Food & Drinks

Vitamins For Children: Are They Needed?

Vitamins For Children: Are They Needed?

It is not uncommon for parents to ask pediatricians about their children's growth and development. Given the limited diets of most small children and small appetites, it can be difficult for parents to judge if their children are eating enough to grow. This, in turn, makes many parents wonder if they should be supplementing their children's diets with extra vitamins and minerals.

Why do parents worry their children need vitamins?

Many parents worry that because their children are picky eaters and have small appetites they are not eating enough to grow well. However, the vast majority of children grow and develop normally despite their limited dietary variety and don't require any additional supplementation. Even though dietary issues in childhood are rare, parents who are concerned about a child's nutritional intake should discuss those concerns with the child's pediatrician.

Which children benefit from Vitamin Supplementation?

The rule of thumb to always remember is that healthy children eating a normal diet for age are taking in enough vitamins and minerals and don't require anything additional. However, as with all rules, there are a few exceptions. In pediatrics, these exceptions apply to two specific groups: infants and children with chronic and very specific medical conditions. There biggest group of infants who require supplementation are breast fed babies. Thes babies require extra vitamin D because they don't get enough in the breast milk. So, theses babies will be given supplements by their pediatrician until they weaned from breast milk to either formula supplemented with vitamin D or whole milk at 1 year of age that is supplemented with vitamin D. The second group of children who may require extra vitamins are children with chronic medical conditions, which includes children underweight either isolated or due to a growth issue. For these children, the supplementation will be determined by the underlying issue.

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Why not supplement every child "just in case"?

Human bodies are like cars. They need the right gas, oil and lubrication to function correctly. If we put extra gas and oil in our car, or the wrong kind, the car not only won't function any better but may function incorrectly depending on the brand of car and what we have put into it. Vitamins are function the same way in our bodies. Unless we are truly replacing something we don't have, adding something we don't runs the risk of causing side effects and toxicity. And, doesn't help our bodies function better than they do naturally.

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What is the best way for parents to provide the necessary vitamins for their children?

Exposing children from a young age to a diet balanced with all food groups is the best way for children to get the right amount of vitamins to grow. Chidren need a balance of dairy, breads, fruits and vegatables. The exact amount does vary per age but kids have a way of increasing this on their own when offerred a healthy choice. To learn more about the right variet to give your child visit Choose My Plate. See: Choose My Plate

We were kids once and just as picky as our own kids. Our kids' appetites and variety for foods will expand over time, as as ours did. In the meantime, we can rest assured that their bodies know what they are doing and taking in just what they need to grown. Biology is amazing that way.

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