When parents inquire about the benefits of adding a multivitamin to their child’s daily nutritional intake, the practitioner’s response should begin with a question: can you describe your child’s typical daily diet?
Assessing the quality of the foods the child regularly ingests provides a basis for determining the benefits of a multivitamin.
The best source for obtaining the essential nutrients for optimal health is diet. Therefore, the foods children eat determine whether or not they have a nutritional gap that can benefit from a daily multivitamin. While the dietary standards for people of all ages recommend quality food sources, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean sources of protein, beans, seeds, and legumes, and dairy, the reality is that few kids actually eat this way. A multivitamin can provide the missing nutrients, but it’s important to know how to choose a quality supplement.
What Today’s Kids Eat
Even with the best intentions, parents find their efforts to ensure their kids are getting proper nutrition are often subverted. Whether they’ve got a young finicky eater, a preteen with a preference for “kid” foods like Pop-Tarts and sugary cereals, or a high schooler who skips breakfast altogether, American food culture makes it all too easy for nutrition to fall by the wayside.
According to a study published in the Annual Review of Public Health changes in recent years show a decline in childhood nutrition. Today’s childhood diets reflect an increase in sodium content, processed foods, snacks, and sugar. They show decreases in the consumption of dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Overall, today’s kids don’t consume enough high-quality foods that optimize health on a regular basis.
The Role of a Multivitamin in Children’s Health
Learning that all the nutrients needed for good health are derived from the diet can lull parents into a false sense of security. That’s why an honest accounting of your child’s diet is the best place to start. Without objectively discerning the actual diet your family consumes, it’s easy to miscalculate the bigger nutritional picture.
After assessing an honest accounting of the current diet, the functional medicine practitioner should guide parents who are curious about adding a multivitamin to their child’s dietary routine with a few important follow-up questions:
- Which foods or food groups are missing from the diet?
- What other deficits, such as insufficient vitamin D due to natural cycles like reduced sun exposure in winter, exist?
While some parents integrate a healthy diet of high-quality foods and plenty of outdoor activity into family life, others don’t. Constraints due to time or finances can lead some parents to opt for quick, prepackaged meals, which are laden with salt, sugars, and additives, and light on the micronutrients we need. Many kids spend hours in front of a screen, gaming and watching TV, reducing their exposure to physical activity and sunlight. These are common challenges for today’s families. Adding a multivitamin can help cover these dietary and lifestyle gaps.
Essential Ingredients in a Multivitamin
While there are dozens of vitamins and minerals that could be included in a multivitamin formula, only a handful are considered essential for supplementing a child’s diet, absent any health condition or serious deficiency being targeted. These include:
Vitamin B. B vitamins assist the body in producing red blood cells and supporting metabolic activities, energy production, and optimal brain health. Vitamin B complex includes Vitamin B2, B3, B6, B12, and thiamine.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts the immune system to keep infections at bay, helps wounds heal, and assists the body in iron absorption.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent. Vitamin D promotes healthy bones by assisting in calcium absorption, as well as boosting the body’s immune system.
How to Select a Quality Multivitamin
Parents looking to maximize their child’s brain health, physical health, and emotional health may opt to supplement the daily diet with a multivitamin. When it comes to selecting a multivitamin for kids, there are important things to consider, as a wide spectrum of quality exists among these supplements. These considerations include:
- What is the carrier state? Is it a gummy, a beverage, or a chewable?
- What is the sugar content? Or does the formula use a natural sweetener like Stevia?
- What additives are in the formulation, such as artificial ingredients?
- Are the B vitamins methylated?
- Does the formulation contain a broad panel of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and essential micronutrients?
- Does it provide additional benefits beyond vitamins such as immune or digestive support?
Understanding the important role of a high-quality kids multivitamin begins with discussing and identifying potential nutritional gaps in your child’s diet. Essential nutrients are found in a diet rich in plant-based and minimally processed foods, but many parents have limited success in providing this type of diet on a daily basis. With an understanding of how the multivitamin can help take up the slack and boost immunity, brain health, and energy levels in kids, parents can embrace the value of adding one to their child’s daily diet.