Do Kids Really Need A Nutritional Supplement?
Whether kids need to take a nutritional supplement is a tricky and often controversial topic. Kids, like adults should primarily get their nutrients from food, focusing on a variety of foods from the five food groups. However, as many parents know, kids can be difficult to feed at times – whether it is a fussy phase, not having much of an appetite for a while, or they might be limited to what they can eat by a food allergy or intolerance. It can leave us thinking, are our kids getting enough nutrients and should they be taking a supplement?
This brings me to the next challenge – the plethora of kids supplements on the market! Aside from showing the nutrient values – which often means very little to most of us, many of these supplements also do not list the other ingredients they contain so it is not uncommon for them to be full of additives and hidden sugar.
Here are my tips to deciding whether your kids should take a supplement:
Step 1: Do an audit of their current diet. Write a quick list of what your child eats in a day including quantities.
Step 2: Break down what they eat into serves (what a serve of each food group is shown below).
Step 3: Compare the serves they are currently having with the recommendations for their age group. Are they meeting their recommended servings?
Step 4: If there are any food groups your child is not having enough of, they might be missing out on important nutrients, which they can get them from other foods or a supplement:
- Fruit & vegetables: a rainbow of colours is key, sneak it into food if you must and if you’re concerned, a good quality kids’ sugar-free multivitamin might be necessary to cover their bases.
- Grains: usually the white vs brown grainy food is the issue – wholegrain/brown options provide fibre which is also found in all plant foods as well as fortified high fibre breads and pastas.
- Protein: protein is found in all animal foods as well as legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains. Red meat is an excellent source of iron and can also be found in other meat and fish, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals. Oily fish like salmon is a rich source of essential omega 3 fats, which can be found in small amounts in some nuts and seeds. If your child is eating very little to no meat or oily fish, a good quality supplement might be necessary.
- Dairy: contains the richest source of calcium and other minerals for bone and teeth development. If your child is dairy-free, they can get their calcium from calcium-fortified plant milks, tofu and salmon with bones. For lactose-intolerance, choose lactose-free dairy products. If your child is not meeting their daily serves, they may need a no-added sugar calcium/bone health supplement.
For general picky eaters or kids who might be picking up a cough and sniffles frequently, they might also benefit from a kids multivitamin or immune health supplement like a gummie, particularly through the winter months. If your child is not eating an entire food group, a supplement might also not be enough to meet their full nutritional requirements, so it is important to speak to your doctor or dietitian.
*This is general advice, and it is important to see a doctor or Dietitian for specific nutrition advice.