Many adults take some form of supplement whether it be a multivitamin, single dose vitamin or a protein powder, but what about our kids? Have you ever thought about adding supplements to your child’s diet, either to treat a deficiency or to prevent deficiencies developing? There are some pros and cons to either side of the supplementation debate and we will be going over those in this article. In some cases, it may be necessary, but in other cases your child won’t really benefit from one.
Kids At Risk
If your kid sounds anything like the following, they could benefit from a multivitamin or other supplement:
- Picky eaters
- Kids who aren’t eating regular meals made from whole foods
- Kids suffering from chronic medical conditions
- Kids on a vegetarian/vegan diet or kids on a dairy-free diet
- Kids who eat a diet full of convenience/fast foods
Ideally you should have a blood test done if your child falls into one or more of these categories. If they are constantly deficient in even just one vitamin or mineral, it can affect their growth and development. If your child gets blood work done and they are not deficient in anything, they are probably better off without supplementation. Your job as a parent is to make sure they are eating a healthy diet, full of fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins.
Believe it or not, you can actually reach a toxic level of certain vitamins and minerals. It’s hard to do so through foods, but it is commonly achieved by over-supplementation. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) as well as certain B vitamins, iron and folic acid, all have some pretty severe consequences if they aren’t taken in controlled amounts.
Multivitamins don’t pose as large a threat when it comes to toxicity, unless you’re taking more than one or two a day. Think of them as a “booster,” containing small doses of vitamins and minerals to top up the levels already consumed through food. Typically we see the biggest threat with single dose vitamins, so unless your doctor recommends that your child should take a single-dose vitamin, I suggest avoiding those and sticking to a multivitamin.
That being said, before starting your child on any kind of supplements, talk with your doctor to ensure that they actually need it. If they are eating a healthy, well balanced diet, it will more than likely not be necessary.
If you do have supplements in the house, make sure to keep them out of reach of your child because nearly 5000 children a year in North America end up in the emergency room because they took too many supplements while they were unsupervised.
When is it Necessary?
In some cases, it is completely necessary for your child to take supplements to make sure they will grow and develop normally. In terms of supplementation, if your child falls into one or more of the categories for kids at risk, take them to the doctor. Explain the issue, e.g. Mark is very picky with his food and won’t eat vegetables, and let the doctor know if your child is on any form of medications, because certain vitamins can alter the effect of medications.
In certain cases, kids suffering from chronic illness, especially digestive issues such and Crohn’s, colitis or celiac disease, can all lead to malabsorption issues. This means that even if your kid is trying their best to eat an adequately healthy diet, they still may not be absorbing all the nutrients their bodies need.
If you are raising your child on a strict vegetarian/vegan diet, make sure their meals are well-rounded. It’s possible to raise a healthy kid on these diets, but it will take some additional planning.
Any child who is eating a diet full of fast food and convenience foods should definitely be taken to the doctor. It is far too common nowadays to be overfed but undernourished. I know as parents we get very busy sometimes, but a constant diet of fast food is not only going to lead to overweight children, but also nutrient-deficient children. You need to do your part and put your child’s health first and ensure they are eating more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins.
- Make sure you consult your doctor before starting your child on any supplements
- Keep vitamins out of reach of children, you can most definitely get too much of a good thing
- Be wary of single dose vitamins, unless your doctor states that your child needs to take one
- Try to make sure your child is eating a well-balanced diet so you can avoid having to give them supplements
By Helen Sanders, chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Its goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. The company prides itself on making sure its actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.