The nutritional requirements for kids and OAPs differ from those for adults and are not so easy to find.
Young people have different needs from adults as they have smaller bodies, which are also growing and developing. As a direct consequence of this kids will generally need less calories (kcals) and less of many of the vitamins and minerals. However due to their growth and development there are some nutrients which they need plenty of. For instance a 1 year old infant needs only about 1000 kcal per day compared to a typical 9 year old who needs about 2000kcals. A typical adult male needs 3000 kcals. Traditionally kids have been thought to need proportionately more of the minerals iron, calcium and vitamin D.
The iron is involved with normal brain development as well as in allowing the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues. Kids are advised to consume as much iron as adults, 5-10mg daily. As such they need to consume good iron sources. This puts a vegetarian baby at a distinct disadvantage, as the non-heme iron in vegetables is at least two time less potent than the heme iron found in animal sources. Foods high in iron include liver, kidney, egg yolks and red meat. Some of the best vegetarian iron sources include nuts (pistachios especially), parsley and spinach. If not supplementing, a vegetarian infant or kid should consume a lot of these iron-containing vegetarian foods.
Calcium and vitamin D.
These two nutrients are required among other things for the building of healthy bones. As with iron the requirements for infants and kids are assumed to be equivalent to those of adults. Oily fish such as sardines are good sources of both. Dairy produce and eggs are also good sources as are soya products.
There are many foods and drinks which kids should have less of as they can adversely affect their development. Particular care should be taken not to give youngsters too much salt and sugar. Needless to say, alcohol should also be kept to a minimum as it can affect brain development and behaviour. There are also some additives such as food colours that can affect behaviour and development. These should be avoided if possible.
As we age are ability to process certain nutrients often diminishes. It is a time when a good healthy diet is more crucial than ever. A fact that seems to be lost on the health authorities and many of those caring for the older generation. There are many factors at work. One is that digestive efficiency diminishes leaving more nutrients to be flushed away. Another is that most old people in Western nations are on medications that change their need for nutrients or affect their appetite. A final factor is that many old people become less active reducing their overall need for calories. This can make it more difficult to get enough of particular nutrients as they simply may not be eating enough.
Having enough to drink, especially for those in care homes can be a key issue for the elderly. Their sense of thirst often does not work as well as when they were younger and the consequent dehydration can lead to drowsiness and confusion. This can be exacerbated if the kidneys are not working properly.
There is a case for careful supplementation for older adults. For the reasons mentioned above, they are often short on some key nutrients and have difficulty eating enough to ensure they get them in their natural diet. Any supplements should be checked for possible adverse interactions. This is where a nutritional therapist may be of use. There are some books available that detail all the intereactions for most medicines. in the UK the Nurse Prescribers Formulary is one.
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