Does My Child Need A Supplement?

By Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND

March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.

Does your child eat a variety of foods? If so, your child probably doesn't need a nutrient supplement. Meals and snacks likely supply enough vitamins and other nutrients for growth and health. Food is the best nutrient source, anyway.

If your child has a feeding problem that lasts for several weeks or if you're unsure about your child's nutrient intake, get expert advice. Before you give your child a supplement, talk to your child's doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Beware of claims for supplements targeted to help children get over colds, depression or attention deficit disorder, among others. These claims aren't supported by sound science; such supplements may be harmful. An appropriate supplement may be recommended if your child avoids an entire food group due to a food dislike, allergy or intolerance; or if your child is a vegetarian.

If your health provider recommends a nutrient supplement for your child:

  • Choose a supplement with a childproof cap. Store it out of your child's reach.
  • Give a supplement only in the safe, recommended does. Too much can be harmful.
  • Remember: Supplements are just that – supplements – not an excuse to forgo smart eating.
  • Remind children that supplements aren't candy, even if they come in fun names, colors, shapes and package design.
  • Remember that enriched and fortified foods may have the same added nutrients that the supplement has.

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