Foster children – The Importance of Health and Nutrition
Foster carers should have a good basic understanding of the health needs of the children within their care, focusing on a holistic approach to health. They should specifically look at the physical, nutritional and emotional/ mental health aspects of health and the need for balance in these areas for optimal good health for looked after children. Foster carers must also consider the spiritual aspects, which may come into the discussion but will be varied as this is a subjective area depending on religious beliefs or spiritual standing.
Foster Carers work with children from backgrounds where there has been disruption in their lives, which without a doubt pertain to their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. So when they start to think about health they must take a broad approach to it.
The nutritional values in food will/ will not have an impact on the stability and behavioural fundamentals of a child. There has been much research into this over the past 10 years, and it is proven that many foods can have an allergic reaction in children and can also cause hyperactivity in children.
Good Health can mean many things, but for the purpose of considering the health needs of fostered children, foster carers need to be explicit in their understanding.
To ensure good nutrition in children and that they grow up healthy, they will need to eat a large variety of foods. The amount of foods that they eat is much less important. Remember that children’s appetite may decrease and become pickier over the years as his/her growth rate slows. As long as they are gaining weight and have a normal activity level, then you have little to worry about. You can still offer them a variety of foods, but can decrease the serving sizes if they don’t eat a lot.
The best nutrition advice to keep your child healthy includes encouraging her/him to:
- Eat a variety of foods
- Balance the food you eat with physical activity
- Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits
- Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
- Choose a diet moderate in sugars and salt
- Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet their growing body’s requirements.
The nutrition labels on food packaging can show you which foods contain the proper nutrients. Below is a breakdown of the essential vitamins and minerals that kids and teens need for different areas of growth and where to find them:
Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and normal growth, and it also helps vision and tissue repair. Vitamin A can be found in rich quantities in yellow and orange vegetables, dairy products, and liver.
Vitamin B helps the body produce red blood cells and assists in metabolic activities. Vitamin B is found in meat, poultry, fish, soy, milk, eggs, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals.
Vitamin C is the body’s tool for healing and fighting off infection, and it also strengthens tissue, muscles, and skin. For healthy doses of vitamin C, look to citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, brussel sprouts, spinach, and broccoli.
Vitamin D helps the body form and maintains strong teeth and bones and assists with the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products and in fish oils. Adequate exposure to sunlight is also a way to get enough vitamin D. Sunlight stimulates the vitamin, which naturally occurs in the skin, to become active in the body. (Remember not to stay in the sun too long without SPF protection.)
Iron is important for kids, especially during periods of accelerated growth. Iron contributes to the production of blood and the building of muscles. Beef, turkey, fish, beans, and fortified breads and cereals are excellent sources of iron.
Calcium is vital for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Consuming inadequate amounts during childhood can affect growth and development, but it can also lead to weak, fragile, and porous bones (potentially leading to osteoporosis later in life). Calcium is found in low-fat milk, sardines, yogurt, and cheese. It is also present in lesser amounts in vegetables such as broccoli.