As a mother, I spend a lot of time worrying about the growth and development of my two girls. I often ask myself: “Is she the right height?” “Are they eating enough?” “Maybe she needs some additional nutrition?” Luckily, as a dietitian, I have a lot of go-to resources and tools to answer those questions.
Good nutrition is essential for a growing child. You may have wondered if a multivitamin would benefit your child and ease some of your anxiety. You may even take a multivitamin yourself for nutrition insurance. Children can often receive the nutrients they need from a well-balanced diet, but there are three instances when I would recommend a multivitamin:
Food allergies or Intolerances- Food allergies and intolerances can put a lot of added stress on parents. They’re a serious matter and you do the best you can to protect your child. But consider the possibility that not eating certain foods could be slowing the growth of your child. For example, a child with a lactose allergy may not be getting the calcium and vitamin D they need to build strong muscles and bones. Weak bones can lead to osteoporosis and fractures later in life.
A multivitamin is a great way to ensure that your child is getting a variety of nutrients. Choose a supplement that works best for your child. If your child has an allergy be sure to read the label. Many supplements are available free of gluten, dairy, soy, and other allergens.
Strict diets such as vegan or vegetarian- As a parent, you may adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet with the hopes that your family will too. And you have every right to do so! However a very strict diet increases the likelihood that some nutrients may be lacking. According to American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegan diets tend to be lower in vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are essential for brain and skin health, bone development, and immunity. Look for supplements, such as Hero Nutritionals, that are made with a pectin base from fruits so they are vegetarian.
Extremely picky eaters- Do you have a child that exists solely on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? (Disclaimer- I would select a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as my one food to eat on a deserted island.) Although, this kid and adult favorite sandwich can be part of a healthy diet, it should not be the only part! If you have a child who does not eat enough at meals or tends to eat only a select number of foods, you should consider giving your child a multivitamin. With all the tasty flavors and fun shapes even your picky eater should enjoy them! Look for supplements free from artificial dyes and with low levels of sweeteners. The last thing children need is an additional dose of high fructose corn syrup!
Reference: Winston Craig J. Health effects of vegan diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 1627S-33S.