Should My Kids Take Supplements? – A Texas Mom’s Perspective
January 28, 2022
The debate of whole foods vs dietary supplements is one that has been ongoing for many years now. While many nutritionists in Texas believe whole, organic foods in their natural state are best, some will, and do, prescribe dietary supplements when patients show symptoms of nutritional deficiencies. So, should our kids take supplements?
We’re lucky to have a year-round growing season in Texas which provides us with seasonal produce, which is the best source of vitamins and minerals, but there will always be picky eaters.
Do My Kids Need Vitamin Supplements?
With the typical modern American diet rife with ultra-processed, low-nutrient foods, our families are eating more than ever but still showing signs of nutritional deficiencies. In addition, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are also losing much of their nutritional benefits by the time they reach our plate.
However, by focusing on eating a diet filled with plenty of wholesome foods, it’s not difficult to get all the nutrients our bodies need. We’re lucky that here in Texas, we have a great variety of produce and a growing season that lasts almost all year round. We get plenty of sunshine too, and there’s no shortage of time for our kids to play outdoors – not (usually) having to deal with “snow days” or endless, cold rains. So is it really necessary for our kids to take supplements?
Getting your child to eat the recommended 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day is a herculean task, in my humble, mother-of-three opinion. Some experts will argue that these foods also need to be organic. For me, the certified organic label is a huge plus, but any locally-grown, seasonal produce should do the trick if you’re looking for food packed with vitamins and minerals.
So, does this mean that some days kids just aren’t going to get all the nutrition they need? Is this where nutrition supplements can offer some backup support?
How Supplements Can Enhance a Child’s Wellbeing
Ideally, kids should get their vitamins from a balanced whole diet which includes:
- Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt (provided your kids aren’t lactose intolerant)
- Lots of fresh fruits and colorful vegetables
- Protein-rich foods like grass-fed meat, pasture-raised chicken, fish, and free-range eggs
- Whole grains like brown rice and steel-cut oats
For the most part, these necessary nutrients can be obtained from food. But there are exceptions. And exceptions can cause deficiencies that our body has to suffer with.
A weakened immune system is one of the most frequently seen symptoms of a nutrient deficiency. Having the right balance of these nutrients can enhance energy levels, increase alertness, strengthen bone density, and reduce the risk of illness, lethargy, and even depression. Minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, selenium, as well as vitamins A, C, B6, B12, and D, all play a vital role in maintaining an optimal immune system.
Getting these vitamins and minerals from supplements can help restore low nutrient levels in the body and prevent health problems that would arise otherwise. As a last resort of course.
Which Kids Need Nutritional Supplements?
Pediatricians may suggest a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement for:
- Kids who don’t eat well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods every day.
- Picky eaters who don’t eat enough.
- Kids with medical conditions. (Talk with your child’s physician before starting a supplement)
- Kids on a restricted diet, e.g. a vegan, vegetarian, or dairy-free diet.
Which Supplements Does My Kid Need?
While you must always consult a health professional before administering supplements to yourself or your family, it is useful to know what’s out there. Some supplements commonly used by kids include:
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are responsible for the healthy development of the brain and the central nervous system. You can commonly find omega-3 fatty acids in organic eggs, grass fed organ meats, wild fish, flaxseeds, kelp, and spirulina, which, let’s admit, are relatively uncommon on a child’s plate these days. Supplementing with one or two grams of fish oil daily can support healthy brain function and reduce problems linked to omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, such as impaired attention, visual problems, and hyperactivity.
Note: Kids may not like fish, but taking them on a fishing trip and getting them involved in catching their food may be a step in the right direction!
Although this essential vitamin is freely and abundantly available from nature, a vitamin D3 deficiency is perhaps one of the most common vitamin deficiencies we see today. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps keep bones and teeth strong, stabilizes mood, and strengthens immunity.
Unfortunately, as we are blocking the sun’s beneficial rays either with excessive use of sunscreen or by staying indoors during winters, there is a considerable deficit of vitamin D3 in our bodies. Therefore, it is worthwhile to supplement your child’s diet with additional vitamin D3, especially during the winter months, when we tend to stay inside.
Again, the easiest way to supplement vitamin D3 is with sun exposure, as for food, cereal, oatmeal, salmon, sardines, egg yolks, and mushrooms are amazing sources of vitamin D3.
Essential minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, sulfur, copper, manganese, and selenium are responsible for cell development and regeneration, DNA development, a strong nervous system, and many more essential body functions. One can find the aforementioned minerals in grass-fed organ meats, organic bone broth, and pasture eggs. However, with a recent trend that has many families going vegan, many children end up deficient in important minerals. In such cases, a high-quality mineral supplement can be rather helpful.
An excellent way to get plenty of much-needed antioxidants into children is through a daily teaspoon of elderberry syrup during winter. Elderberries are known to reduce oxidative stress in the body, reduce inflammation, support immunity, and enhance cardiovascular function. Look for organic and local brands for maximum benefits.
You can find elderberry syrup at almost any farmers market in Texas as we have a whole cottage industry around making this miracle syrup. That doesn’t mean it replaces good and wholesome food though, I’m just saying that if you do need supplements, there are natural ways of going about it.
Whole Food Vitamins
Whole food vitamins such as wheat germ oil provide a substantial amount of vitamin E and other vital nutrients. Likewise, rice bran syrup and nutritional yeast are excellent sources of the vitamin B complex.
Keep In Mind: Supplements for Kids
Always consult a professional before giving nutritional supplements to children.
To prevent an upset stomach, give supplements after a meal unless suggested otherwise.
Stay alert; many brands of supplement formulas contain refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, colors, nanoparticles, and high levels of lead and mercury.
Choose supplements from brands that use natural, wholesome ingredients, such as rice syrup and natural colorings. Here is an in-depth analysis of the supplements you should and should not be giving to kids.
Taking too much iron can also be harmful, and the same applies to a variety of vitamins. As it’s difficult to judge your nutrient intake from the food you eat, taking multi-vitamins or single vitamins is not without risk.
Food, particularly fresh organic produce, is unquestionably the best source of nutrients and the foundation of optimal health. However, adding the basic supplemental nutrition program will provide you and your children with “health insurance”, giving additional support for brain function and immune strength, as well as potentially helping to detour disease now and later in life.
Are you on team fresh foods or team nutritional supplements? Drop a comment and let us know!