Do you ever walk down the vitamin aisle at your grocery store? If so, you’re probably tempted to grab a bottle or two of those “healthy” gummy bears to make up for your child not eating their broccoli. But, does your child really need a multivitamin? The answer may surprise you. While a large portion of young children take multivitamins, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend them for the average child. Vitamins and minerals are an important part of your child’s health, but only a small amount is needed each day. Small enough that as long as you are serving your sprout a varied diet, they probably get all the vitamins and minerals they need through their food, even with just a few bites of each item. Giving your child a supplement may make you feel better, but it most likely isn’t helping them a whole lot. If you do want to continue supplementing, here are a few things to remember:
Regulation: Multivitamins are not regulated by the FDA, meaning their claims aren’t monitored and they aren’t tested to see what is actually in them. If a vitamin makes a claim that sounds too good to be true (like curing the common cold), it probably is too good to be true. Don’t give more than the recommended dose in the supplement contains higher amounts of vitamins than what is listed on the label.
Gummy Vitamins: Vitamins should be a supplement, not a treat. There are thousands of cases reported to poison control from kids overdosing on their vitamin supplement because they think it’s a candy. While most of these cases turn out fine, gummy vitamins are still not a recommendation I would give. Keep in mind that, while they contain extra vitamins and minerals, they are still a candy and contain sugar. Not even dentists like gummy vitamins (think cavities) so stick to the chewable or liquid variety.
Breastfeeding: If you are solely breastfeeding, your baby may need a vitamin supplement. Common supplements that are actually helpful in infants include: Vitamin D, Iron, Fluoride and Vitamin B12. Most people don’t get enough Vitamin D so if you are breastfeeding and don’t get enough, your baby isn’t going to get enough in your breastmilk. Yes, you can make it with a little help from the sun but if you are anything like me, your baby is covered in sunscreen at all times while outside (vitamin D is great but sunburns are not) and probably isn’t making much. Baby’s are also born with enough iron stores to last them 4-6 months. At 6 months you can add iron-fortified foods, but if your kid isn’t big into baby cereal you may need to supplement. Fluoride is a good one unless you live in a city with fluoridated water, and if your sprout is following a vegetarian or vegan diet they may need vitamin B12, which is typically found in animal products. Before starting any of these supplements be sure to check with your pediatrician or registered dietitian.
Natural Sources: The best way to make sure your child is getting their vitamins and minerals is by serving them a varied, balanced diet. If you don’t feel it’s varied or balanced enough, discuss this with your pediatrician or registered dietitian. Most likely they’ll tell you what I’m telling you, which is that they don’t need a lot of food to get the amount of vitamins they need. Keep offering and eventually your kid will catch on.
The vitamin world is booming with people looking for a quick fix but remember, teaching your child to eat healthy is most likely not going to have a quick solution. Do me a favor and skip the vitamin aisle next time you’re at the grocery store, take a stroll down the produce aisle instead. You’ll definitely get more bang for your buck!