One of my biggest concerns during the 2020 lockdown and findings of the COVID19 pandemic on our South African shores had to be the children that would further be thrown down the rabbit hole of malnutrition. So, when Nestle Nido 3+ asked to partner and not only highlight the new and improved powdered drink for growing children aged 3 to 5 years, but also the lack of awareness when it comes to the fact that 50% our little ones between the ages of 3 and 5 years old do not get sufficient vitamins and minerals needed.

We recently hosted a series of live conversation on Nestle Nido’s Facebook page where we discussed this, what happens if they are missing in our children’s food and diets as well as how we can close the gap.Over the course of two live conversations, we spoke to the following experts; Belinda Vernon, Business Executive Officer for Nestle Nutrition, Zoliswa Nongauza, Category Marketing Manager for Nestle Baby Foods and NIDO Growing Up Milks, Abigail Friedman – An Occupational Therapist, Bontle Sebesho – dietician, Santa Dorfling – Medical and Scientific Affairs manager at Nestle South Africa as well as registered dietician, Thandolwakhe Msomi; on some facts about childhood, childhood development and why choosing foods with the right vitamins and minerals is important for our growing little ones.


Feeding Children to Fill The Belly Vs Feeding For Micronutrients

Some of the key takeaways from this conversation and some of the questions that came from the live are that we are struggling as parents to understand the difference between feeding our little ones to fill their bellies as opposed to feeding our children food with micronutrients that are important to them between the ages of 3 to 5 years of age.

As parents we notice every centimetre of growth that our little ones get to. We measure their height and look out for any weight changes. At every doctor’s appointment, we even get asked about our children’s growth and milestones and we want them to be on par with their peers.

There are also things such as the development of fine motor skills and gross motor skills that we monitor. If these milestones are not reached at the expected timings, we start to get very concerned. So as parents we play an important role in the physical developments of our children.


The Micronutrient Crisis

Bontle mentions that the reason for the micronutrient deficit in the diets of children in underdeveloped countries is due to poverty, lack of access to a variety of foods, lack of knowledge of optimal dietary practices and high incidence of infectious diseases to name but a few.

Santa mentions that Iron, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Vitamin D are micronutrients that are extremely important at this age.

“We have macronutrients in our diets that will give us energy and will help us to build strong muscles. This is protein, carbohydrates or starch and fat.

Micronutrients are often referred to as vitamins and minerals. They are important to be able to use these macronutrients in our bodies, for healthy development, to prevent diseases and for normal functioning of all the processes in our bodies.

With the exception of vitamin D, micronutrients are not produced in our bodies and must be derived from a well- balanced, varied diet.”

She further expresses that though people only need small amounts of micronutrients, consuming the recommended amount is important. Micronutrient deficiencies can have devastating consequences. So much so, micronutrient malnutrition is regarded as a public health problem of considerable significance in South Africa.

Micronutrients are absolutely critical to regulating many different cell processes, metabolic pathways, and other physiological needs in the body and is often overlooked as micronutrients are required in relatively small amounts compared to macronutrients.

This is scary to think about because South Africa is really threading a very thin line in terms of getting our children to where they need to be.


The Different Developmental Stages

But this then begs the question, how do I know where my child is in terms of the different developmental stages and their activities that children 3-5 years have to achieve?

According to Abigail these are the things to monitor:

Physical Development – Physical development is the most readily visible of childhood development. In the ages 3-5 years should include muscle strength and co-ordination the little ones being able to dress and undress themselves, hop and jump with ease, attempts to catch the ball with both hands and walks and runs smoothly.

Cognitive Development speaks to how the child perceives, thinks and gains understanding of their world. Some of the areas that are addressed include information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development and memory. A 3 to 5 year old should be using objects and materials to build and construct items whether its building blocks, puzzles and clay.  In terms of language they should be speaking to themselves during play and be able to follow simple rules and instructions. Writing some letters and counting up to 5 and 10 is also seen during this stage.

On Social Development they would enjoy playing with other children, can smile, and share and they also start to develop independence and the interactive skills they need for learning such as having friends and getting along with peers and teachers at school.

On the Emotional Development angle the child will show affection, normal for them to demonstrate occasional bouts of aggression and may start to enforce gender norms. I am a boy or a girl.

On Language they will answer simple questions, tell stories and talk constantly.

So if our little ones are not growing optimally, the impact on their future and that of our country is as follows:

Developmental delay will spike. Developmental delay is when any of the milestones are performing below the chronological age of the child in any of the areas of development. The causes are numerous and include (but are not limited to) birth trauma, sensory processing difficulties, lack of exposure, childhood illness and conditions and many more.

Nutrition is one of the causative factors, and can contribute to developmental delay. It is not always easy to find the root cause, and nutrition difficulties are often difficult to identify, and in some cases, overlooked. While nutrition may affect development and cause delays, it is not often the stand-alone cause.

Developmental delays would affect  how a child copes with growing and learning, and could mean some children being held back at school, some children needing assistance in the form of extra classes, remedial attention or therapy and could also cause increased rates of dropout if not attended to early on in the schooling career. Not keeping up with peers – affecting confidence and self-esteem.


The Right Food Is Very Important.

So there is a role of nutrition in the growing of our little ones. The right food is very important.

According to Santa, our little ones can’t eat a lot of food and therefore  we need to give them food that is rich in vitamins and minerals.  If possible, they should also eat a wide variety of food to get different vitamins and minerals through the diet. Our children should get nutrient dense food, that gives all the goodness in small portions and less empty calories from cooldrinks, sweets and crisps. These should only be for treats.

We can also involve the little ones in meal preparation and prepare simple meals with them that will include a protein source ( meat/ fish/ eggs) , a whole grain , vegetables , fruit and diary. For example, a peanut butter sandwich, carrot and apple pieces a glass of fortified milk.

Essentially, we need to understand the type and quality of foods we need to give to our children. Us as parents and caregivers are really struggling to make ends meet and like I mentioned earlier, we often buy food to fill the stomach.

We’re often under the guide that food with good minerals and vitamins is expensive?

Here are some examples from Thando and Bontle for parents and caregivers, on how we can look more carefully at our shopping basket and try and make the best choices when we buy our food.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are actually the most available and cheapest foods available. A bunch of spinach from uMama on the corner is R10.

Some practical examples of what we can include in a meal that are good sources of micronutrients are:

  • Green leafy Vegetables like Spinach for (Vit C, Vit A and Iron. )
  • On Vitamin D get out in the Sunlight, which is free, tinned fish, and a powdered milk drink.
  • Vitamin A we can find in animal offal’s. Those chicken Livers and hearts are excellent sources. Carrots and again spinach.
  • Iron we can get from red meat and a Milk drink
  • Let’s also cook more of our whole Wheat Grains. Such as Amabele
  • Let’s also give our little ones a variety of freshly cooked Vegetables, fresh Fruits, beans, Nuts and Seeds.

Nestlé NIDO 3+ Is A Source of Vitamin A, Zinc and Iron

Considering the micronutrient deficiencies that children of this age have, in South Africa, the new and improved NESTLE NIDO 3+ is a tailored drink to complement the diet of children between 3 and 5 years old.

In just 2 glasses of NESTLE NIDO 3+ in a day, little ones will get between 30% to 50% of Vit A, C, D, Calcium , Iron and Zn needed by a child of this age in a day.

NESTLE NIDO 3+ also contains a live culture, Lactobacillus Protectus (L.rhamnosus) which supports the immune system and cause fewer outbreaks of ear, throat and respiratory tract infections. NESTLÉ® NIDO® 3+ is also a source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids with added DHA that supports brain growth and good eyesight.

I do believe that knowledge is power and when we know better, we do better.


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by NESTLE NIDO 3+