Supplements and Kids! Do They Need Them?
Like adults, kids need nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Unfortunately, not all kids will take our advice and eat the proper diet. That's when supplements may be required! Supplements are small amounts of a nutritional substance that are taken along with a regular diet to improve its overall composition.
Depending on their age, developmental stage, growth rate and body weight, children may be more likely than adults to have certain nutrient deficiencies. The most common deficiencies seen in children are vitamin D (due to lack of sun exposure), calcium (due to constant growth without any time for strengthening), iron (from anemic-causing medications) and zinc (due to low variety diet).
BUT DO SUPPLEMENTS WORK?
As for most things in life, supplements are not a one-size-fits-all type of product. Some children will need them, while others won't. Here's when you may need to consider supplements:
1. If your child follows a restricted diet due to allergies or a medical condition such as celiac disease. It may be hard to acquire all the necessary nutrients in this diet, which is why supplements may be needed.
2. If you follow a restrictive diet that limits certain specific nutrients to improve overall health, a supplement may be needed to avoid possible nutrient deficiencies and more severe complications down the road. For example, some diets restrict gluten, so specific vitamins and minerals will not be sufficiently transported into the body. Nutrients such as vitamin D3 and K2 cannot be made naturally by the body, so it has to come from an outside source such as dietary supplements or fortified foods.
3. If your child has difficulty absorbing nutrients from their food.
4. If your child needs to increase caloric intake to gain weight or improve "delicate" weight gain. Supplements make it easy for them to acquire the necessary calories without overloading their stomachs with fats, sugars and other less nutrient-dense foods.
5. If your child is a picky eater or has poor eating habits that make it hard for him/her to take in enough nutrients based on his/her body size, exercise and age, supplements like Zinc can provide what he/she is lacking. So that eating habits can be improved over time instead of instantly!
6. If your child constantly fatigues and loses weight despite a healthy diet and exercise, the body may miss the necessary nutrients to function correctly. This could be due to poor absorption, low caloric intake or simply a lack of supplementation.
7. If your child is underweight, pale and lacks energy, a vitamin D deficiency may cause their symptoms. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium into the system and muscle development, decreasing the chances of osteoporosis.
8. If your child is underweight or has severe eating habits and poor nutrition habits that quickly lead to vitamin deficiencies, do not hesitate to consider supplementation!
WHEN TO CONSIDER SUPPLEMENTS?
It is best to get your child tested by a qualified doctor before giving them any supplements to ensure they don't have any pre-existing conditions, such as a compromised immune system. This could lead to an overdose of the supplement causing harm and/or side effects. So, make sure you go to a doctor before starting a supplement program, especially if you give supplements to your child(ren).
If your child receives supplements, it is essential to know the dosage and how they can be taken. Will they be taking them along with a meal? As directed by the doctor? Or do you need to take them at all? What types of supplements and for how many years did the person take them? Before starting your supplement plan, are there any side effects or interactions you should consider?
Ideally, it is recommended that children get vitamin D from sun exposure. However, many do not get enough sunlight to keep us healthy daily. Most types of milk and dairy will have Vitamin D added to them. In addition, foods like eggs, breakfast cereals and some types of fish will also have vitamin D added to them. As for calcium, sardines are a great source of calcium. So are yogurt and milk (obviously). Iron is found in red meats and iron-rich foods such as spinach, beans and whole grains.
The best types of supplements for children are multivitamins containing a broad range of vitamins A-E and certain minerals like iron, zinc and copper. Talk to your physician about finding the best multivitamin for your child. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to help prevent heart disease and promote brain development in children!
To prevent malnutrition, our children must eat a well-balanced diet with the right amount of carbohydrates and proteins in each meal. This will help provide the necessary nutrients to grow and develop properly. However, there are times when additional nutrients may be required by children for them to be able to meet their nutritional goals in life.