As a nutritionist, I have been a huge advocate of balanced diet and creating healthy eating habits in children from start. For years, I guided mothers how to make vitamin-rich meals made from fresh ingredients for their kids and how to ensure good eating habits. Having firsthand experience with kids, I can assure you that kids during mealtimes are like SSG trained combatants who can counter your every well planned strategy and refuse to eat a single morsel of the “nutritionally balanced meal” that you have prepared for them.

But apart from being picky eaters and despite the efforts from mothers, an important question is that whether the kids still getting the required amount of nutrients from their meals or not? It becomes even a more important question when we talk about the micronutrients commonly known as vitamins and minerals.

We all have heard the famous sayings like “Calcium makes the bones strong” or “iron is necessary for blood formation”, but there is more to it than just iron or calcium. We need to highlight the need of other lesser known but important nutrients like Zinc and Vitamin D.

Zinc is vital for more than 70 enzymes required for digestion and metabolism. It boosts a child’s immunity and with its regular intake, the probability of child getting sick drops along with speedy recovery from diarrhea and normal colds. It also means that the kid would be far less picky and more likely to finish his meals in peace.

Rich sources of zinc include beef, wheat germ, sea food etc. Now beef is being avoided by many families including mine since the local butchers allegedly decided to sell the ‘donkey’ meat. On the other hand, the wheat flour we used is so refined that the germ part has been removed during milling processes. Hence, there go the two main sources of zinc right out of the window!

Next in line of fairly neglected nutrients is Vitamin D. We all are aware of role of calcium in building strong bones, tiny teeth in tots and developing firm skeletons for little ones. One thing that we don’t know is that without sufficient levels of Vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed by the bones and no matter how much calcium is present in diet; it will be simply useless in the body unless there is Vitamin D to make it useful.

One of the best sources of Vitamin D is sun; as sunlight initiates a process in human skin that can produce enough Vitamin D to fulfill body’s requirements. But how many hours do urban kids spend in sun? With shortage of playgrounds, parks, fear of unfiltered UV rays due to damaged ozone layer and security risks, most of the parents prefer that their kids play indoors where they can stay safe and monitored.

These are just two micronutrients; the list goes on and on. The fact is that the food we are serving our kids is mostly devoid of essential micronutrients that are necessary for their growth and development.

According to various researches conducted in Pakistan:

· Our harvests have such high levels of pesticides that they are condemned to be downright harmful for human consumption.

· The quality of fresh milk is inversely proportional to the dishonesty of your Dhoodh-wala.

· Out of 30 tetra packs companies in Pakistan, providing milk, only 7 have been redeemed fit to produce tetra pack milk.

· The milling process of flour use to produce refined flour results in loss of 7 key vitamins from the gem and husk of wheat.

So the question arises that does giving our kids the desired amount of veggies, fruits, cereals, milk and meat everyday is enough to provide them a balanced diet? Because our food sources clearly lack the vitamins and minerals necessary for our kids to grow and nourish. Then what is the solution?

My peers will probably thrash me for saying this but maybe it is time that we start taking supplementation of healthy disease free children more seriously. Supplementation both in forms of fortification of foods and in form of syrups and tablets can ensure that our kids are getting all the vital nutrients required by their tiny bodies to grow and flourish.

Even for families with little means supplementation can result in lesser illness and low risks of malnutrition. And for the mothers of picky eaters it may become one less reason to worry about the diet of your kid.