We delve into Children's Vitamins...
Despite our best intentions, making sure that our children get all of the nutrients that their body needs isn't easy...
We went out for dinner on Sunday with our 5 year old daughter. On the kid's menu? Chicken nuggets and chips. Fish fingers and chips. Burger and chips. Pasta and tomato sauce. Sausages and chips... We could have asked for vegetables, I suppose...
The point I'm trying to make is that with children - particularly those who are picky eaters - it isn't always easy making sure that their diet is providing them with the vitamins and minerals that their young, rapidly growing bodies need.
(It didn't help that I ordered a bacon/cheese/pulled pork burger with a side portion of hot wings. In my defence there was some caramelised onion relish on the burger...)
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are essential substances or nutrients that our bodies require in small amounts to function properly (for example for normal growth and development). Vitamins aren't produced by our bodies in sufficient quantities, so we have to obtain these from our diet.
There are 13 essential vitamins: A, D, E, and K; and vitamins C and the B-complex group. Each vitamin has a distinct role in keeping you healthy.
Plenty of foods naturally contain vitamins, so children who eat a balanced diet containing meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables and wholegrain usually don’t need supplementation.
However - given the reality of life (busy schedules, irregular eating habits and fussy eaters) - it’s not always easy to ensure that children get all the nutrients they need from their diet alone. This is where a daily multivitamin can step in to help fill any nutritional gaps.
Which Vitamins are important for Children?
Kids need a range of vitamins to grow healthy and each vitamin plays its own function in the body. The most essential vitamins include:
Vitamin A: to promote healthy eyes, skin and immune system
(Found in dairy, carrots, broccoli)
B Vitamins: to develop the nervous and circulatory systems
(Found in wholegrains, chicken, tuna, soy products)
Vitamin C: to support the immune system
(Found in oranges, strawberries, tomatoes)
Vitamin D: to develop healthy teeth and bones
(Found in eggs, oily fish)
The Department of Health recommends that all children from 6 months to 5 years old are given supplements containing vitamins A, C and D in the form of vitamin drops eg. Abidec Multivitamin Drops.
For older children (6 years +), a multivitamin supplement should be considered for those who are picky eaters, have chronic medical conditions affecting food absorption, are very active or are on a vegetarian or specific restricted diet. These children may really benefit from an extra boost of nutrients. There are many multivitamin options available over-the-counter from your local pharmacy eg. Floradix Kindervital, and Haliborange Multivitamin Liquid.
What about Minerals?
Minerals are other key nutrients required by the body that go hand in hand with vitamins to maximise the health benefits for which they are intended.
Essential minerals include calcium (which is found in milk and dairy), which works with vitamin D to build strong bones. These essential minerals will be found in most over-the-counter multivitamin products to combine the vitamins and minerals your child needs.
The role of multivitamins and minerals in a child's diet
Although vitamin and mineral supplements are helpful, they should never be viewed as a substitute for nutritious food, as the body absorbs nutrients from foods much more effectively than it absorbs nutrients from supplements.
Over-the-counter multivitamin and mineral supplements are generally safe, however please remember that if they're taken in excessive amounts, some can be toxic. Always stick to the recommended dosage on the pack, keep them hidden and out of reach of children, and always consult your GP or pharmacist for help and advice before giving your child any multivitamin product.
In addition, your local Community Pharmacist will be able to discuss with you the range of children's multivitamins that are available, and which particular vitamins and minerals are important for your child's development.