If I told you that my kids literally jump for joy at vitamin time, you might think I was lying. Or perhaps the candylike cartoon bites from your own childhood come to mind. Either way, I promise you it’s true. My girls, ages 2 and 3, grab for their small daily assortment of colorful vitamins, minerals and essential fats with baby-toothed grins stretched ear to ear.
I was someone who, before having children, claimed I’d never serve a vitamin that looked like candy. Well, times change and so do parents as we navigate the fun and frustrations of raising kids. Let’s face it. If kids’ supplements don’t look and taste good, vitamin time is a losing battle. Luckily, there are plenty of options — chewables, gummies, powder and liquid forms — that don’t contain artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and fillers that are best to avoid.
The bottom line is that just like adults, kids and teens should be taking a multivitamin. The experts say, “Serve your children a variety of healthy foods, and they’ll get all the nutrients they need.” Hmmm. Easier said than done. We all know that kids will be kids, and mac and cheese – organic or not – can only go so far when it comes to nutrition. And as they get bigger and schedules get busier, meals often become an after-thought.
So, what could they be missing? It starts with the basics. Vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin D are in the spotlight. All are vital for the immune system, and vitamin A is essential for growth and development. The B vitamins are a concern for kids who eat a lot of processed foods and refined carbohydrates (“More crackers, Mommy?”) B vitamins are needed for energy and brain function, and stress tends to deplete them.
Vitamin C is a major antioxidant in the body and is needed for healthy inflammation response and brain function. Vitamin D plays a major role in bone development and general health. Plus, more and more research is emerging about its relationship to diseases. Sunscreen blocks skin’s production of natural vitamin D, so supplements are key. Luckily, all of these power-hitters are included in kids’ multivitamins.
What else is important?
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are crucial for the immune system, brain function, nerve and hormone development and healthy skin, just to name a few. A high-quality, omega-3 supplement accompanies the multivitamin for our girls, along with extra vitamin D. (For those of us who don’t get a lot of calcium from our diet, a calcium supplement that includes vitamin D is a good way to go.)
There are also times (hopefully not all at once!) when kids’ supplements can help with issues beyond daily nutrition. Kids and teens get sick, have digestive issues, problems with concentration or sleep or stress. That’s why we’ve always got elderberry concentrate, astragalus root, vitamin C, stinging nettles and a high-quality probiotics supplement at hand in our house. Some of them are even available in tasty forms.
I’m open to other suggestions. How do you get your kids to take their vitamins? Let me know!