Frequently Asked Questions


I. Healthy Living and Eating Well in Childhood

II. Benefits of taking vitamins

III. The benefits of the vitamins found in Fitvits and Peppa Pig supplements

IV. Dealing with children who are fussy/picky eaters



I. Healthy Living and Eating Well in Childhood

Ensuring your child has a nutritionally balanced diet and maintains a healthy weight will help them to stay well now and in the future. A balanced and varied diet will provide sufficient energy and nutrients to maintain normal physiological functions and to give the best protection against the risk of disease.

Growing children need plenty of energy and nutrients to ensure they grow and develop well. A healthy diet for growing children comprises of three regular meals a day, including breakfast and two to three additional snacks between meals. In addition to having regular meals, it is also important for children to get a variety of foods from the different food groups so that they get all the nutrients they need.

The five food groups

  1. Breads, other cereals and potatoes - These starchy foods, which include pasta, rice, yams and chapattis, provide energy, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Each child's meal from 5 years and upwards should be base around these foods. Where possible, children should be encouraged to eat some wholegrain varieties, for example, using wholegrain breads, pasta and rice. Wholegrain varieties provide fibre that is important for regulating bowel movements.
  2. Fruit and vegetables - These provide fibre, vitamins and minerals and are a source of antioxidants which helps to keep the heart healthy. Children should eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily and ideally they should be of differing varieties of fruit and vegetables.
  3. Milk and dairy foods - These dairy foods provide calcium for healthy bones and teeth, protein for growth, plus vitamins and minerals. Children should be having 3 portions of dairy a day.
  4. Meat, fish and non dairy alternatives - These foods, which also include eggs, tofu and pulses, provide protein, vitamins and minerals. Pulses are also a good source of fibre. Protein is needed for growth and tissue repair and replacement. Meat products also contain B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper and high levels of iron. Iron is a key nutrient during growth since it is a component of muscle and blood. Children should have some protein rich foods 2 or 3 times a day.

    Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring, are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which play an important role in brain development. Oily fish should be offered at least once a week but limited to 4 servings a week for boys and 2 servings for girls.
  5. Foods and drinks high in fat and sugar - The fifth food group contains foods and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar. These foods should be limited as they provide extra energy and very few nutrients. Foods in group include crisps, chocolate, pastries, pies, chips, sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks etc.

    Children do need some fat in their diets for energy and also because dietary fats provide essential nutrients such as fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Processed, fried food like pies, pastries, cakes, chips and crisps contain saturated fat which is unhealthy fat. In excess, too much saturated fat can be one risk factor that leads to heart disease.

    Healthy fats are found in oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds and olive and rapeseed oil. These healthy fats should be included in children's diets in small amounts. Young children under the age of five years need a higher proportion of fat in their diets compared to older children to help support their rapid growth and development in the earlier years.

II. Benefits of taking vitamins

Growing children that don't eat a varied diet sometimes do not get enough vitamin A and C and it is also difficult to get enough Vitamin D through food alone. Young children are likely to not be getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need as they are still learning about new foods and often can be fussy/picky eaters, click here for information and advice on Dealing with children who are fussy/picky eaters. The Department on Health recommends that young children under the age of 5 years should take a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D to ensure the child gets everything they need. If young children are taking approximately 500ml (1 pint) of infant formula then a supplement may not be necessary as the infant formula contains added vitamins.

There are huge benefits in giving a multivitamin to those children that are not having a healthy balanced diet daily and to young children. A multivitamin supplement will provide your child with the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and some minerals that they need for healthy growth and development; parents and carers can therefore be reassured that their child is getting everything she/he needs.

Who may benefit from taking a multivitamin?

  • Children who do not consume the recommended portion of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Children that are fussy/picky eaters and therefore do not have a wide variety of foods in their diet.
  • Young children who are still learning to eat a variety of foods.
  • Children who have a high intake of processed, convenience and fast food.
  • Children who aren't eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh that include whole foods.
  • Children that may find it hard to follow a balanced diet if, for any reason, they have to change their diet due to dietary related problems or religious/cultural beliefs. For example, children may have to change their diets if they have certain food allergies and some children may be following strict vegetarian or vegan diets. Exclusion of foods which are major nutrient contributors such as milk and dairy products or wheat, can seriously compromise nutritional status in children so a multi-vitamin is necessary to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

III. The benefits of the vitamins found in Fitvits and Peppa Pig supplements

All vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your child needs in small amounts so their body can work properly. The listed vitamins and minerals below are all found in Fitvits and Peppa Pig nutritional vitamins range and give information on how each of these vitamins and minerals are beneficial to our child's health.

Vitamin A
  • Vitamin A plays an important role in children's health by strengthening their immune system, improving their vision in dim light, maintaining healthy skin and promoting tissue and bone repair.
  • Good sources include dairy products, dark green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, fortified fat spreads, yellow to orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.
Vitamin C
  • Vitamin C is important for your child's general health and helps strengthen and boost their immune system. A good intake of Vitamin C also helps to absorb iron in the body.
  • Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables and good sources include citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and green vegetables like broccoli.
Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D is important for bone and tooth health. It promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Young children who are deficient in Vitamin D can develop rickets, which is a softening of the bone.
  • The best source of Vitamin D is from the summer sun, through absorption through the children's skin. It is hard to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone as it only occurs naturally in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs. It is also added to some foods such as breakfast cereals and margarines.
Vitamin E
  • Vitamin E plays an important role in the immune system, DNA repair, and other metabolic processes.
  • Good sources of Vitamin E include: oily fish, nuts and seeds, unrefined corn oil, avocado and wheat germ oil.
Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the functioning of the brain and nervous system, and is necessary for the formation and maturation of the red blood.
  • Good sources of Vitamin E include: oily fish, nuts and seeds, unrefined corn oil, avocado and wheat germ oil.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B5 is needed to break down fats, carbohydrates and protein from the food we eat, so that our bodies can use them for energy and rebuilding tissue, muscles and organs.
  • Vitamin B5 is found in both plants and animals including meat, eggs, milk, vegetables, cereal grains, and legumes.
Folic Acid
  • Folic acid, also known as Folate is one of the B-group vitamins. Folic acid has several important functions including: working together with Vitamin B12 in the formation and maturation of red blood cells, and helping to reduce the risk of central nervous defects in unborn babies.
  • Folic acid is found naturally in a variety of foods and is added to some foods. Good sources include: spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, peas, chick peas, oranges and orange juice, wheat bran and other wholegrain foods, chicken, pork, shellfish, liver and fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals.
Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the functioning of the brain and nervous system, and is necessary for the formation and maturation of the red blood.
  • Good sources of Vitamin E include: oily fish, nuts and seeds, unrefined corn oil, avocado and wheat germ oil.
Calcium
  • Calcium helps build strong, healthy bones as a child grows. It also plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth and gums in children.
  • Dairy products are the best sources of calcium including milk, cheese and yogurt, but you will also find a good amount of calcium in tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, sardines, salmon and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Omega 3, 6 and 9
  • Omega 3 and 6 is the name of a type of fat that is found in oil-rich fish and some plant oils. It's from the family of 'good' fats - polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are not only beneficial for health but are essential in the diet. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are called essential fatty acids as your body cannot produce them on its own, they have to be ingested. These essential fatty acids support the learning and development needs of growing children. They are very important for brain development and immune system function.
    • The best sources of omega 3 and omega 6 are seeds, nuts and grains and green leafy vegetables, like lettuce, broccoli and kale, oily fishes, flaxseeds and walnuts.
  • Omega 9 is another fatty acid but is not an essential fatty acid because our bodies can make omega 9 from unsaturated fat in our bodies. Omega-9 has health benefits by lowering cholesterol levels, promoting healthy inflammation responses within the body, improving immune function, and providing protection against certain types of cancer.
    • Good sources of omega 9 include olive oil, olives, avocados, sesame oil and nuts.

IV. Dealing with children who are fussy/picky eaters

What if my child refuses to eat all the healthy foods?

It can become very stressful trying to aim for a healthy diet if there doesn't seem to be many foods that your child will eat.

Childhood is the time when your child experiments new tastes and textures of food and develops food-related habits and behaviours. Remember that while healthy eating is very important, it is normal for children to go through phases of refusing to eat certain foods or at times refusing to eat any foods at all.

It is important to offer foods from each of the food groups every day but try not to be discouraged if foods are refused.

A healthy child will not starve through food refusal and most children grow out of fussy eating with no harmful effects.

Common reasons why children refuse foods are:
  • The child knows that if they don't eat the food then the parent/carer will give in and give them something they want to eat (often these foods are not very healthy foods).
  • The child wants attention from the parent/carer and often if they refuse to eat certain foods then this creates conflict at home and can cause the parent/carer to worry. The child will then see this as a way of gaining attention and the problem will get worse.
  • The child has experienced force feeding in the form of the parent/carer feeding the child and coaxing them on to eat more of the food that the child is refusing.
Tips to help!

Try some of the following to see is this helps:

  • Sit with the child at a table during meals or snacks and encourage the child to eat family meals.
  • Continue to offer the food even if they initially refuse it. It may take 10-20 times of seeing a new food before a child will try it.
  • Be a positive role model. Role model eating and enjoying healthy foods.
  • Eat in a calm, relaxed area, without the distraction of the television or toys.
  • Don't hurry the child to eat but don't let meals drag on for too long either-30 minutes is a good time limit.
  • If your child is not eating the meal, don't cause a fuss and give him/her attention, talk about other things and make the experience enjoyable. If he/she eats then praise good behaviour and offer a non-food related reward like taking them to the park. If they leave the food then just take the plate away without any comment.
  • You can use star charts or can set goals and rewards to try and encourage them to try new foods.
  • Do not offer alternatives if your child does not eat the food offered. By offering alternatives will only give out the message to your child that they will always get something else to eat if they refuse the meal. Simply take the food away and do not give them anything else until their next meal or snack.
  • NEVER force feed your child. This will make the problem worse and cause bigger problems in the future.
  • Allow your child to play with the food, use their fingers and make a mess; this helps them to learn about new textures of foods.
  • Involve your child in the cooking process; get them to help you with tasks like stirring the food and chopping vegetables (depending on their age and ensuring they are supervised).
  • If your child will only eat chips or waffles out of the starchy food group then start by giving them a food that is of a similar texture/consistency, e.g. roast potatoes then move on to boiled potatoes/mashed potatoes.
Which foods to give and when?
  • Children ideally need 3 meals a day and 2-3 additional snacks between meals.
  • Children have small appetites and large portions of food will overwhelm them. Give them small portions of food at meal times and only when these are finished should you offer more.
  • Allow children to feed themselves. Offering finger foods can sometimes help; try sandwiches, sausages, cheese slices, crackers, vegetable slices, pieces of fruit.
  • Giving children fizzy drinks, squash, milk, crisps or biscuits can fill them up. This means that they may have a smaller appetite for food at meal times. Avoid giving snacks too close to meal times.
  • Milk is a nutritious drink but should not replace meals. Too much milk can lead to children refusing to eat. Limit milk to approximately a pint a day.

Benefits of Omega 3, 6 and 9

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are the names of two types of fats that are found in oil-rich fish and some plant oils. They are from the family of 'good' fats - polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are not only beneficial for health but are essential in the diet. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are called essential fatty acids as your body cannot produce them on its own, they have to be ingested.

Omega 3
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are the two omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon and trout. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is another omega-3 fatty acid, it is found in plant oils such as flaxseed (linseed) and perilla and smaller amounts can be found in walnut, canola and soy. Perilla seed oil is the best source of the omega 3 fatty acid ALA as it contains the highest proportion compared to flaxseed. Perilla is converted by the body into DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA have anti-inflammatory properties and there is some evidence that dietary supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids can be beneficial in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis. There is also significant evidence that has shown that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure, by lower triglycerides (a blood lipid that can increase risk of heart disease and stroke if at high levels in the body), and preventing abnormal heart rhythms (fast/slow hear rates). Apart from helping to reduce inflammation and helping to lower the risk of chronic diseases, it is thought that omega-3 fatty acids can improve brain functions. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and evidence suggests that they appear to be important for brain memory, performance and behavioural functions (some research has shown a slight improvement on children with attention disorder). There is also evidence that infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, heart problems, poor memory, mood swings or depression and poor circulation.

Omega 6
Omega-6 fatty acid (Linoleic Acid) combined with omega-3 fatty acids produces many of the health benefits described above. Omega 6 is found in a wide range of foods, including most grains and oils made from grains like corn oil, seeds, nuts and green leafy vegetables, like lettuce, broccoli and kale. Omega 6 plays an important part in the body and has properties that reduce inflammation and help with normal immune functions. However, too much omega 6 fatty acid may promote an overactive immune system. It is therefore really important to get the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 correct. You should be eating about twice as much omega-6 as omega-3, so that your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1 to be able to get the health benefits from these fatty acids. This fatty acid plays a role in promoting heart health by supporting healthy, balanced cholesterol levels and improving immune function.

Omega 9
Omega 9 is another fatty acid but is not an essential fatty acid because our bodies can make omega 9 from unsaturated fat (omega-3 and omega-6) in our bodies. However, if you do not have enough omega-3 and omega-6, then you must get omega 9 from your diet.

Omega-9 has health benefits by promoting healthy inflammation responses within the body, improving immune function, lowering cholesterol levels and providing protection against certain types of cancer.

Good sources of omega 9 include olive oil, olives, avocados, sesame oil and nuts.

Essential winter vitamins

Winter is the time when most of us suffer from colds, flu and other illnesses. The body and the immune system are weakened during the winter season and we become more susceptible to infections, colds and flu. It is for that reason that we need to make sure we are following a healthy balanced diet and getting all the vitamins and minerals we need to reduce the risk of catching any illnesses. There are some vitamins that have been proven to help keep you in optimum health during those cold days of winter.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C does not prevent the common cold or flu but it does decrease the length and severity of the symptoms. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and protects the body against disease and it is vital for the production ofn collagen which is used to build body tissue and bones. Main food sources: Eating a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables every day and aiming to have 5 portions a day will give you a good intake of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries and cranberries are excellent sources of vitamin C and green vegetables (cabbage, broccoli) and potatoes all contain good levels of vitamin C. Be sure to choose a mixture of fruits and vegetables of different colours.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is important for repairing tissues needed for growth and development. It is also essential for strengthening the immune system and maintaining good eyesight. Having a balanced intake of Vitamin A in your diet will boost your immune system in those winter months. Main food sources: Good sources include dairy products, dark green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, fortified fat spreads, yellow to orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash

Vitamin D
Sunshine helps the body create vitamin D. Many people can become deficient in Vitamin D during winter due to a shortage of sunny days during the winter months. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness in adults. Main food sources: Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. Good food sources are oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, eggs, fortified fat spreads, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified milk.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant protecting cell membranes from damage and is thought to protect against some types of cancer as well as heart disease. Vitamin E also helps support peripheral blood circulation which can help alleviate cold hands and feet during the cold winter months. Main food source: Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources are plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil. Other good sources include nuts and seeds. Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and spinach) and cereals are also rich in vitamin E.

Vitamin B12
During the winter months a lot of us suffer with the “winter blues” where we have less energy and mood changes, including suffering from depression. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D are responsible for releasing oxygen to the brain and increasing serotonin levels (the "happy" chemical neurotransmitter). Therefore having a good intake of B12 can help boost your mood and will also give you that much needed energy boost which will help you get outside and exercise. Main food sources: Good sources of Vitamin B12 include meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. As most good sources of Vitamin B12 are from foods from animals, vegetarians may be deficient in Vitamin B12 and may need to take a supplement.

Iron
Iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. A good intake of iron is necessary for energy, which will help you stay active even when it is cold and dark outside. Being deficient in iron can cause anaemia, where the body is unable to transport oxygen around the body causing lethargy and tiredness. Vitamin C increases iron absorption so having some fruit after an iron rich meal or having a glass of juice with an iron rich meal will enhance your iron intake. Main food sources: Red meat is a rich source of iron. Other sources include cereal products fortified with iron, bread, flour, eggs, beans, lentils, spinach and dried fruit.

Zinc
Zinc works to boost your immune health and healing processes. Zinc also keeps your skin, hair and nails from getting brittle when it's cold and dry outside and will help you combat winter stress. Main food sources: Beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as oysters, crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products such as cheese.

Selenium
Selenium is a mineral that helps prevent cells and tissues from damage. It is an antioxidant and therefore strengthens the immune system and is thought to protect against cancer. Main food sources: Good food sources include meat, fish, eggs and brazil nuts but it is found grain cereals, milk, mushrooms and garlic

Omega-3
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid which means your body can not produce them and therefore they have to be ingested. Omega-3s helps with brain development, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of white blood cells that eat up bacteria. More relevant to winter months, Omega-3s help with depression, dry skin, brittle hair as well as rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain. Main food sources: Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3s, such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards and tinned salmon. Omega-3s are also found rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil and flaxseeds, walnut oil and walnuts, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds and brazil nuts.