Like many parents, you may be worried that your children are not getting enough nutrients from food — especially if you have a picky eater in your brood. Is a multivitamin the answer? What about other dietary supplements? Here’s a guide to who needs what, and what to buy if your child’s diet does need an extra boost.
Vitamins and minerals are important elements of the total nutritional requirements of your child. Because the human body itself is unable to produce adequate amounts of many vitamins, they must be obtained from the diet. The body needs these vitamins in only tiny amounts, and in a balanced diet they are usually present in sufficient quantities in the foods your youngster eats. Thus, in middle childhood, supplements are rarely needed.
If your children eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat, fish, pulses and iron fortified breakfast cereals then it is likely that they are already getting all the vitamins and mineral they need. However, many toddlers go through phases of faddy eating when they will eat only a few favorite foods for several months at a time.
Whilst it is important to keep offering them all the healthy foods during these times they may need additional supplements.
Millions of youngsters could get free vitamins in an effort to tackle the soaring rates of children’s health issues, such as malnutrition, rickets and obesity.
The Chief Medical Officer has said the government will look at whether vitamins A, C and D should be given free to all under-5s (they are currently only available free for low-income families). But nutritionist Linda Foster argues the best way to get more vitamins into kids is for parents to serve a wider variety of fresh foods. She says: “Ideally, vitamin supplements would be reserved for only fussy eaters.”
Vitamin A promotes normal growth, healthy skin, and tissue repair, and aids in night and color vision. Rich sources include yellow vegetables, dairy products, and liver.
The B vitamins promote red blood cell formation and assist in a variety of metabolic activities. They are found in meat (including liver), poultry, fish, soybeans, milk, eggs, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals.
Vitamin C strengthens connective tissue, muscles, and skin, hastens the healing of wounds and bones, and increases resistance to infection. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli.
Vitamin D promotes tooth and bone formation and regulates the absorption of minerals like calcium. Sources include fortified dairy products, fish oils, fortified margarine, and egg yolks. Although vitamin proponents insist that large doses of vitamin D—far greater than the U.S.
After multivitamins, calcium supplements are what parents ask me about the most. It’s true that children don’t drink as much milk as they used to — and therefore aren’t getting calcium from one of the best sources around. But that’s the reason a lot of kid-friendly foods are now fortified with calcium. So before going the supplement route, parents should do a weekly “calcium tally” with their children to determine whether it’s needed. (Don’t worry if they fall short on certain days, since it’s their overall weekly intake that matters most in the long run.)
- Calcium Requirements:
- Ages 1–3 = 500 mg a day
- Ages 4–8 = 800 mg a day
- Ages 9–18 = 1,300 mg a day
Most U.S. adults and more than 30 percent of American children take some form of dietary supplement, most often multivitamins and multiminerals, according to a report in the October 2007 issue of Archives of Pediatrics. Experts emphasize diet as the best source of nutrients for children, but physicians may recommend supplements for certain children at risk of deficiency.