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6 Common Nutrition Deficiencies in Picky Eaters

Medically Reviewed by May Zhu, RDN | Published April 01, 2024

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Picky eating is a familiar phase among kids, but it can lead to various nutritional deficiencies that affect their growth and overall health. Recognizing and addressing these deficiencies is paramount for ensuring the well-being of our little ones. In this blog post, we'll explore prevalent nutritional deficiencies seen in picky eaters, backed by scientific research and statistical insights.

Potassium 

Potassium is crucial for muscle and nerve function in kids. In addition, it is also an important electrolyte to help kiddos maintain hydration and fluid balance in ther bodies. Potassium deficiencies in kids can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, or cramping. The risk for potassium deficiencies are higher in kids who have inflammatory bowel disease or taking diuretics or laxatives

​​To help prevent deficiency, parents can introduce a diverse variety of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, oranges, potatoes or spinach into their kids' diets. Consuming magnesium-rich foods can also help complement potassium intake, since magnesium helps regulate potassium levels in the body. 

Begin Health Expert Tip

For more resources to help support your picky eater, check out our blog post here:  10 Strategies to Tackle Picky Eating from a Registered Dietitian.

Vitamin D

50% of toddlers ages 1 to 5 and 70% of kids ages 6 to 11 have a vitamin D deficiency. This is primarily due to limited dietary sources and inadequate sun exposure. Vitamin D is vital for bone health, immune function, and mood regulation. Its deficiency can lead to weakened bones and increased susceptibility to infections.

To boost vitamin D levels, encourage outdoor activities and include vitamin D-rich foods such as fortified dairy products, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and egg yolks in kids' diets. In regions with limited sunlight, vitamin D supplements may be necessary.

Begin Health Expert Tip

Did you know that 95% of kids do not meet their daily recommended fiber intake? Make it easy for your kiddo to consume enough fiber to support a healthier digestion withDaily Growing Up Prebiotics, a tasteless and textureless prebiotic formula made for kids ages 1 years and up. Each serving provides 3g of prebiotic-rich fiber to help your kids get the nutrients they need for good gut health. 

Calcium

Calcium deficiency is a significant concern among picky eaters, particularly those who avoid dairy products. Calcium plays a crucial role in bone development and muscle function. Inadequate intake can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

Sources of calcium can be found in tofu, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice.

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Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more prevalent in picky eaters following vegetarian or vegan diets.Vitamin B12 essential for nerve function and red blood cell production. Its deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and neurological issues. If your kiddo is following a vegetarian or vegan diet, a Vitamin B12 supplement may be helpful to help support your kid’s diet. 

Zinc 

Zinc deficiency is common among picky eaters who avoid zinc-rich foods like meat, seafood, and legumes. Zinc is essential for immune function, wound healing, and growth. Inadequate intake can impair immune responses and delay growth in kids. Zinc-rich foods include lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts, and seeds. 

Summary

Picky eaters are prone to various nutritional deficiencies, including iron, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc deficiencies, which can impact their growth and development. Recognizing these common deficiencies and taking proactive steps to address nutrient gaps is vital for ensuring the health and well-being of our kiddos.

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  • [1] Bortolini, G. A., Vitolo, M. R., & Gubert, M. B. (2015). Iron deficiency in children: a challenge in pediatric nutrition. Nutrients, 7(1), 1-20.
  • [2] Rajakumar, K. (2003). Vitamin D, cod-liver oil, sunlight, and rickets: a historical perspective. Pediatrics, 112(2), e132-e135.
  • [3] Weaver, C. M. (2014). Calcium requirements of physically active people. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(5), 957S-964S.
  • [4] Pawlak, R., Lester, S. E., & Babatunde, T. (2014). The prevalence of cobalamin deficiency among vegetarians assessed by serum vitamin B12: a review of literature. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68(5), 541-548.
  • [5] Wessells, K. R., & Brown, K. H. (2012). Estimating the global prevalence of zinc deficiency: results based on zinc availability in national food supplies and the prevalence of stunting. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e50568.