When you walk into your local drugstore, foodstore, or big-box retailer, you will typically find an entire aisle dedicated to multivitamins, supplements, and probiotics. Their labels are enticing-colorful, shiny, and display a multitude of health benefits and claims.
But, do they really work? Are they truly necessary for your little one/ones?
Today, we will start with children's vitamins.
At every visit, I ask parents if their child is on any daily medications. I would say that about 80% of parents tell me they give their child a daily multivitamin.
Let's start with who SHOULD take a daily multivitamin
It is recommended that all breastfed infants are supplemented with 400IU of vitamin D daily, as well as formula-fed infants that are getting <32oz/day of vitamin D fortified formula
Premature infants may need extra iron depending on how early they were born **
Breastfed infants and partially breastfed infants may also require iron supplementation. **
Pregnant and nursing mothers should follow the guidance given by their OBGYN
Alternative diets: vegetarians and vegans may also need to take a multivitamin or supplement in order to get in a few necessary vitamins and minerals their diet could be lacking. **
Picky eaters: children that do not eat a variety of foods from all food groups may benefit from a multivitamin. This includes children who do not eat any fruits or vegetables, children who eat the same meal for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner everyday, and the chicken nugget and macoroni and cheese ONLY consumers
Children with limited access to food: this is a tricky one. Typically children who have limited access to food are the kiddos that NEED additional supplementation, but they may not be able to afford it
Children with underlying medical conditions: there are various medical conditions in which a child might need to be supplemented with a daily multivitamin (i.e. Crohn's, Cystic fibrosis etc.). Certain medications can also deplete the body of certain nutrients and vitamins, requiring supplementation. **
Children that are underweight or malnourished may also require additional supplementation **
**Check with your pediatrician for dosing and length of treatment
Who DOESN'T need a multivitamin and why?
If your child eats a well balanced diet, incorporating an appropriate amount from all of the food groups, he or she most likely does not need a daily multivitamin. Of course kids have their days where they eat junk or go to a birthday party- that's OK, and in fact, I'd be worried if they didn't! As long as they are MOSTLY a good eater!
Is there a downside to offering my child a daily multivitamin?
Cavities: believe it or not, those chewable and gummie multivitmains are similar to candy! They get caught in the grooves of your teeth leading to cavities. Be sure to brush your teeth AFTER consuming a multivitamin
False reassurance: a multivitamin is NOT a substitute for a healthy diet. Still encourage a well balanced diet with a variety of foods
Unwanted side effects: vitamins can cause nausea, abdominal pain, and even vomiting
Overdose: Not only do the bottles look pretty and welcoming, but multivitamins also resemble sweet candy. Please, please, please keep vitamins stored in a locked cabinet or out of reach from your children
Not FDA-approved: Supplements are NOT considered a drug, therefore they are not regulated like medications. The FDA does not need to pre-approve vitamins before they are stocked on the shelves at the store
Bottom line, if your child is healthy, without an underlying medical condition, and not on a restricted diet, he or she should be able to get all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from their plates.
Encourage a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats/poultry/fish, healthy proteins, whole grains, and dairy, while limiting added salt, added sugar, and saturated and trans fats.
Stay tuned for part II: Probiotics!
Until next time,