These days, a walk down the vitamin aisle is enough to give you a headache – luckily, there’s a vitamin for that. The same goes for children’s multivitamins, as there are many brands vying for attention on the shelf. If parents choose to implement a multivitamin in their child’s diet, Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN has five tips to make the multivitamin options a little less confusing. As always, a talk with your child’s pediatrician is advised before starting any new regimen.
1) Get a supplement that says multivitamin and mineral to get the best key nutrients. Our Mary Hartley, RD suggested, “Don’t forget about minerals! Look at the zinc and iron content. For instance, Flintstones Complete has 12 mg of zinc whereas Centrum Junior Complete has only 3 mg.”
2) Remember to look at what else is in the product, like artificial ingredients, sweeteners, preservatives, and animal products, and pick the healthiest one.
3) Try to stay away from gummy vitamins – they have lots of sugar and may stick to teeth, causing cavities.
4) Get a supplement with a high level of vitamin D, important for growing kids to aid in calcium absorption.
5) Don’t disregard the product’s taste and texture. If they do not like how it tastes, despite how nutritious it might be, children will not take it so it is a lost battle.
Our resident pharmacist, Dr. Sarah G. Khan, added that a fluoride supplement is a good idea for children to help prevent cavities. Also, make sure to keep vitamins out of reach so that children do not think they are candy.
Schapiro says that the best nutrition insurance policy for children is a multivitamin, as they tend to be picky eaters. Medical experts disagree on how much a multivitamin helps individuals, but they have not found any negative consequences. Hartley advises that “Food is always best and the goal is not to have all children take supplements.” She also speaks strongly that food should be the first line of nutritional defense, not supplements.
“For children with highly selective diets, poor appetites, or a vegetarian diet containing no dairy products, a good over-the-counter vitamin/mineral supplement should be considered. But don’t give up on food! For instance, if a child will not drink milk, serve yogurt, puddings, cereal and milk, milk-based soups, homemade cornbread, and other foods that are high in calcium. If a child does not like meat, serve beans, lentils, quinoa, eggs, poultry, tuna fish, and other meat substitutes.”
Children eating a balanced diet who take a multivitamin will not be getting too much of any vitamin at unsafe levels. Just don’t give large doses of any one vitamin, especially vitamins A, D, E, K and iron, which can be toxic if ingested in large amounts. Hartley says, “Never give doses that are higher than 100% of the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) of the child’s age, and always consult the pediatrician or a registered dietitian before giving a child supplements.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes dietary guidelines to provide the most up-to-date information on recommended amounts of specific vitamins and minerals.