Fruits, grains, protein and vegetables are all a part of the classic “food pyramid”. A newer representation of this handy graphic, called MyPlate, can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov offering an easy reminder for all of us to eat healthy. A variety of foods offer our children the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain active, healthy lifestyles. And, eating right at an early age will only help to develop young taste buds in children – cravings that prefer a diet with limited sugar and a lot of natural, healthy goodness found in the MyPlate guidelines.
We all know the importance of eating a well-balanced diet, but then reality sets in. Late night practices, slept-through alarms, and rushing from point A to point B can make ensuring your children always receive the healthiest options more difficult. With fast food drive-throughs and skipped meals, how do we make sure our children are receiving the nutrients they need to thrive? That’s when supplements may need to be considered as part of your daily routine.
If your child is a picky-eater or maintains a poor diet, supplements may make sense. Other reasons supplements can be used include incorporating them into the diet of children that follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Integrating vitamin B12 would be beneficial since it’s only found in animal-based proteins. Some celiac diseases also put children at a higher risk for deficiencies, making supplements a wonderful option for them.
The best option? Strive for a well-rounded diet. A balanced diet includes dairy (or dairy alternatives), fruits, veggies, grains and proteins like eggs, nuts, and poultry. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most of our children simply do NOT get enough iron and enough calcium. Some foods that offer iron include beef, pork, turkey, beans and spinach. Why is iron important? It builds strong muscles and helps to produce red blood cells. If your child is lacking iron, you may notice they are tired, are more anxious, and become ill more often. Calcium found in dairy products, spinach and broccoli helps grow healthy bones and if children don’t get enough of it, they could suffer from poor growth and osteoporosis as they age.
Other supplements typically important in a child’s development include Vitamin D, A, and B. Vitamin D is important because it controls the absorption of calcium and helps grow strong bones and teeth. Kids that consume less than 32 ounces of Vitamin D may need a supplement to meet those recommended amounts. Vitamin B helps with metabolism and energy, and Vitamin A helps with normal growth for healthy skin, eyes and resistance against infection.
Unsure if your child would benefit from a supplement? It’s best to check with your child’s doctor and discuss options. Taking large amounts of vitamins, for example, can prove to be more harmful than beneficial. Thousands of children are taken to the ER each year because they have consumed too many vitamins, usually unsupervised. Although children’s vitamins in chewable, gummy-form are more desirable to take, sometimes children can treat their consumption like candy. It’s best to always administer any vitamins to your child and keep the bottle on a tall, hard-to-reach shelf to be safe. Ideally, getting vitamins and minerals through food and drink should be your ultimate goal for a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Have specific questions about your child’s diet or other ways to incorporate healthy eating? We are happy to help! Deciding to incorporate supplements, like a daily vitamin, into your child’s diet may make sense but it’s important to discuss it with one of our pediatricians first. Learn more by contacting the Association of Childcare Physicians by calling (618) 235-2311 or by visiting our website. Dr. Kellow and Dr. Shaw want to make sure your child learn healthy eating habits as a foundation for an overall healthy lifestyle!