If you are treating a child who is a fussy eater, their parents may ask you whether or not they need to be providing them with a vitamin supplement.
The general advice is that for most children, vitamin supplements are not needed. However, if a child is an extremely picky eater and this goes on for a long time, then supplements can be a good way to ensure that a child is getting everything that they need if they are used carefully.
What vitamins do children need?
Broadly speaking, children need exactly the same nutrients as adults, only in smaller quantities. It is particularly important that children get enough calcium and Vitamin D, as these are both essential for supporting bone growth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Department of Agriculture does not recognize supplements for children older than one who are following a healthy balanced diet. This is because there is a risk of providing too much of certain vitamins, which can be toxic. Fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and K are easy to take in excess amounts, for example.
Most important foods for children to eat
Before resorting to vitamins, it is a good idea to see if the parents can encourage children to begin eating foods that are nutrient-rich. Some of the most important foods for children to consume are:
- Apples – an excellent source of vitamin C. Chopping apples into chunks can make them more appealing.
- Breakfast cereals – chosen carefully! Some brands of breakfast cereals are packed full of sugar and do not provide a lot of nutritional value. However, brands like Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Wheaties and Toasted Raisin Bran are a good source of fiber and are often fortified with calcium and B Vitamins.
- Peanut butter – an excellent source of protein. Some parents do not like giving their children peanut butter due to the fat content. Peanut butter is high in fat, but it is mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are better than saturated fats.
The most effective way that parents can encourage fussy eaters to develop better habits is by eating the foods that they want their child to eat themselves. Children will naturally want to eat what their parents are eating, and so having a varied diet yourself is a great way to promote healthy eating. It can also be effective to ensure that mealtimes are a fun experience, use them as an opportunity to chat as a family. Never use food as a reward or a punishment as this can start to create unhealthy associations.
If children are not getting the nutrients they need from their diet, then supplements are a good backup option. Morning Complete is a cinnamon and apple-flavored blend, packed with vitamins and nutrients, which can be added to water and drunk like a juice. Much more appealing than vitamin tablets!
Alternatively, you can encourage children to take vitamins by hiding them in foods that they like. Foods like yoghurt, mac and cheese, pudding, ice cream and oatmeal all make great hiding places for vitamins.