Almost everyone knows one — the picky eater.
With kids arbitrarily deciding what they will and won’t eat, some parents worried about their children having a well-balanced diet may turn to nutritional supplements.
According to local pediatrician Stephen Klacik, that’s just fine.
“If they are given as (the label says), it doesn’t hurt to give kids a vitamin,” said Klacik of The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.
These days, children’s vitamins come in many varieties, including gummies, bubble gum and the traditional chewables. No matter what form the supplement comes in, Klacik says parents should be sure to get a multivitamin that contains iron.
Having sufficient iron levels is especially important during “growing phases” because the nutrient is crucial to blood production and building muscles. In addition to dietary supplements, iron can be found in foods like beef, spinach and some cereals.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, other important nutrients include vitamins A, B and C. Those vitamins can be found naturally in soybeans, whole grains and strawberries.
Another important nutrient is Vitamin D, Klacik said.
“Vitamin D in infants is very important to prevent old-timey diseases like rickets, which we are seeing is making a comeback,” Klacik said.
Rickets leads to the softening and weakening of bones. The body produces vitamin D naturally, but many people are at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, so the best source for the nutrient is a multivitamin, he says.
While it is important to choose foods from each of the five food groups — dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables and grains — Klacik says parents don’t have to stress about making sure kids get everything every day.
“Some vitamins like A, D and E are stored in our fat, so we don’t have to get those (daily),” he said.
The AAP urges parents to remember that children’s stomachs are smaller than an adult’s, so they don’t need to eat the same-sized serving to reach their daily nutritional goals. To create proper portions, the AAP says children should be given a tablespoon of each food for each year of their age.
And when planning meals, AAP experts say parents shouldn’t forget that snacks count toward nutritional allowances. Between three meals and two or three healthy snacks, most kids should be fine nutritionally, the group says.
While some products like waffles, juices and even some chocolate syrups say they are fortified with various vitamins, Klacik says that consumers shouldn’t rely on them as a complete source of the given nutrient.
Overall, while it “doesn’t hurt” to give kids vitamins, parents should be careful not to overdo it.
“I think most parents can start giving a basic, over-the-counter multivitamin with iron without input from a pediatrician, if their child is healthy,” Klacik said.
“But they should be careful to give them as they are prescribed — if a child takes too many, that could be dangerous.”