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 source for nutrients.
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. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that a child's food intake be reviewed before determining the need for a vitamin or mineral supplement. So 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 and such supplements may be harmful. The same is true for herbal supplements, since there is very little research regarding their safety and effectiveness in children. 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 doses. 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.
Reviewed August 2017 Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND, is author of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide and 365 Days of Healthy Eating.