Kids who eat balanced diets probably get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat, so supplementation shouldn't be necessary. Some children, however, may benefit from taking kids' dietary supplements
Children Who Might Need Supplements?
Pediatricians may recommend a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement for:
- Kids who aren't eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods
- Finicky eaters who simply aren't eating enough
- Kids with chronic medical conditions or food allergies
- Kids who eat mostly fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods
- Kids on a vegetarian diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need a calcium/magnesium supplement), or other restricted diet
- Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies
Protein Shakes and Smoothies
Kids who skip meals or super active kids who play physically demanding sports might benefit from the extra calories a sports drink, a protein-fortified smoothie, or extra snack has to offer.
Vitamin D helps to promote bone and tooth formation and greatly assists the body to absorb calcium. Good sources include egg yolks, and vitamin D3 fortified milk and non-dairy products (such as soy, rice and almond “milk”).
An increase in the frequency of severe vitamin D deficiency is being reported in the U.S. and other countries. According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, this severe deficiency can have a devastating impact on a child’s bone strength. A simple blood test can determine if a vitamin D deficiency is present.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine recommend a daily intake of 600 IU for everyone over age 1. Parents should consult their primary care professional to determine the correct amount of vitamin D3 they should be taking to ensure optimal vitamin D levels.
Fish Oil/Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids meaning they are necessary for health but the body can’t make them -- you have to get them through the diet. They play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Omega 3 fatty acids have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease in adults.
Benefits for children are still being investigated. A small clinical study demonstrated that taking omega 3 fatty acids seemed to improve airflow, reduce cough, and lower the need for medications in some children with asthma.
There are no standard doses or official recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids. If your child doesn't eat fish and seafood, the body can convert some of the alpha-linoleic acids (ALA) found in pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, soy and walnuts into omega 3 fatty acids in the body.
Kids and Dietary Supplement Safety
Although most multivitamins and mineral supplements designed for children are generally safe, you should speak with your health care provider before giving your kids any kind of dietary supplement, especially those that contain iron or are formulated for adults.
Iron supplements can cause iron toxicity when taken in large amounts. Iron overdose is one of the leading causes of death caused by toxicological agents in children younger than 6 years. All dietary supplements that contain iron are required to be bottled with a child-proof lid—one that requires pushing down on the lid and squeezing to open.
- Don't automatically believe any label claims such as improves immune system function or increases brain function. These claims can be misleading.
- Don't attempt to treat any specific health conditions with supplements without the guidance of your health care provider.
- Keep adult vitamins out of the reach of toddlers and young children. Keep multivitamins out of your child's reach and make it clear that they aren't candy.
Contributed by Leslie Kay-Getzinger, MS, RD
Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services Company