Many parents are told that a child will get everything it needs from a healthy balanced diet. However, this is an ideal which relies firstly on a child being prepared to eat everything which is placed in front of them – and we know that this is not often the case. Secondly, it presumes that parents will always have the time to produce every meal from scratch, using only fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
On top of that, even if we do manage to get our child to eat everything we place in front of them, using those fresh ingredients – can we be sure that the foods we are serving up actually do contain all of the nutrients they are supposed to? Many studies have shown that even the best diets can fall short, due to a reduction in the nutritional value of the foods we buy, thanks to intensive farming practices and the way foods are stored.
The truth is that not one of us are likely to manage to eat a truly balanced diet. The British Dietetic Association carried out a survey of 21,000 people in the UK and found that not one person in that study was achieving the RDA for all basic nutrients.
When all these things are taken into consideration, alongside the fact that childhood is a time of great growth and development and therefore makes huge demands for certain nutrients, there is a very strong argument for children’s supplements.
The key considerations when looking at children’s supplements are the additional ingredients. Products which contains of load of sugars or sweeteners, gelatines or fillers, could reduce the overall health of the product. Also, whilst we do want the product to be palatable, so the child will take it, we don’t want the product to be such a treat that they will try and take extra doses.
Therefore, liquid formulations, with minimal ingredients and natural flavours, are the best options, to ensure that all children who need a supplement, can take one.
Looking at the arguments for children’s supplements, most children will need a good multivitamin formula, targeted to their needs. When using multivitamin formulas, it is vital to look at the age range they are aimed at. After all a dose which is appropriate when they were 2 is not really going to be providing everything they need at 10 is it?
On top of that there are many things which can impact the type of supplement a child could need. The growing brain has a huge requirement for DHA, found in oily fish, so children who do not or will not eat fish, would most like benefit from a DHA or omega 3 supplement, to provide enough omega 3 for their developing brain.
As well as this, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Vitamin D supplements could be very important. The last few years have seen a huge rise in the number of children of children being diagnosed with rickets and this is thought to be due to the fact that children now spend more time indoors and when they are outside, they are covered in sunscreens due to the concerns over skin cancers. With all this in mind NICE recommends that Vitamin D supplements are used in Pregnancy, Breast feeding and in children aged 6 months – 4 years. Their suggested dose is 400iu per day – all year round.
Iron is an additional consideration. Iron is required for the cognitive development of children. Babies are born with enough iron stores to see them through the first 6 months, then we need to ensure they gain what they need through their diet. Those who are breast fed or following a plant based diet could be at risk of low iron, so could benefit from the addition of a supplement.