Nutritionist reveals vital nutrients often lacking in children's diets - is your child getting enough?

Proper nutrient intake is the foundation of a child's energy levels, cognitive abilities, and overall health.

19 May 2024 10:00am
Picture source : Free stock images
Picture source : Free stock images

Ensuring children receive adequate nutrition is crucial for their growth and development as proper nutrient intake is the foundation of a child's energy levels, cognitive abilities, and overall health.

Recognising the significance of nutrition, nutritionist Natalie Loo emphasises the importance of monitoring children's energy levels, bowel movements, and sleep quality as indicators of their health.

Natalie shared her insights on current eating habits among children and highlighted several deficiencies in their diets.

"When we look at their eating habits, I believe there are many things that children need. However, we don't know how to promote healthy eating to them," she said in the Mum2Mum panel discussion held in FarmFresh, UPM yesterday.


Natalie identified key nutrients that are often lacking in children's diets.

"The first thing lacking in children's health for their growth and development is protein.

"We have protein in milk, we have protein in meat, we have protein in eggs, we have protein in fish. This is essential as children, from ages one to 12, are always growing," she explained.

In addition to protein, Natalie stressed the importance of fat-rich foods, which are crucial for brain health and development.

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"To strengthen children, we need fat-rich foods. These are very important for brain health, growth, and development.

"Unfortunately, these are often missing from children's diets," she said.

Nutritionist Natalie Loo
Nutritionist Natalie Loo

Natalie also highlighted a significant deficiency in vitamins and minerals, adding that the main nutrients lacking in children's diets now are vitamins and minerals.

"If we look into fortified foods, highly fortified foods do not have many vitamins and minerals and we also notice that children rarely eat natural foods like fruits and vegetables," she noted.


To address these deficiencies, Natalie advises parents to closely observe and understand their children's behavior and lifestyle.

Parents need to be very detailed in understanding how their children behave and live, Natalie said while offering three key areas for parents to monitor.

"First, we can look at children's energy levels. Their energy levels when they focus on studying, and their energy levels when they play.

"Do they tell you that they feel very tired after playing a game of soccer for an hour? Having a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates will only give them a brief burst of energy. But if they do not get enough nutrients throughout the day, they will see a lack of energy," she said.

Secondly, Natalie urged parents to be attentive to children's bowel movements every day.

"Children's bowel movements, are they actually having smooth bowel movements every day or every two to three days? Parents should always ask.

"I had a client who came to me, he was 14 years old, and he had not gone to the toilet for bowel movements in six months. His eating habits were very bad; he had been eating a lot of processed foods," she said.

"The third is sleep quality. Are they sleeping well throughout the night? If not, parents must ensure they eat well," Loo advised.

"Get the nutrients they need—protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals to ensure they sleep well throughout the night. So they can have a good recovery, and they can grow well, they can develop, they can thrive in a healthy manner."


Promoting healthy eating habits among children is not just about what they eat but how their bodies respond to their diet.

By paying close attention to energy levels, digestive health, and sleep quality, parents can better understand their children's nutritional needs and take proactive steps to ensure they receive a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients.

Natalie expertise provides a valuable guide for parents striving to foster healthier eating habits in their children, emphasising the critical role that nutrition plays in their overall well-being and development.

Speaking at the same event, prominent singer Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza shares her experience of handling the transformative motherhood phases of her life.

"I make sure my kids get the best things to eat," she says, emphasising the importance of nutrition in her children's growth and development.

When it comes to vegetables, Siti is particularly discerning where she will only opt for ogranic meals and vegetables.

For Siti, being a mother means taking on the responsibility of ensuring that her children receive only the best.

"As mums, we have to find something good for our kids," she states, highlighting the meticulous care and effort she puts into selecting their food.

Siti's approach to her children's diet is thorough and informed. She stresses the importance of understanding food labels and making educated choices.

"I do a lot of reading, as it's important to be informed," Siti adds, demonstrating her commitment to being well-informed to support her children's growth in the best possible way.

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