It’s a fact, children who enjoy a healthy, varied diet are more likely to be full of energy, feel brighter, more alert, suffer from fewer colds and illnesses and concentrate better at school. Unfortunately, children do not always get all of the recommended daily levels of key vitamins and minerals from their diet. Due to the prevalence of processed food, children’s picky eating habits and children’s specific nutrient requirements for proper growth and development, even children who have good eating habits, may experience gaps in nutrition needs vs. intake.
1. Children who eat a balanced diet, don't need supplements - is this true?
While it is possible for children to get a lot of nutrients from a good diet and this should be the goal, sometimes it can be very difficult for children to meet all of the RDAs through diet alone. In addition to the fact that many children have erratic eating habits, good sources of nutrients may have been degraded through processing.
2. What kinds of nutrients are children generally missing and why are these important?
Although nutritional status can vary considerably from child to child, studies indicate that iron, calcium, folate and zinc are the nutrients for which there is more likely to be a shortfall in a child’s diet. While many vitamins and minerals have important and specific roles in childhood development, these particular nutrients are crucial for growth, development and immune function.
3. Do I need to worry about any negative effects with certain nutrients at high levels?
Generally, when supplements are formulated, the average diet is taken into consideration. This ensures that the total intake of certain vitamins and minerals will not exceed any upper limit guidelines. Some nutrients, when taken in excessive doses can be detrimental to health. These include vitamins A, D, B6 and iron. However, the levels of nutrients found in children’s vitamin and mineral formulas will be well within the established safe ranges for a particular age group, although care should be taken when mixing several different products, as high levels of a particular nutrient may result.
4. Should I give my children omega 3 supplements or foods fortified with omega 3?
Omega 3 belongs to a group of fats known as essential fatty acids, which are crucial to the development of any child. Fish oil is known to be a rich source of two major omega 3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA in particular has been receiving a great deal of attention for its supportive role in brain function and development. Great food sources of omega 3 are nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, brazil and pine nuts), seeds (sesame, pumpkin and sunflower) and oily fish (sardines, mackerel and pilchards).
5. What are the differences among children’s supplements - aren’t they all the same?
There are numerous differences among children’s supplements. Some focus on flavour or presentation of the product at the expense of a complete nutrition profile. These may be useful for children who refuse to take any supplements at all. Other supplements focus on nutrition profile alone, resulting in an unappealing flavour that children may reject. Solgar has gone to great length to develop children’s supplements that have an excellent nutritional profile that taste great.
6. Once I choose a multivitamin with a complete nutrition profile, what else should I consider?
By reading the ingredients list, you can determine whether the supplement contains flavours and colours that are natural or artificial. Also be aware of hidden sugar levels. Beyond sugar, products can be sweetened with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame.
7. How do you keep kids from thinking that if they take their multivitamins, they don’t have to worry about nutrition?
We all agree that nutrition starts with diet. And while they are young, children learn important eating habits that they bring to adulthood. Good nutrition, through food, should be the emphasis in communication. Supplements are exactly what their name implies, an addition that will help to fulfil overall needs. Children should be taught that it is better to get nutrients from food versus supplements. Remember that multivitamins should never be used as a treat or reward; children should understand that they take multivitamins for nutrition purposes.
Information supplied by Solgar