Being a parent seems to be getting more and more complex. A couple of decades ago, kids were perfectly happy spending the entire day in the back yard, running around with their hands a bit muddy and their clothes a bit muddier, coming in to eat and storming out again.

They may have had less supervision, but they were healthy, hearty, and ready to tackle the world.

Modern society has made childhood different for our kids: there are the perils of social media, the challenges of acceptance and fitting in, the desire for toys and clothes we don’t seem to have had.

And of course, there’s the challenge of what to feed them.

As the foods we eat become more polluted and enhanced, and as we don’t all have regular access to organic produce, we have to make the best of what we’ve got.

In such a situation, the question naturally arises: do our kids need to be taking vitamins and supplements? And if yes, what kinds?


Do kids need to supplement?


Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer to this question.

Ideally, we want our children to get all the nutrients they need through the meals they have at home and in school. Even if your child is a picky eater, and will simply not deal with certain kinds of foods (enter his royal majesty, broccoli), they’re likely getting what they need anyway.

However, you may still want to ensure your kids are definitely getting all the vitamins they need, and if your pediatrician gives you the green light, go right ahead. Make sure you choose a vitamin that is formulated with your child’s age in mind.

When taken properly, vitamins and minerals should not cause any harm. However, they shouldn’t (and can’t) ever be a replacement for a healthy diet. Kids need to eat healthy to grow healthy, so don’t stuff them full of vitamins and hope for the best. Also, don’t call these vitamins candies – while they’re often packaged to look like sweets, teaching your children either that sweets are healthy or that vitamins can be taken like candy is certainly not the road you want to go down.

Try to ensure your kids eat what we like to call a “rainbow diet” – all those colorful varieties of fruit and veg that they may not always like, but for which there should be a nice alternative.


8 things you need to know about supplements for kids

If you do decide to give supplements and vitamins a try, here are the eight things you need to know and be vigilant about, to ensure you get the best results:

1. Some supplements do come from natural sources, while others don’t. 

However, even if the label says “natural,” that does not mean it’s safe for children, or even good for them. “Natural” is just a word used to sell products, so make sure you check what the supplement actually contains, and talk to your pediatrician about the amounts your child should be taking.

2. Always buy your supplements from reputable suppliers only! 

Dietary supplements are not regulated like medications are. They can be of really poor quality, and even contain contaminants like chemicals and metals. It has been found that what a supplement label advertises and what’s actually in the bottle may not always be the same, so place your trust only in brands and companies with a stellar reputation.

3. Certain supplements are simply not for children. 

Anything that is marketed for rapid weight loss that contains herbs like acai and hoodia should not be given to children. Also make sure you don’t give them anything with guarana and other herbs that contain caffeine, as they don’t need these kinds of stimulants.

4. If your kids are vegetarians or vegans, they may need to add vitamin B12 to their diet

That’s because B12 can only be found in animal-based foods. If your kids have celiac disease, they also may need to take supplements. 

As for picky eaters – depending on what their diet is like, they may benefit from supplementing as well. The challenge here may be getting your kids to take what is essentially a medicine every day, so giving them flavored gelatin capsules can be a good way to circumvent the resistance.

5. Omega-3 supplements can be good for improving memory and cognitive abilities.

– And they are often the ones we look into when considering supplements for our kids. They can potentially even have a positive effect on depression and asthma, but more studies are needed before we can say this for certain. If you choose to give your kids Omega-3 supplements, be prepared for minor side effects: belching, indigestion, or even diarrhea.

6. Multivitamins should not be at the top of your list.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend them for children who eat a varied diet (which is what we’ve agreed should be your aim). It’s better to supplement the vitamins you think your child is not getting enough of, than to reach for a broad-spectrum multivitamin.

7. Some vitamins should not be taken together.

For example, magnesium and calcium will not be as effective when combined together. If you’re giving your child more than one supplement, make sure to make sure they interact well together and check when to take which one.

8. More than 4500 children end up in the emergency room every year due to dietary supplements that have been taken unsupervised.

And that’s another reason why you shouldn’t present them to your children as candy. Child-resistant packaging is not a must for supplements, so make sure you control their intake, as well as to teach them never to take supplements on their own or just for the taste.

Final thoughts

There’s nothing wrong with taking supplements or giving them to our children, as long as they don’t become a replacement or an excuse not to eat healthy foods every day. Do your research, talk to your child’s pediatrician, and think long and hard whether your child needs to take them. 

If yes, teach them what the benefits are, as opposed to just shoving them down their throats with an “it’s good for you” shrug-off. They need to learn what supplements are and what they can and can’t achieve. That’s how you’ll help them establish a healthy relationship with food, supplements, and medication for their entire life.

Author's Bio: 

Biologist by day, writer by night, and a huge geek. My fields of expertise could be summed up to health, psychology and lifestyle-related topics.