Are Children’s Multivitamins Absolutely Unnecessary?
If you walk down the aisles at your local pharmacy, you will see bottle after bottle of a multivitamin sold specifically for children. This tends to give the impression that they are usually needed, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is that a healthy child who is on a well-balanced diet does not need to take vitamins, with the exception of vitamin D for infants and children. children . Instead, the risk associated with giving a healthy baby a multivitamin is that megadoses of vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and D can be toxic, causing symptoms such as nausea, rashes, and headaches.
“I strongly believe in getting as much nutrients as possible through food,” said Mary Campagnolo , a general practitioner in Bordentown, New Jersey, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Family Physicians . “There are many factors that we do not yet understand that we get from eating whole foods.”
If you feel like your child may need a multivitamin due to their diet or other reasons, the first thing to do is talk to a pediatrician or family doctor. “It can be really important to know what supplements people are taking,” Campagnolo said. “Sometimes there is interaction [with the medications you are taking], or it can lead to increased anticoagulation, which can be detrimental during surgery.”
What does a healthy balanced diet look like for children?
Prioritizing healthy eating from an early age is a good way to reinforce healthy habits for life. To help parents, the American Academy of Family Physicians has compiled guidelines on how children can get the vitamins and minerals they need from food . Feed them primarily with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.
As Campagnolo points out, legumes are one of the food groups that offer a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. “Beans are a forgotten product,” Campagnolo said. This includes lentils, which are easy to make, as well as various types of beans such as kidney, pinto, black, lima, and large northern beans.
It’s also very important to keep track of sodium levels as well as processed sugars, as they can cause a number of health problems. “These are two big areas that we are not focusing on as much as we should be,” Campagnolo said.
While kids can be picky about their food, starting these habits now will help lay the foundation for healthy eating for life. “It is important for children that they learn good habits from their parents,” Campagnolo said.
A restrictive diet may require a multivitamin.
If you have a toddler who is going through an exceptionally picky period, it may be worth considering giving him a multivitamin for a few months after talking to your family doctor or pediatrician about it. “Keep trying your best to give them variation,” Campagnolo said. “I know it’s difficult.”
For other restrictive diets, vegan and vegetarian families must be careful with their diet to ensure they are getting enough essential vitamins and minerals. Otherwise, it is recommended to add multivitamins or fortified milk and cereals.
The same is true if the child has a food allergy or intolerance to, for example, dairy products, as this will mean that you need to monitor your calcium and vitamin D intake especially closely to make sure they are getting it would be enough to give them fortified cereals or alternative milk. However, check the shortcuts to make sure they are added.
If your child has a problem that affects his digestion, you should talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about whether a multivitamin is needed.
Families facing barriers to accessing healthy food may also need multivitamins.
Another exception is if your family is struggling when it comes to getting enough healthy food. While there are certainly resources to help families get enough healthy food, be it a community organization or a government aid program, the grim reality is that nearly 14 million children in this country are not getting enough food .
Doctors are being taught to screen more for possible food insecurity so they can help, but there are still a number of systemic challenges when it comes to families’ access to healthy diets. “Our priority is to help people be healthy,” Campagnolo said, which includes trying to identify additional social factors that can affect a patient’s health.
In addition to the large number of children in this country who do not get enough food, there are also families living in deserts where it is more difficult to access affordable, healthy food, and even more families who may not have the time or kitchen space to cook regularly.
Multivitamins certainly won’t solve systemic problems or replace healthy foods, but they can help prevent some of the deficiencies. As Campagnolo rightly notes: “We have to look wider.”