Does My Child Need A Supplement?

By Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND

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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