Find Nutrients for Children in Food, Not Pills
You want to make sure your child gets the right vitamins and minerals. Although that may seem as simple as choosing a multivitamin off the shelf, it's not always true.
The fact that it's easy to find over-the-counter vitamins doesn't mean you should use them, says Marilyn Tanner, R.D., L.D. It's best for kids to get all the nutrients they need from food. "There's no difference between vitamins made in the lab and those in foods; it's all of the other bonuses in the food, such as phytochemicals, that we may not yet know about," says Ms. Tanner, head dietitian and nutritionist in the department of pediatric endocrinology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
But there are some children who may need a supplement. Ask your doctor if your child is one of them. Children who may need supplements include vegetarians, vegans, those with ailments like cystic fibrosis and those with poor appetites or fickle eating habits.
Teen girls may also need supplements. For
example, if they’re cutting back on calories by avoiding or limiting dairy
products, they’re robbing themselves of vitamins and minerals. Because puberty
is a critical time for building bone density, drinking low-fat milk and
consuming other low-fat dairy products should be a key part
of a girl's eating habits. In cases where milk is not
consumed, a calcium supplement may be necessary.
If your doctor suggests a vitamin or mineral supplement, treat it as medication that can be toxic in large doses. Keep supplements in a safe place where your child can't get to them. And teach your child that vitamins and candy are not the same thing.
What it does: Helps promote healthy skin, growth and development of cells and a healthy immune system; helps prevent eye problems
Where to find: Dairy products, eggs, orange and dark green vegetables, and fortified cereals
What they do: All the B vitamins promote healthy nervous system function; B-12, B-6 and B-2 (riboflavin) also help make red blood cells; B-1 (thiamine), B-3 (niacin) and B-2 also help convert food into energy; B-2 also promotes healthy vision
Where to find: Red meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, soybeans and fortified cereals
What it does: Helps makes red blood cells, breaks down protein and promotes heart health
Where to find: Leafy green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, asparagus, poultry and fortified cereals and breads
What it does: Helps wounds heal; promotes healthy bones, teeth, gums and blood vessels; and helps body absorb iron and calcium
Where to find: Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, red berries and bell peppers
What it does: Strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium; strengthens immune function and reduces the risk for certain cancers
Where to find: Fortified dairy products, egg yolks and fish oils; it is also created in the skin by exposure to sunlight
What it does: Promotes strong bones and teeth; helps regulate muscle contraction
Where to find: Milk and other dairy products; broccoli and dark green, leafy vegetables; fortified orange juice; and soy milk
What it does: Helps red blood cells carry oxygen
Where to find: Red meat, pork, fish and shellfish; dates and raisins; lentils and other beans; leafy green vegetables; and foods made with fortified flour
What it does: Promotes healthy muscle and nerve cell function, healthy bones and heart rhythm
Where to find: Whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, potatoes, beans, avocados, bananas, broccoli and shellfish
What it does: Promotes healthy bones and teeth, and helps the body make energy
Where to find: Dairy products, meat and fish
What it does: Promotes healthy muscle and nerve cell function, and helps the body maintain correct balance of water in tissues
Where to find: Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, legumes, dried fruits, citrus fruits and bananas
What it does: Promotes healthy growth, sexual development, a strong immune system and wound healing
Where to find: Red meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, beans, dairy products, whole grains and fortified cereals