The following nutrients are considered essential for immunocompetence (a normal response to antigens). I’ve listed out a few food sources for these nutrients (because we all know kids don’t eat everything we serve them). For peace of mind, some of these nutrients are now added to common foods such as breads and cereals, but whole food sources are still our preference when you can.
I’ve added in the RDI for those interested but please don’t let the numbers scare or overwhelm you! Basically, if your little one is eating a variety of foods including some of the ones listed below it’s unlikely they are deficient. If you’re unsure, chat to your health care provider.
Vitamin A (RDI: 1-3y 300 µg/day, 4-8 400 µg/day)
- Orange and yellow skinned fruit/veg (sweet potato, carrots etc)
Real life way to add vitamin A: Baked sweet potato chips with dinner; steamed carrot with dinner or as a snack; scrambled egg.
Vitamin C (RDI: 1-8y 35mg/day)
Vitamin D (RDI: 5.0 µg/day)
- Safe sun exposure
- Fatty fish, like salmon
- Egg yolk
Vitamin E (RDI: 1-3y 5 mg/day, 4-8y 6 mg/day)
- Leafy greens
B2 (riboflavin) (RDI: 1-3y 0.5 mg/day, 4-8y 0.6 mg/day)
- Dark chicken meat (thighs etc)
B6 (pyridoxine) (RDI: 1-3y 0.5 mg/day, 4-8y 0.6 mg/day)
B12 (RDI: 1-3y 0.9 µg/day, 4-8y 1.2 µg/day)
- Meat/animal products
- Supplement if plant based
- Available via animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs or supplement.
Folic acid (as folate RDI: 1-3y 150 µg/day, 4-8y 200 µg/day)
- Leafy greens
- Bread (fortified)
Iron (RDI: 1-3y 9 mg/day, 4-8y 10mg/day)
- Fortified cereals
Selenium (RDI: 1-3y 25 µg/day, 4-8y 30 µg/day)
- Brazil nuts (in a butter/ground for kids)
Zinc (RDI: 1-3y 3 mg/day, 4-8y 4 mg/day)
If you’re worried your little one might be lacking, a nutritional review is a great idea alongside our Meal Time Success programs (where we use evidence based practical tools to encourage kids to eat a variety of foods). We encourage you to always be guided by your health care provider regarding supplements as some vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses (or possibly a waste of money if your child is not deficient).
In terms of viruses: nutrition, adequate sleep, avoiding prolonged stress and hygiene are important. There is some evidence to suggest vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C may reduce the severity and longevity of cold symptoms once a child is already sick (limited evidence for the virus that is front of mind right now), but these nutrients won't prevent a child from getting sick if they are exposed to a virus.
I know this is a big one but I hope it’s helpful and offers some peace of mind.
Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at meal times? I've got you mumma. Download my FREE First Steps to Meal Time Success guide today.
Krissy and the HNK Team.