Nutritional Supplements for Children: Are They Necessary?

As a parent, you do everything you can to model good eating habits. You really try to throw some broccoli in between the fries to make sure your child gets enough nutrients. Although you try to incorporate most of these healthy habits into your child’s diet, the reality is that broccoli ends up on the floor instead of in your stomach. Although adequate vitamin and mineral intake is crucial for promoting healthy growth and development in children, this is not necessarily the case. When a child eats a healthy and balanced diet, he or she does not need any additional nutritional supplements. However, there are certain children who are more sensitive to deficiencies and could benefit from taking a supplement.

Why do children need nutritional supplements?

Children need nutritional supplements in case of deficiencies or certain diseases:

1. Vitamin B12 deficiency

Children who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may need vitamin B12 supplementation, as it is found exclusively in animal foods.

Also read: Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Here are the foods you should eat and avoid

2. People with celiac disease

Likewise, children diagnosed with celiac disease are at higher risk for nutritional deficiencies and may benefit from supplements.

Some children with celiac disease may need nutritional supplements. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Children who eat sugary foods or have a poor appetite

In addition, children with poor appetite, or who consume too many sugar-sweetened beverages, have high intakes of specific medications, or chronic medical conditions that hinder nutrient absorption may also necessitate supplementation.

4. Iron deficiency

Many children do not get enough iron and calcium through their diet. Iron can be found in foods such as beans and spinach. It plays a crucial role in muscle development and red blood cell production. Symptoms of low iron levels include fatigue, anxiety and increased susceptibility to infections.

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5. Calcium deficiency

Calcium is essential for the growth of strong bones. It can be obtained from sources such as milk, sardines, broccoli and spinach. Inadequate calcium intake can lead to growth retardation and the development of osteoporosis later in life.

Also read: 6 warning signs of calcium deficiency to look out for

6. Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and also contributes to the development of bones and teeth. It is produced by our bodies when exposed to sunlight and can be found in certain foods such as fortified dairy products or alternatives, egg yolks and fish oil. Children who consume less than 32 ounces of vitamin D-fortified milk or dairy alternatives daily may need a supplement to meet recommended intake levels. However, excessive consumption is not beneficial as it can lead to low iron levels in the body.

7. Low levels of B vitamins

Children with low levels of B vitamins may also need supplements. B vitamins are important for metabolism and energy production and are found in eggs, nuts, beans and soybeans.

8. Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A supports normal growth and promotes healthy skin and vision, strengthens immunity and also helps with tissue repair, including bones. Excellent sources include yellow/orange vegetables, along with milk, cheese and eggs.

Children with a vitamin A deficiency may also need supplements. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

A healthy diet helps meet the nutritional needs of children

Parents should aim for a varied diet to ensure that their child meets the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced diet includes dairy products or alternatives, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, as well as protein-rich foods such as fish, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils. Although all vitamins and minerals contribute to growth and development, certain vitamins and minerals are of particular importance to children’s health.

Things parents should keep in mind!

Before giving your child supplements, talk to the doctor first. While there may be certain situations where supplements are necessary, it is ideal for growing children to get essential vitamins and minerals from foods and drinks. If you think your child may need a supplement, seek advice from your healthcare provider.

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