I have been asked several times since starting this blog to write on the topic of vitamin and mineral supplements for children. I have been hesitant to do so because it is really one that requires an individualized approach. Having said that, I have decided to write about it in general terms. If you have specific questions about yourself or your child, then I would recommend you see your family doctor or registered dietitian or contact me directly.
It it is a common question to wonder if we or our loved ones need a vitamin/mineral multivitamin or single nutrient supplements. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…
- Do they have allergies or intolerances that causes elimination of a portion or all of a food group? Are they vegan or vegetarian?
- Do they have intense aversions to certain foods that are not easily overcome?
- Has the child had nutrient deficiencies in the past?
If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, then a supplement MAY be in order. For example, if milk and milk alternative intake is limited, then calcium and vitamin D are nutrients of interest. If meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are eliminated, then iron and vitamin B12 are nutrients of interest. The next step in each of these examples is to see if the child is consuming foods in place of the eliminated foods that provide similar micronutrients. For example, the child may be drinking fortified coconut milk which provides calcium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients. (As an aside…we know that protein is missing in this option, but that is off of this topic. More info on that topic can be found here.)
If the child has low overall food intake or is considered a “picky eater”, a parent may be concerned; however, this alone is not reason to start a supplement. Children have important nutrient needs; however, they do not need an overabundance of food. They need high quality and nutritious food. If presented with a small eater, my first approach would be offer nutrient dense foods at all times and be cautious to not allow the child to fill up on foods that do not contribute to their health such as gold fish crackers and puffs. In addition, I would ask the parents how much milk is being consumed. Children who drink more than 16 ounces of milk per day are at greater risk of iron deficiency. This is for two reasons….
- Calcium in milk can interfere with iron absorption, and
- If milk is filling their small tummy, then there may not be enough room for adequate amounts of other foods.
Having said this, if you feel your child may have low levels of important nutrients, they may truly benefit from a supplement. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for bone health. Iron plays a critical role in brain develop, energy levels, and more. The list goes on and on for why we need all nutrients in adequate quantities. As I said at the start, you may want to check in with your family physician of local RD if you are concerned. They can assess your child and even request blood work if deemed necessary. (We had this done with Clay and he was in fact iron deficient.)
Last, but not least, if you are choosing to go ahead with a supplement, please try to keep it as “low sugar” as possible. Giving children gummies and sugar coated tablets is not great for dental health and can be confusing for them. If a child thinks it is candy and accidentally ingests too many multivitamins they are at great risk for toxicity. In fact, iron poisoning is one of the top concerns for toxicity in children and can be fatal.
I hope that his provides you with some food for thought on this topic. As always, if you have any questions you can comment below, email me, or DM on Instagram @mealsformeandmyminis.
Until next time….stay healthy!