My little cousin John used to do it all the time: Bury his vitamins in the house plant behind the kitchen table. As an adult, John seems healthy enough. Was he really missing out?
In this Q & A with Angie Hasemann, registered dietitian at the UVA Children’s Fitness Clinic, she clarifies whether or not parents of kids like my cousin John need to stress out about their child’s nutrition.
Are supplemental vitamins necessary for kids?
No — if your children eat a balanced diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and adequate dairy), they’re likely getting the vitamins and minerals their body needs. If your child is a picky eater, leaving out an entire food group or often skipping meals, a multivitamin might be a helpful addition to her diet. Special vitamin and mineral supplementation might be necessary in some special health conditions; consult your doctor with questions.
What kinds of vitamins are best?
One that includes the vitamins and/or minerals your child needs (iron for kids who don’t eat much meat/protein, calcium and vitamin D for kids who don’t consume much dairy, etc.) is best. Multivitamins shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg — the simple ones are typically just fine.
Also keep in mind that if a vitamin exceeds 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for any water-soluble vitamin (C and all B vitamins), your body just excretes (through urine) the excess. Don’t pay for what your body doesn’t need.
Which vitamins/minerals do kids need more of – like D?
Iron, calcium and vitamin D are all nutrients to pay special attention to for kids. Most people in general (adults and kids) are deficient in vitamin D, so going outside to play, as well as encouraging dairy consumption, is important for your child. To avoid vitamin deficiency in your child, balancing meals is the key. Make your child’s plate full of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors with whole grain, lean proteins and dairy three times a day.
What about gummy vitamins – I’ve heard they cause tooth decay?
If a multivitamin has added sugar (most gummies), there is some risk similar to consuming high-sugar foods like candy — that’s what they taste like, after all. Having your children brush their teeth after chewing could help. Getting your nutrients the natural way — in the food you eat — is the best way to get them, so eating a balanced diet is your best bet.