The buzz in childhood nutrition is all about the brain from the pregnancy diet and how it may affect a baby’s brain development to children with learning and behavioral challenges and the role of nutrition.
Of course, the brain is growing, developing and pruning throughout childhood and the food and nutrients kids consume have an impact. Choline for kids is one of those important nutritients.
In this article, you’ll learn about choline foods and why they’re important to your child’s overall nutritional status.
What is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient we should all be paying more attention to, as described in Part 1 of my two-part series. Many of us are not eating enough choline-containing foods, and hence, may be falling short of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of 550 mg per day.
It’s smart to think about choline as an essential nutrient for a healthy pregnancy as well as your family’s overall health. After all, it’s needed at all ages and stages of life!1
For more information about how choline plays an important role throughout the lifespan, download these helpful resources (available as a printable PDF):
What are Choline Rich Foods?
Fortunately, choline is found in many foods that we enjoy and can easily be incorporated into meals and snacks throughout the day.
Phosphatidylcholine is the main form of choline found in foods. While eggs are commonly consumed as the primary source of choline (147 mg for one large egg) in the American diet, there are other foods that naturally contain choline, a few of which are outlined in the table below:
|Liver, 3 oz.||283|
|Wheat germ, 1 cup||201|
|White fish (flounder, sole), 1 fillet||102|
|Steak, 3 oz.||86|
|Canned salmon, 3 oz.||74|
|Lima beans, 1 cup cooked||75|
|Chicken breast, 3 oz.||70|
|Shrimp, 3 oz.||69|
|Brussels sprouts, 1 cup cooked||63|
|Broccoli, 1 cup cooked||63|
|Milk, skim, 8 oz.||38|
|Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons||20|
|Almonds, 1 oz.||15|
In a 2017 follow-up NHANES analysis published in Nutrients, and outlined in Part 1 of my choline blog series, researchers Taylor Wallace and Vic Fulgoni III showed that consumption of both eggs and high protein foods (i.e., meat, poultry and seafood) improved usual choline intakes compared to non-consumers, but still frequently fell short of Dietary Reference Intakes (see Part 1 for choline requirements during pregnancy and childhood).
The authors concluded that it is extremely difficult to achieve the Adequate Intake (AI) for choline unless individuals were consuming two eggs each day or taking a dietary supplement.
Furthermore, Wallace and Fulgoni recognized that there is a knowledge gap when it comes to choline rich foods, and recommend increased education on what foods are highest in choline, consideration of staple food item fortification, and/or encouraging choline supplementation in pregnant and/or lactating women.
If you’re pregnant or lactating, check out this healthy pregnancy meal plan emphasizing choline-containing foods. The meal plan outlines smart swaps to get the most choline in your diet for a healthy pregnancy, as well as optimal health after baby arrives.
What if You (and Your Family) Don’t Eat Eggs?
Some families are vegan, other families follow a vegetarian-style diet, and others simply do not like eggs. I see several children in my practice who won’t touch an egg. In this instance, it’s important to incorporate other choline foods, such as Brussels sprouts or nut butter, as regular items in your family’s diet so that choline for kids is not a problem.
I’ve included a vegetarian meal planning printable to help you create delicious meals and snacks that include foods higher in choline. You’ll notice that the total choline provided in the choline-focused vegetarian diet still falls short of the daily recommendation; however, this is where a choline supplement can help – to help fill those gaps that food alone can’t fulfill.
Should I Use a Choline Supplement?
If you and/or your family avoids eggs, meat, fish, poultry and/or dairy products, or if you have a picky eater who eliminates food groups or is inadvertently missing out on choline foods, consider taking a choline supplement.
And, even if you do routinely incorporate choline-rich foods into your regular meal and snack rotation, it is still highly unlikely that the RDI of 550 mg is being met on a daily basis, so you’ll want to talk to your healthcare professional and consider supplementation.#AD: How to Get Enough Choline for You and Your Child. @VitaCholine Click To Tweet
The benefits of choline aren’t widely-recognized among consumers or even health professionals, and the availability of choline supplementation reflects this. You will find choline available in some B-complex formulations, multivitamins for children and prenatal vitamins.
However, as mentioned in Part 1 of my choline blog series, the choline content of prenatal vitamins is low (containing only up to 10% of the RDI) and given the benefits choline offers for both mom and baby, the American Medical Association has called for higher levels of choline in prenatal vitamins.
If you are considering choline supplementation, consult with a registered dietitian or other healthcare professional to determine the best option for you and/or your child. You can check out some choline supplement options currently available here.
For the latest choline research and additional information for both consumers and healthcare professionals, visit VitaCholine.com.
How will you ensure choline for kids is adequate and present in your family’s diet?
Thanks to Balchem, a nutrition ingredient supplier, who sponsored this two-part series. As always, opinions are my own. This is Part 2 of a blog series on choline for pregnancy and beyond. To catch up on Part 1, read this.
- Sanders LM, Zeisel SH. Choline: Dietary Requirements and Role in Brain Development. Nutrition Today. 2007;42(4):181-186.