Signs of Nutrient Deficiencies in Kids

 Has going grain-free proven to be your ticket to better health?  

Or maybe cutting out that dairy has finally given you respite from that nagging chest congestion and those unsightly pimples you used to have on your chin all the time?

And you can certainly see a trend between when you upped your veggies and wild fish and cut down on those sugary energy bars and the ‘healthy’ trail mix you used to snack on.

However, for some reason, when it comes to the kids, you’re still wondering if it can be safe for them not to drink milk; after all, what if their bones don’t develop properly? And you’re also sure that if little two-year-old Mikey doesn’t have his chicken nuggets, he’ll throw a tantrum and just not eat.

As a result of this exact line of thinking, many parents, despite having developed healthy habits of their own, fret about the safety of a long term, real paleo diet-inspired approach for the little ones.

And it’s not just a matter of having the occasional serving of chips or a cookie here and there.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids ages 2-18 get most of their calories from two foods/food groups[1]: Milk and Cakes/cookies/quick bread/pastry/pie!

Also, kids get their carbohydrates primarily from soft drinks and rolls. Their fat comes mainly from cheese and from crackers/popcorn/pretzels/chips.

It’s not that parents don’t know that giving boxed macaroni and cheese or frozen kids’ pizza to their children aren’t the healthiest options.

Rather, according to an article in Psychology Today, parents feed their children poorly because it makes the wheels of family life run smoothly[2].

The piece lists the top reasons why parents are likely to supply their kids with poor quality food:

  • We don’t believe children are capable of liking healthy food.
  • We think that childhood means eating candy, cookies, and cake.
  • We like making our kids happy.
  • We want our children to eat, reliably (so we can close the kitchen).
  • We don’t want to have a fight every day, every meal.
  • We’re sick and tired of throwing out food that our kids don’t touch.
  • We’ve tried, really tried, to teach our children to eat fruits and vegetables. We can’t think of anything else to try. We’re tired.
  • We don’t think our kids eat that poorly because we make sure they eat at least one veggie per day. And those chicken nuggets? They have protein.
  • We don’t want our children to be hungry.
  • Our kids like this food, and there’s nothing we can do about it

Isn’t it ironic then, that many parents are feeding their kids a diet comprised of milk and cakes/cookies, yet when presented with the idea that Paleo could be a viable option, the concern is expressed that it could be too restrictive, limiting or lead to nutrient deficiencies?

If an eating regime consisting of local, in season, fresh leafy greens and all veggies that are available where you live, plus wild proteins and natural fats is the way to go for adults, with its endless health benefits, why would smaller sized humans be any different?

There’s no question that breast milk is the healthiest food source for infants and if mom’s Paleo, baby is too!

For the first year of a baby’s life, nutrition should come from mother’s breast milk as often as possible. Babies grow quickly and getting adequate nutrition is paramount. Breastfeeding provides a baby with all the nutrients he or she needs to develop. Breastfeeding also transfers healthy bacteria from the mother’s digestive tract, supporting healthy digestion later in life. In traditional hunter-gatherer societies, babies breastfeed for years, an uncommon choice nowadays.   Families can eat a Paleo diet that is varied and ensures adequate nutrition for their children[3].

After weaning off mother’s milk, roughly around age of 2, your kids have grown enough teeth to be able to enjoy the same, delicious foods you prepare for the grown-ups in the family.

By providing them with foods representative of the nutrient rich, anti inflammatory approach that is Paleo, you’re giving them a ‘gift to take with them as they head down the road for a lifetime of health and longevity’, as Dr. Loren Cordain mentions in an article on his site[4].

If you’re still feeling skeptical, knowing what signs to look out for in terms of nutrient deficiencies to look out for in your kids, keep in mind that the two most common deficiencies seen in children who are growing normally are iron and vitamin D[5].

Signs and symptoms include weakness, fatigue, decreased immune function, rickets or osteoporosis and respiratory function.

Other indicators that something is lacking in your children’s diet include behavioral problems such as hyperactivity or inconsistent emotions as well as dry skin or hair.

Dr. Weston A. Price also writes about crowded teeth as being indicators of nutritional deficiencies in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration[6].

Physical indicators such as obesity, frequent colds and flu and dental cavities can also be a sign that something isn’t right.

A complete physical including a comprehensive blood panel such as the Spectra Cell analysis[7], or a similar full work up can be instrumental in correcting any deficiencies as soon as possible in order to ensure your kids aren’t in danger of hampering their development during the crucial early formative years.

If you’re on the fence, consult with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath that you’ve done your due diligence researching and collaborate to create the best balance for your kids, your family and the health of everyone involved.

Real food, when presented as the delicacy that it is, can prove to be just what the (functional medicine) doctor ordered!

[1] Ogata, B. N. and D. Hayes. 2014. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 114(8): 1257-76

[2] “I Understand Why Parents Feed Their Kids Unhealthy Foods.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 15 Sept. 2014

[3] “Is the Paleo Diet Safe for Kids?” The Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015

[4] “Raising Paleo Children Tips and Tricks | The Paleo Diet.” The Paleo Diet. N.p., 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Aug. 2015

[5] “Nutritional Deficiencies during Normal Growth.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. We

[6] Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. La Mesa, CA: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 2008