You must have often heard that “big things come in small packages”. This holds true for your toddlers too, as they have high nutritional needs despite small stomachs! And this is because toddlers grow at a much faster rate than older children or adults. So, naturally, parents might worry that their kids are not getting enough nutrition, even when they are providing wholesome and balanced meals every day. And this is where supplements come into play. With this article, find out how to choose the right supplement for your toddler and why.
Why do kids need nutritional supplements?
It is true that well-cooked, healthy foods can meet most of the nutritional needs of a toddler. Many common foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereal are fortified with micronutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamins B and D, to prevent common deficiencies too.
However, sometimes, food alone may not be enough. If you have a child who is a fussy eater, you might not be able to get him to eat the right balance of cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses, dairy, etc. Without the right nutrition, your child’s development might become stunted. This is where the need for supplements arises. You should choose the best multivitamin for kids if your child shows:
- Delayed physical growth
- Delayed mental development
- Chronic food allergies
- Chronic diseases
- Has a restrictive diet
For example, providing a strictly vegan diet may not be the best idea for toddlers. Plant-based diets can put your child at risk of iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Failing to give your toddler supplements to meet these deficiencies can have serious consequences. It can lead to developmental delays and abnormal growth.
Similarly, children with inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease may find it difficult to absorb vitamin D and minerals like iron and zinc. This is because this disease damages that part of the digestive system that absorbs these nutrients. Another condition that can affect a child’s ability to absorb sufficient vitamin D is cystic fibrosis. This condition affects the child’s ability to absorb fats and associated fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K. Vitamins for kids are important as they not only help with growth and development, but also lay the foundation for a strong immune system. Thus, in such cases, children may need special kids’ supplements. Children suffering from diseases like cancer may also need extra nutrition.
Picky eating is also often associated with low zinc and iron intake. Foods that are rich in zinc, such as legumes, dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, and shellfish, are foods that fussy children reject often. Thus, you may need to look into zinc supplements for kids in that case.
Choosing a supplement and dosage
If you think your child might benefit from a vitamin supplement, you must consult his paediatrician first. He or she will be able to guide you on whether your child really needs the supplements or not, and can also help choose the right one. Make sure you follow the dosage recommended as well, since excess consumption of vitamins can be harmful too.
Note that giving your child excessive vitamins and minerals will not speed up their growth and development. For example, if your toddler has excessive fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K in his body, these vitamins will be stored in the body fat instead of being used. There have been cases where infants have been diagnosed with vitamin D toxicity caused by excessive supplement doses.
Apart from checking the dosage, also pay attention to the form of the supplement. For example, you might want to avoid gummy vitamins or candy-like vitamins because it is easy to eat these in excess.
Always keep calcium supplements for kids and other supplements out of your children’s reach and give them the appropriate dosage yourself. If you suspect an overdose of supplements, consult a doctor immediately.
Just because a supplement is available in the market does not mean that your child needs it. If you can ensure a healthy, well-balanced diet, your child’s nutritional needs will be met through food alone. Supplements become necessary only if the child is suffering from a condition that limits nutrient absorption, or if he or she does not eat certain foods or if a paediatrician recommends a supplement specifically.
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