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kids taking a supplement from their mom

As a middle-aged woman with grown stepchildren who were in their teens when their father and I married, I haven’t had the experience of raising a child from infancy to adulthood, so the ideas I have come from watching others. With honestly virtually no exceptions, parents of infants and toddlers seem to do an amazing job feeding their children – infants are breastfed, and as food is introduced, there’s a big focus on single-ingredient whole foods, with fruits and vegetables often center stage, and whole grains, lean protein, and good plant-based fats rounding out the diet. Typically, there is no need for a kids vitamin at such a young age, unless specific supplementation is recommended by your Pediatrician.

The Food Police?

However, things really seem to change when the child transitions to preschool age. Potty trained, steady on their feet (walking, running, climbing, etc.), and with good language skills, the older child’s circle of influence has extended and expanded far beyond Mom and Dad – the child is likely in daycare or playgroups, engaged in dance or a team sport, and is probably spending lots of time (without Mom and Dad) with the grandparents and extended family.  The preschool child has also likely been exposed to quite a bit of TV or videos (where the commercials or product placements are targeted directly to the child and not the parent), and “all at once” that sweet baby is no longer happy eating peas and carrots! The typical preschooler is busy and opinionated, and parents are exhausted. Parents are often doing it alone at this point too, as according to the statistics about half of all preschoolers have parents who are divorced. At the end of the day, most parents don’t want to add “food police” (or bad guy) to their job description.

No more carrots and peas…

So, it’s entirely possible that despite their fabulous initial introduction to food, our growing child now only wants French fries, blue Gatorade, chicken nuggets, and corn! Or turkey sandwiches on white bread and bananas. Having seen the wide variety of food suggested in the food pyramid, a severely restricted diet will usually lack the vital nutrients required for optimal growth and development. Favorite foods like cookies, cakes, soda, and chips have lots of calories but almost no nutritional value, and it’s a growing concern that many children are over-fed and undernourished.

Providers vs. Deciders

Parents are the providers, and children are the deciders. So, does your child need a kids vitamin? For the child who is eating a fabulous, well-balanced diet (with adequate exercise), a kids vitamin probably isn’t needed. On the other hand, you know your own child best. If your child isn’t eating an optimal diet, they may well be missing out on Vitamins A, C, and D, along with calcium and iron. Just as adults often take a multivitamin (and omega-3) to supplement or augment their diet, the same may be a good option for children.

Be careful when choosing a kids vitamin

If a kids vitamin is selected, it’s important to choose wisely. Sadly, the world of supplements for children is no different than the world of cereals, where sugar and flavoring additives have been dressed up as healthy and marketed directly to children.

The level of vitamins and minerals varies dramatically across brands, so it’s important to review ingredient panels. In chewable products, it’s tempting to purchase a chew-able “gummy” product because they taste so good. Beware, if a vitamin tastes like candy, odds are it’s mostly candy, with very little supplementation, as it’s incredibly difficult to “hide” or mask the taste of the minerals.

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Article provided by Jill Turner, Vice President of Operations for Cooper Complete®

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