Back to school nutrition

Pam Stone is one of Australia’s leading naturopaths and has some valuable advice on how to achieve better health naturally.

We all have a growing interest in managing our own health and that of our families. The National Health and Wellbeing Survey* revealed that 41% of Australian adults don’t feel informed enough about health issues and more than 45% wanted to know more about the natural alternatives available. In short, we want to be informed so we can make the best decisions about our own health and that of our kids’.


Managing your children’s nutrition is a constant struggle for many parents. With one in four children overweight and many young Australians getting less than their recommended dietary intake of essential vitamins and minerals, it’s more important than ever to be aware of what kids need to help them when they're at school.

According to a national dietary survey**

Kids 4 – 7 years

50% of boys get less than the RDI for calcium
75% of girls get less than the RDI for calcium

Kids 8 – 11 years

20% of boys get less than the RDI for vitamin A
75% of girls get less than the RDI for calcium
70% of girls get less than the RDI for zinc

Kids 12 – 15 years

84% of girls get less than the RDI for zinc
62% of girls get less than the RDI for iron
31% of boys get less than the RDI for vitamin A

What do your kids need these essential vitamins and minerals for?

  • Calcium is essential for growing bones and teeth
  • Vitamin C, A, zinc and iron build a strong immune system to defend your kids from illness
  • B group vitamins and magnesium help them get energy out of their food and promote a good appetite
  • Iron, folate and B12 are needed for growth and development
  • Vitamin A is essential for eye health and to help fight infections
  • Iron deficiency can be associated with impaired physical performance as well as affecting memory, concentration and performance.

How can you tell if your child is nutrient deficient?

While there is no simple test for identifying all nutrient deficiencies in children, fussy eaters and kids that indulge in convenience foods and snack foods would certainly be at risk. Your child’s behaviour may give you clues that they are not getting all they need. Things to look out for include:
  • Lack of energy, constant tiredness – kids should bound out of bed each morning
  • Any behaviour that is out of character
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical symptoms such as slow healing wounds or frequent infections.

What you can do about it…

  1. A dynamic diet - The main objective for a balanced diet is variety. Constantly introduce your kids to new foods, ensure there are plenty of different “colours” on their plate, take them shopping with you so they can help you select the different foods available for their meals. Zinc can be found in wholegrains and eggs, yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and yellow squash are brimming with vitamin A, dairy and soy products will ensure your child gets plenty of calcium and red meat and leafy green vegetables transport iron into growing bodies.
  2. Essential exercise -Though we’re constantly warned about the dangers of the sun, it remains the best source for vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for the body’s absorption of calcium. Spend ‘responsible’ time in the sun. 15 minutes without sunblock 4 times a week either early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the sun is kinder, provides your child with all the vitamin D they need.
    Exercise helps children build a positive image of their body. It also boosts immunity, gives your kids a better appetite, and is necessary for growing strong and healthy bones. Children who don’t exercise enough cannot compensate later in life for this missed opportunity to be the best, strongest and healthiest they can be.
  3. Consider supplementation if they need a boost after their diet and exercise needs have been addressed -Let’s face it – we’re not always going to be able to control everything our kids eat and do. If you are concerned that your child is lacking in essential vitamins or nutrients, talk to a health expert to discuss the options for your child.

You can ask your personal questions on health and nutrition by registering at Blackmores in the 'ask a naturopath' section at or call the Advisory line 1800 803 760 to talk with a Blackmores naturopath.

*Blackmores National Health and Wellbeing Survey 2002
**ABS. National Nutrition Survey 1995