It was the scourge of children in the 19th century, and doctors thought it had been almost eradicated.
Why is this happening? It’s partly down to deficiency in Vitamin D. This nifty little nutrient works with calcium to help keep bones strong and healthy. We get most of it through sunlight on our skin, but it’s also found in food.
Sadly, the rise of our indoors culture means kids don’t play out as much as they used to, so they’re not getting as much sunlight (something that many of us grown-ups are guilty of too). And all too often we’re not eating the right things to get enough Vitamin D from our diet. Because of the evidence that this is becoming more of a problem, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (or SACN for short) is currently looking at the risks of this for the nation’s health. Their committee’s scheduled to publish draft recommendations in April.
In the meantime, oily fish like salmon and sardines, eggs, fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals and powdered milk are just a few of the foods that contain Vitamin D. But here are my top tips for getting kids enjoying foods that can make every day a D-day:
- Hook, line and sinker: If you’re making a fish pie, don’t just go for white fish. Add some salmon or another oily variety – much easier to get into a dish like this without them noticing. You’ll be boosting the amount of calcium in the meal at the same time, so it’s a win-win. Try our fish pie recipes for older children here and for little ones here
- Eggs-periment with omelettes. They’re really cheap to make – try peppers, mushrooms and tuna in there
- Crack it: add eggs to your salads, sandwiches or have them as part of a hearty breakfast. Glaze the top of your mashed potato with egg if you’re making shepherds pie, cottage pie or fish pie to make a golden, crunchy topping
- Read the label: see if your breakfast cereal’s fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients like iron. But be careful – many breakfast cereals are also loaded with the sweet stuff, so go for varieties that are lower in sugar.
Some of us are at a higher risk of not getting enough Vitamin D, and if you’re in one of these groups it’s recommended you take a supplement too. Don’t forget, if you qualify for and are taking part in the Healthy Start scheme, you can get these for free.
Laura’s one of our nutritionists. Email Laura.