Does Your Child Need a Vitamin Supplement?

In an ideal world children would get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a well-balanced diet.  Unfortunately, children do not always eat a well-balanced diet even when it is offered to them.  A child may be getting enough calories to gain weight and grow taller; however they may still have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that impact their brain and body function.    Severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as scurvy are rare in the United States.  However, marginal vitamin and mineral deficiencies are very common.

What is a marginal vitamin and mineral deficiency?  Marginal vitamin and mineral deficiencies result from a chronically poor diet, which impacts your child slowly over time, with subtle symptoms.  Your child can be affected globally; physically and mentally unable to function at their best ability.

What are the symptoms of marginal vitamin and mineral deficiencies?

  • Poor focus, attention and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Mood and behavior problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Susceptible to colds and infections
  • Increased risk for developing certain diseases and cancer

Which kids are at risk for marginal vitamin and mineral deficiencies?

  • Picky eaters who do not eat a variety of foods
  • Kids who eat a lot of fast foods
  • Kids who eat lots of pre-packaged processed “junk” foods
  • Vegetarians or kids on other restricted diets
  • Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach calcium and other vitamins and minerals out of the bones
  • Kids with digestive problems and other chronic illnesses

Should you give your child a supplement?  YES, if you suspect your child is at risk for marginal vitamin and mineral deficiencies provide him or her with a daily vitamin-mineral supplement.  Make sure it provides at least 100% and as much as 200 – 300% of your child’s RDA for most of the vitamins and minerals.  The product you select should be free of artificial colors, artificial flavors, additives, herbs, unrecognized substances, and common allergens like wheat, milk, soy, egg and corn.

Vitamin-Mineral Supplement Dos and Don’ts:

DO NOT give your child a vitamin-mineral supplement with a glass of tea.  Tea contains compounds that interfere with the absorption of iron.

DO NOT give your child a vitamin-mineral supplement that exceeds 300% of their RDA without first discussing with your physician or Registered Dietitian.

DO give your child a vitamin-mineral supplement with meals or a snack.  The stomach acid produced when food is eaten also helps to break down and absorb the nutrients in a supplement.

DO put vitamin-mineral supplements away, out of your child’s reach so your child doesn’t eat them like candy.

Take home message: A well-balanced diet from real food is the best source of nutrients for children.  Since most children do not eat a perfect well-balanced diet every day it is a good idea to round out your child’s diet with a vitamin-mineral supplement.

Elizabeth’s Reading Pick:  The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book” by Registered Dietitian, Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS.  Provides up-to-date information on the use of supplements for treatment and preventing disease and overall optimum health.

Recipe:

Nutrient-Rich Smoothie

1 cup plain yogurt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups fresh or frozen fruit

1 cup orange juice (fortified with calcium)

2 tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Makes 3 cups.

Enjoy!

This home-made fruit smoothie is a great source of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. If your child is taking a liquid or powdered form of a vitamin- mineral supplement you can add it directly to their smoothie.