The lack of variety in the diet of a fussy eater compromises their intake of fiber and essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This lack of micronutrients in the child’s diet, along with the small tummy size and high nutrition needs, together causes a nutrition gap.
Insufficient intake of essential micronutrients may lead to ‘hidden hunger’ (deficiency of micronutrients) in apparently healthy looking children with consequences such as:
- Not being able to reach the full potential for growth and mental development
- Having low resistance to day-to-day infections, due to a weakened immune system
- Risk of obesity in future, if the diet is only energy dense (e.g. sweets) and not nutrient dense
A number of micronutrients are required for overall development of your child; some of these are highlighted below:
- Zinc: Promotes normal growth and development and aids in fighting infections.
- Vitamin A: Aids clear vision in dim light; helps maintain a healthy immune system and in fighting infections.
- Iron: An essential component of red blood cells; its deficiency may lead to anemia, frequent infections, tiredness, delay in reaching the developmental milestones and cognitive development (learning abilities).
- B-complex vitamins: Essential for normal neurological and skin health.
- Vitamin C: Essential for healthy gums; its inclusion in the diet is vital, as it helps the body absorb iron.
- Vitamin D: Needed for healthy bones and teeth; its deficiency may lead to poor growth; delayed teething.
- Calcium: Needed for building strong teeth and bones, an efficient nervous system, and for proper muscle action.
It is therefore essential to enhance your child’s diet by including micronutrient-dense foods. Ensure that the diet has all food groups such as grains, eggs, milk and other dairy products, meat, and fish, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget–the inclusion of fats is equally important, as fats help absorb micronutrients. You can also provide your child fortified foods, which will provide these nutrients in required quantities and help support bridge the nutrient gap.