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5 Ways to Know if Your Child Needs Multivitamins

Jill Castle, MS, RDN
January 3, 2019 . 3 min read

1. Is it time for multivitamins?

Whether you hope to make meal times a little easier or just want to be sure that your child is receiving adequate nutrition, adding a multivitamin to your child’s regimen requires careful consideration. Mineral deficiencies are quite rare in the US, but some studies do show that many children are not taking in the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for nutrients like fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Even with that data, many physicians are hesitant to start young ones on a supplement, and instead favor a food first approach that adds nutrients through fortified foods, like milk, yogurt, or cereals that contain added vitamins and minerals. However, there are some signs that indicate that a supplement may be the right choice for your child.

2. Picky eaters

If your child is a picky eater who adamantly refuses to eat anything in an entire food group, you may want to consider adding a multivitamin. In cases like these, first try to supplement the nutrients that your child is missing with food substitutes. For example, if your child vehemently refuses all dairy, look for other sources of calcium, vitamin D, protein and so on. If that doesn’t work, a supplement may be a good idea.

3. Struggling to gain weight

When a child struggles to gain weight, it can be a red flag that they are not taking in enough calories or the nutrients they contain. You will want to discuss possible causes with your physician, but if your child isn’t meeting expected growth milestones, you may want to discuss supplements, as well.

4. Your child eats like a bird

If your child pecks and picks through mealtime, consuming what seems like hardly enough to subsist on, they are likely missing out on some nutrients. Poor eating may be caused by a variety of factors, such as picky eating or disposition, but it may be an indicator that your child needs help getting adequate amounts of vital vitamins and minerals.

5. Too much processed food

Who doesn’t love a cinnamon-flavored, sugary, little teddy bear snack? Or a deliciously cheesy golden fish cracker? Even adults enjoy the many processed foods that fill our supermarkets, so it isn’t any wonder that some children develop a preference for those items. Although your child can enjoy crackers and other processed foods as a small portion of a healthy diet, these should not make up the bulk of your child’s food intake. If this is the case, your child is likely missing out on nutrients that are bountiful in whole foods, like fiber, B vitamins, or healthy fats, which can be cause for concern.

6. Your child\’s diet is restricted

Some children’s diets may be restricted due to food allergies or lifestyle choices. As in any case where food groups are absent from your child’s diet, it is important to seek alternative sources of the nutrients that those foods would otherwise provide. Vegan children’s parents, for example, will need to find alternative sources of the vitamin B12 and iron that other children take in through meats. If you find that those food substitutions are not sufficient, a supplement may do the trick.

7. A few precautions

If you do decide that a supplement is best for your child, be sure to continue encouraging healthy eating — your child absorbs nutrients much more efficiently through foods than through capsules or chewable tablets. Also carefully consider the type of supplement you choose. The supplement should contain no more than 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance and should be given in the recommended dose for the age of your child, which may only be half a tablet for youngsters. Be sure to store these supplements out of your child’s reach, and be sure that your child understands that these tablets, which may be toxic for your child in large amounts, are not candy or a treat.

Sources:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Vitamin Supplements.
    American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Vitamin Supplements and Children.

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