Nutrients required in a sole source of nutrition

What are the standards?

For a food to be used a sole source of nutrition, it should be able to be given to children on its own, rather than as a supplementary food in addition to normal diet. This means that the sole source food has to have enough nutrition to use on its own.

  • The Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) – define a sole source of nutrition as foods that meet strict criteria for the levels of nutrients they contain, to be used as the only source of nutrition [1]. These requirements are especially for foods that are used for children who can’t get all the essential nutrients they need from normal food alone, or need additional nutrients they are missing, because they have a health condition and/or may require medical attention.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) – define a sole source of nutrition as one that is nutritionally complete (containing all necessary nutrients) [2] for the same reasons.

Which nutrients constitute a Sole Source?

A minimum amount of nutrients that are required for foods to be a sole source of nutrition are the most essential nutrients, and include those that can be easily lost by the body during illness or infections. For example, electrolytes in children with diarrhea are lost because they are found in all body fluids, so they need to be maintained.

According to FSANZ [3], these include:

Vitamins: Biotin* Iodine*
Vitamin A Pantothenic Acid* Chromium*
Thiamin Vitamin K* Molybdenum*
Riboflavin Selenium*
Niacin Minerals
Vitamin B6 Calcium Electrolytes
Folate Magnesium Sodium
Vitamin B12 Phosphorus Potassium*
Vitamin C Zinc Chloride
Vitamin D Manganese*
Vitamin E Copper*

*These are nutrients that are not commonly found in all children’s nutrient formulas, so those formulas should only be used as a supplement to normal foods, rather than on their own.

How to provide comphrensive nutrition to children

The word “comprehensive” is used to describe sources of nutrition that contain an absorbable selection all nutrients that are normally represented in a child’s regular diet every day. This is provided that the diet is balanced and nutritious, but importantly, the nutrients are balanced. In the real world, we know this is not always the case, because children love convenience foods that are high in sugar and fats, and low in nutrients, also called “empty calories” [4].

Nutrient formulas are a convenient way of providing all these nutrients in one place, especially if:

  • parents don’t have access to enough variety of foods
  • children need nutrients sooner rather than later
  • children are not tolerating home-cooked foods very well

Focusing on foods with the following nutrients are particularly important for kids to develop properly:

  • Calcium & phosphorus: dairy foods, shellfish,
  • Iron, magnesium, zinc: beef, chicken, fish, rice
  • B-vitamins: fruits and vegetables, nuts
  • Less common minerals: sources of molybdenum, chromium, selenium, copper, iodine can be hard to find in regular foods, especially for kids with allergies, or low appetite (eg broccoli, nuts, lentils, fish etc).
  4. Childhood Nutrition Facts | Healthy Schools | CDC