Healthy kids require a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. Due to the sensitivity of parents to their children’s health, many companies have developed nutritional supplements for children, whose benefits are widely advertised. You probably think all children need supplements if you’ve believed these ads. But is that true? Some experts disagree.
Different nutrients are important for children’s growth and health, but children should ideally be able to get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a balanced and healthy diet that includes dairy instead of supplements. Fresh fruits and vegetables, protein-rich foods (chicken, fish, meat, eggs) and whole grains (oats and brown rice).
Which children require supplements?
Today’s busy world makes it difficult for many parents to prepare home-cooked meals. The following are reasons why pediatricians may recommend daily vitamin and mineral supplements:
- Children who do not consume healthy and fresh foods regularly.
- Children make excuses for not eating enough.
- In children with chronic diseases such as asthma or digestive problems, especially those who take medication. (If your child is taking medication, make sure to consult your doctor before taking baby supplements.)
- Fast-food eaters and processed-food eaters.
- Children who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, a dairy-free diet, or other highly restricted diets.
- The consumption of large amounts of carbonated beverages by children can increase their body’s excretion of vitamins and minerals.
- Children who eat a vegetarian diet may need iron and vitamin B12 supplements. A vegetarian diet excludes all animal foods, such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Dairy-free diets may require calcium supplements.
Here are six essential vitamins and minerals for children.
1. Vitamin A.
Vitamin A helps the body grow normally, repairs tissues and bones, maintains the health of the skin and eyes, and strengthens the immune system. Milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow or orange vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and squash are good sources of vitamin A.
2. Vitamin D.
In addition to forming bones and teeth, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Some foods contain vitamin D, such as fatty fish (salmon), egg yolks, and dairy products fortified with it. However, sunlight is the best source. A baby’s skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Children who consume less than 950 ml of vitamin D fortified milk daily may need to take supplements. It is not healthy to consume more than 950 ml of milk a day, and it can even reduce iron levels in the body.
3. B vitamins
B vitamins, such as vitamins B2, B3, B6 and B12, aid in metabolism and energy production, as well as maintaining a healthy circulatory and nervous system. B vitamins are found in foods such as meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soy.
4. Vitamin C
For healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin, the body needs vitamin C. Plant foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, tomatoes, and broccoli contain this nutrient.
Studies have shown that most children do not get enough calcium in their diets. Calcium helps build strong bones as a child grows. Growth retardation and osteoporosis are caused by calcium deficiency in childhood.
Your child should eat foods that contain calcium, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and calcium-fortified orange juice, to get the calcium he or she needs. Plant foods such as broccoli and spinach also contain some calcium.
Besides building muscle, iron is essential for making red blood cells, which are the most important blood cells for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Adolescent girls, especially those who have just begun menstruating, are at risk for iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include nervousness, lack of energy, and an increased risk of infection. Iron is found in red meat, chicken, turkey, spinach, and plums.
A child’s diet should include these foods.
A healthy child can meet their nutritional needs from the family food basket. If you give your child as much fresh and varied food as possible, he or she will have a healthy diet. Vitamins and minerals are found in foods high in carbohydrates and protein. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamins.
Your baby’s nutrition will be improved if you provide him with a variety of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Consumption of sweetened foods and drinks and highly processed foods should be reduced in children’s diets, and fresh fruits should be used instead of fruit juices.
Don’t just increase the amount of food your child eats; pay attention to the variety of his diet to make sure he gets enough vitamins. Children today are twice as likely to be overweight as they were two decades ago. Thus, the amount of food provided to the child should be proportional to his age, which is approximately equal to a quarter to a third of adult meals.
Feed your child small and medium meals throughout the day. You shouldn’t worry if your child doesn’t eat certain foods, such as vegetables. One or two days later, it would be better to prepare that food in a different way and serve it to him. If you feel your child’s nutritional needs are not being met through diet, talk to your doctor about supplementing his diet.
5 important points about taking baby food supplements
Tips for supplementing your child’s diet include:
Keep supplements out of the reach of children so they won’t treat them like candy. Unwanted use of supplements or medications sends thousands of children to the emergency room each year.
You should not discuss eating with your child or use unhealthy foods like desserts to encourage him to eat. Give your child a chewable vitamin supplement after a meal instead. Fat-soluble vitamins can only be absorbed when taken with food.
If your child takes certain medications, ask your doctor if the supplements interact with them.
Supplements for children can be found in the form of tablets, syrups, drops and chewing gum. Chewing supplements may help your child if he or she does not take pills or liquid supplements.
Unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise, wait until your child is 4 years old to give supplements.
When giving supplements, use baby products. High doses of supplements are not recommended for children. Children who consume too much iron and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can become poisoned, causing symptoms such as nausea, headache, and diarrhea.