Kids who eat balanced diets probably get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat, so taking supplements shouldn't be necessary. Some kids, however, may benefit, like children who are extremely picky eaters who may be missing out on some vital nutrients. There's alo some research showing many children may not be meeting their vitamin D needs if they don't go out in the sun often enough. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be deficient if your child doesn't eat fish and seafood, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, soy or walnuts.
Kids and Dietary Supplement Safety
Although most multivitamins and mineral supplements designed for children are generally safe, you should speak with your health care provider before giving your kids any kind of dietary supplements, especially those that are formulated for adults. If you do give your kids any supplements, be sure to follow the label directions for dosages unless your health care provider tells you to do something different. Keep adult vitamins out of the reach of toddlers and young children.
Dietary supplement formulas and the ingredients are not standardized, so quality is not well regulated by government agencies. Don't automatically believe any claims made by dietary supplement companies when they state things such as improves immune system function or increases brain function. These claims are almost always unsubstantiated. Don't attempt to treat any specific health conditions with supplements without the guidance of your health care provider. Some dietary supplements such as iron tablets can cause iron toxicity when taken in large amounts. Selenium and vitamins A and D can also reach toxic levels in a child's body and should not be given in large doses.
Fortified and Enriched Foods
Even if your kid is a picky eater, he or she may be still be getting enough vitamins and minerals. Some of the foods your child eats are probably fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals. Milk has vitamin D added to it, many breakfast cereals have a long list of added vitamins and minerals, most bread has extra iron and B vitamins, and orange juice is sometimes produced with added calcium.
Keep Offering New FoodsDietary supplements are not substitutes for nutritious foods. If your kid is a picky eater, you should continue to encourage him or her to try new foods. Eventually, he or she will probably begin to eat a more balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and healthy fat sources such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are important too. Include fish, seafood, pumpkin seeds or walnuts in your child's diet.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Where We Stand: Vitamins. Accessed June 10, 2010. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/pages/Where-We-Stand-Vitamins.aspx.
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplements: Background Information. Accessed June 10, 2010. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/dietarysupplements/.