How many of you grew up with Flintstone vitamins? 🙋🏻♀️ We loved those things!
So now as a mom, you may be wondering, should I also give my kids vitamins? What about when they’re too young to chew?
When my son was about a year old, maybe younger, my pediatrician recommended a multivitamin. So being the good patient/parent I try to be, I listened to the doctor and went out and bought a liquid multivitamin. Yes, they do make those nasty things in liquid form.
Just the smell was enough to make ME gag 🤢 How can I expect my baby to take this stuff?? I have to be honest, I really wanted to make him take that gross liquid every day, but I just couldn’t.
So this brings me to my topic this week: Do I really need to force my kid to take this? And should kids take vitamins?
Should Kids Take Vitamins?
The current stance of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that most children who eat a well-balanced diet do not usually need to take a multivitamin1.
What does a well-balanced diet mean? If your child is getting dairy/dairy alternatives, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and proteins every day (or most days), then you can consider this a well-balanced diet1. Keep in mind, they may not eat the same amount as an adult, and they may seem to not have the same patterns as you, but kids have this natural ability to know what they need, so try not to worry, and try not to force things on them out of fear.
Getting your kids to eat a well-balanced diet certainly sounds easier said than done. Click the link below for some tips on staying healthy for the whole family. You’ll find advice on teaching your kids healthy habits.
How Do I Know if My Child Needs Vitamins?
If you notice that a food group is very obviously missing, adding a vitamin to supplement the main nutrient may not be a bad idea. For instance, if your kid refuses to drink milk, eat yogurt or cheese, or anything else that would give him/her calcium, then you may want to talk to your doctor about a calcium supplement.
There are certain instances where kids may be at higher risk for nutrient deficiencies, and in this case, supplementing is always a good idea. Your kid may be at potential risk for nutrient deficiencies if they:
- Are vegetarians/vegans 1
- Have Celiac Disease 1
- Have a poor appetite 1
- Are on certain medications 1
- Have certain chronic illnesses 1
- Have a higher than usual sugar-sweetened beverage consumption 1
Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Kids
- Iron: Iron deficiency is extremely common in young children1. Kids are born with their own iron reserves of iron that they received in the womb, and can use them for about 6 months. It is recommended to add iron-rich food to your baby’s diet between 4 and 6 months for that reason, in addition to developmental reasons. Iron deficiency can affect red blood cell production and muscles but always check with your doctor before adding any kind of iron supplementation1. At this very young age, the first line of defense is simply adding iron-rich food like chickpeas, lentils, meat, and spinach, unless the deficiency is severe.
- Calcium is also a common deficiency1. 2-3 servings of dairy are recommended for children ages 2-18 years2. If your kid doesn’t like milk, try mixing ricotta cheese with pasta for dinner or with fruit for a snack. Cottage cheese and yogurt are also great sources of protein and calcium.
- Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and is a common deficiency1. Vitamin D is difficult to get from your diet naturally, so choosing foods that are fortified with it can help. Examples are fortified milk and cereals.
- Vitamin A is a common nutrient deficiency in kids and can affect children’s eyes, skin, and growth1. You can get vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, eggs, and fortified milk and cereal.
- Vitamin B deficiency can also be common and affects energy and metabolism1. Vitamin B food sources are whole grains, fruits, eggs, dairy products, and meat.
Things to Consider Before Adding Vitamins for Kids
The first thing to consider is that it is always best to get your nutrients from food as opposed to supplements1. The best way to prevent nutrient deficiencies is to make sure your kid is offered a variety of food from all food groups1.
If you think your kid is picky and may be missing something from his or her diet, you should always talk to the pediatrician before giving them anything. Over-supplementation could lead to toxicities1, so make sure that the doctor is aware and has recommended a dosage.
Here is one last thing I want to leave you with. Supplements are not regulated the same way that food and drugs are. Companies are required to do all of their own safety and efficacy testing3. The FDA does not get involved until AFTER the supplement hits the market3.
What does this mean for you? This means that you need to make sure any supplement you choose is one that is well-recognized and has a good reputation. Asking your doctor or dietitian for a recommendation is always best, and you may even be able to get a vitamin prescribed if deemed necessary by your pediatrician.
Meal Planning for the Family
One of the best ways to make sure your kids are getting enough nutrients is to offer a variety of options from each food group. This definitely requires some meal planning, so my best advice is to set aside time each week to plan your meals and prep for the week ahead to make things easier.
If you want help becoming a pro at meal planning, download my free guide: The Busy Woman’s Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning Like a Pro
- (n.d.). Does My Child Need a Supplement? Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/dietary-supplements/does-my-child-need-a-supplement
- (2019, July 18). All about the Dairy Group. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplements