Do Children Need Vitamins?

There’s an ongoing debate about whether we need vitamins or not.

As a Nutritional Therapist, I’ve always believed that a healthy diet could be enough. If you’re eating well, there’s no need to take a supplement.

Before I had children I always made sure I was eating more than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (though experts now say 7 is the magic number for health and life expectancy). I bought organic where possible. I ate oily fish at least twice a week, and I enjoyed (often home baked) wholegrain bread and rice instead of the white variety which left me feeling bloated.  When I had children, I would certainly aim to bring up my children eating the same way.  They would be healthy and energetic, barely suffering from a cough or cold, and I would be smug mum with glowing vibrant children running along next to me.

Enter fussy eater number 1.

When my daughter was born, I had all the good intentions of Annabel Karmel. I aimed to whip up organic lunches and healthy balanced dinners from scratch. Store purees in ice cube trays and pop out delicious concoctions when required. Yet our daughter only wanted milk for the first year of her life, and used food as a play thing.

Then when she did finally eat it was a small range of foods – sausages, yoghurt, hummus and oats. I guess it could’ve been worse. Protein – tick, calcium – tick, wholegrain carbs and fibre – tick, but not an ounce of green leafy veg, healthy omega 3 fats, or even a tiniest spectrum of protective antioxidants.

Believe me I tried.

Approximately half of all toddlers are fussy eaters refusing food 50% of the time. So, it is no surprise that food issues are a source of stress for many parents.

In fact, 8 out of 10 parents are concerned about their child’s eating habits and one third of parents worry that their child isn’t eating enough.

A wide variety of foods are essential for a growing and developing body and are also necessary for a strong immune system, which as we know, is extremely important right now.

So, whilst we worked on introducing new foods, I reluctantly decided that our daughter needed a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement with some extra vitamin C and D.

If you’re wondering whether your child needs one too, here’s a check list based on government recommendations. Not many people know that the NHS recommends ALL children 6 months to 5 years take a multivitamin (here).

You may need to consider a vitamin supplement if your child…..

1) doesn’t regularly eat well balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods
2) is a fussy eater, that only eats a narrow range of foods
3) has a chronic medical condition such as asthma, digestive problems or takes any medication
4) is particularly active, playing physically demanding sports
5) eats more than 2 or 3 fast, convenience and processed meals a week
6) is on a vegetarian or vegan diet
7) follows a restricted diet due to food allergies and intolerances
8) drinks a lot of carbonated sodas which leach vitamins and minerals from your body
9) does not play outside regularly enough to get vitamin D from sunlight
10) doesn’t eat the recommended 2 portions of fish a week
11) is exposed to or fighting an infection

Fortunately, over the years our daughter has transformed into a fabulously adventurous eater. But just when we thought we’d cracked it, entered fussy child number 2.

Given that we’re often pandering to his tastes, so I don’t have to cook multiple meals, I find it easier to give them both a Children’s Multi-vitamin and mineral, Essential omega fat, vitamin C and D.

It’s like an insurance policy.

It gives me peace of mind that they are getting all the nutrients they need.

There are a multitude of children’s supplements to choose from, they are certainly not created equally, and it can all be very confusing.  I thoroughly recommend consulting a qualified Nutritional Therapist for guidance.

If you’re not keen on supplements, or your child’s a great eater, but want to naturally increase their intake of vitamins and minerals, here’s some easy tips.

Do you have a fussy eater in the house? Have you decided to give vitamins during this pandemic? Have you found a good vitamin you like?

Together we can get through this. Stay well.

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