Some parents worry that their children aren’t getting enough nutrients and wonder whether they should give them supplements. Montreal Pediatrician, Dr. Robin Kugelmass, said families should always try to get their vitamins from food but if that isn’t possible, kids could benefit from a supplement.
“There are picky eaters out there – kids who won’t eat any vegetables – so yes, you can give them a supplement,” she says. “It’s not a replacement, but a complement to daily functional nutrition.”
Kugelmass said parents should be careful about dosage. “There are recommended daily values per age group and you have to make sure you’re not giving too much or too little.”
Do not give kids under the age of 3 tablets because they can be a choking hazard. “Getting them to swallow is risky,” she said. “It has to be palatable and in a form they can tolerate.”
Despite the fact that supplements for kids can taste good, Kugelmass says parents should never refer to them as a snack. “They should not be considered candy and the bottle needs to be child-proof or else there’s a risk for toxicity [poisoning].”
Here are some supplements created with your little ones’ well being in mind:
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially the digestive system. Vanessa Perrone, a Montreal registered dietician-nutritionist, says literature to date indicates that probiotics may prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea and ease symptoms of colic and irritable bowel syndrome, common childhood ailments. Probiotics are considered safe for healthy children; however, the benefits depend on the strain and dose.
Vitamin D optimizes the gut’s ability to absorb calcium, which is important for proper bone mineralization during childhood growth. Vitamin D also functions as a hormone in the body, which boosts immunity and cell growth and reduces inflammation.
“Although the best way for a child to get vitamin D is to spend time playing in the sun, this can be difficult for kids living in northern countries like ours, which is why deficiency is so common,” Perrone says. Since very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, supplementation is often necessary, especially during winter months. Most multivitamin supplements do contain vitamin D but not in a high enough dose. Speak to your child’s pediatrician about assessing your child’s vitamin D levels. Breastfed babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fats because the human body is incapable of manufacturing them, so they must be obtained through our diet. They include EPA and DHA, found in fatty fish (e.g. salmon, tuna and trout, sardines), and shellfish (e.g. crab , mussels and oysters). Small amounts of ALA can be converted into DHA/EPA. ALA can be derived from vegetable oils (e.g. canola, soybean ), seeds (e.g. chia, flax, hemp) or walnuts. Algae oils are a vegetarian source of DHA. Kugelmass says the nutritional value of seafood is important during early development. DHA plays an important role in the functioning of the brain and the eye. For those who do not eat the recommended amount of seafood, it has become immensely popular to turn to Omega 3 supplements, such as Krill oil. Research is looking at the role of Omega 3’s in certain conditions such as depression, ADHD and rheumatoid arthritis. For now, however, the research evidence of the health benefits of Omega 3 supplements is uncertain. Consult your doctor before giving Omega 3 supplements to your child.
Without enough iron (ranging from 7 mg to 15 mg, depending on gender and age), children are unable to produce enough hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. A deficiency of the mineral can lead to fatigue and a host of other ailments including iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency is generally the result of inadequate diet, or gastrointestinal loss. Girls have an added risk of iron loss at the onset of their menstrual cycles. Toddlers transitioning from breast milk to pureed or solid foods may also be at a disadvantage, so it’s crucial to select fortified products like cereal and oats, or opt for iron-rich foods like lean beef, beans and spinach. In many cases, children may be consuming the recommended daily value, but may be suffering from underlying conditions that hinder absorption.
Calcium is an essential building block for healthy bone development and maintenance. Most children fail to meet the daily requirements, which are 700 mg for ages 1 to 3, 1,000 mg for ages 4 to 8 and 1,300 for ages 9 to 18. This can lead to osteoporosis, which can later increase risk for bone fractures. “One hypothesis is that soft drinks and sweetened beverages might displace consumption of milk and other calcium-fortified beverages among adolescents, making it harder for them to get the recommended daily value,” Perrone says.