose capsules over tablets for increased availability and opt for lower dose preparations.

1. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1999 Jul;153(7):695-704
2. Dietz WH. Health Consequences of Obesity in Youth: Predictors of adult Disease. Pediatrics. 1998;101S(3):518S-525S
3. The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. Public Health Service, US Department of Health and Human Services. 1988;2
4. Miller BA et al. SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1973-1990. NIH. 1993;pub. No. 93-2789
5. Harel et al. Adolescents and Calcium. What they Do and Do Not Know and How Much They Consume. J Adolesc Health. 1998;22(3);225
6. Report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). October 22 1998
7. Mu~noz KA et al. Food Intakes of US Children and Adolescents Compared with Recommendations. Pediatrics. 1997;100:323-329
8. Hornicks S. Factors Affecting the Nutritional Quality of Crops. Am J Altern Agriculture. 1992;7:1


1. Add mashed cauliflower to mashed potato.
2. Finely grate vegetables into rice, sandwich fillings or pancakes.
3. Add fresh pressed vegetable juice or green powder to their favorite fruit juice.
4. Make “Popsicles” by freezing concentrated orange juice mixed with plain live yogurt.
5. Make nutritious smoothies by blending fresh fruit, ground flax seeds, molasses, raw nuts or seeds, yogurt, green powder.
6. Add pureed spinach to brownie recipes.
7. Add brewers yeast and molasses to gingerbread (see recipe).
8. Make French toast with whole wheat or multigrain bread. For those who do not like whole wheat bread try brown rice bread.
9. Mix raw almond butter with organic chocolate syrup and serve on apple slices.
10. Toast dulce seaweed in a dry pan till crisp then crumble onto popcorn.
11. Top ice cream with chopped nuts, ground flax seeds and fresh fruit puree.
12. Increase the nutrition of canned soups by adding fresh vegetables or miso.


Combine and stir well:
1/3 cup vegetable oil or apple sauce
1 egg
2/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup plain yogurt (or almond milk)
1/2up wheat germ

Sift into moist ingredients:
1 cup less 2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup brown rice protein
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine ingredients in no more than 20 strokes.
Pour into a grease 8” square loaf tin.
Bake at 350?F for 40 to 45 minutes – do not over bake.

Gluten free alternatives:
Replace flour with brown rice flour and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Replace wheat germ with brown rice bran