How to Spot Nutritional Deficiencies in Children

| Pregnancy & Parenting

Parents strive to create a healthy environment for their children all around: freshly prepared meals, active playtime outside, daily intake of vitamins and minerals. But even with the best efforts, some children still lack in nutrition. And oftentimes, the conditions listed below are genetic in nature, but taking steps in the direction of healthy living might prevent some of these conditions from manifesting themselves. We at Skinny Mom do not try to make moms worry more than they already do (the worrying will never stop, even when your children are full grown adults), but spotting the signs of nutritional deficiencies will help you, as mothers, take the necessary steps to ensure that the loves of your lives have the highest immunity possible.

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Depression and anxiety: Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and they help produce neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These are all happy hormones! A lack of amino acids, which are richly present in animal proteins, can lead to unhappiness in our young ones because those hormones are not being readily produced. A diet with a fair amount of complete proteins will help correct this imbalance. Sources of complete proteins are eggs, milk, yogurt, meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Protein is incredibly important in aiding growth, brain development and healthy bones in young children.

>> Click here to read some expert tips on feeding your picky eaters.

Irritability: Cranky and random mood swings can be a sign that your child has an iron deficiency, which is one of the most common deficiencies seen in young children. Along with mood swings, more signs of iron deficiency are pallor, brittle nails and loss of appetite. Combat this early on by providing your kids with a diet high in animal proteins, legumes, dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried fruits and fortified cereals.

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Head sweating: Excessive head sweating, especially in newborns, is considered by physicians to be the first sign of vitamin D deficiency. Along with head sweats, achey bones and fatigue are classic signs that they are lacking in vitamin D. Your children can get daily sources of vitamin D from fish like herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna, and other foods like orange juice that have vitamin D added to them. Optimizing your children's vitamin D levels can help protect them against cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases and infections.

Hyperactivity: To help with your child's hyperactivity, even if they have been diagnosed with ADHD, decrease their consumption of processed foods. Limit sugars and processed foods because these stimulate energy to the brain but cause your child to crash soon afterward. A diet full of complete proteins, fewer simple carbohydrates and more omega-3 fatty acids will help tame the symptoms of lack of focus and hyperactivity.

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Teeth deformities and increased cavities: While cavities are often brought on by eating lots of sugary foods, any deformation in the bone is often caused by a lack of proper minerals and fat soluble vitamins. Children are at a higher risk of developing bone problems because they are still in periods of rapid growth. Children who do not eat enough fish, eggs or milk (foods that are high in calcium) are at risk of developing bone problems, such as rickets.

Lumpy or asymmetrical tongue. A signal that your child may be lacking in B vitamins is a patchy or lumpy tongue. B vitamins are important to the body's use of food for energy. A change in the color of the tongue can also be indicative of a lack of B vitamins. When the digestive track is in symbiosis, the tongue should appear slightly pink with organized tastebuds. Nuts such as almonds, pecans and peanuts are a great source of B vitamins.

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Speech and language delays. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause serious developmental delays in children, which can often place them at risk for permanent brain injury. This vitamin is important in the production of the myelin sheath around nerves and conducting nerve impulses. Vitamin B12 deficiency is actually quite common, and can be combatted by increasing the intake of organ meats, beef, poultry, seafood, dairy and eggs. There are no plant or grain sources of B12!

Overweight: Eating large amounts of processed foods will actually leave your children feeling hungrier than before because these foods are not nutrient dense. Creating a diet full of nutrient-dense foods will leave your young ones feeling more satisfied and more energized.

Even though there is no such thing as the "perfect parent," all you can do is try to create a healthy and wonderful life for your kids. By feeding them fresh, satisfying food, you are secretly ensuring their health (and your mental sanity!). When they are energized with nutrient-dense food, children will feel more focused and be the happy, fun-loving kids they are supposed to be!