If your preschooler is like most, she's more interested in eating pizza and ice cream than carrots and spinach. How do you know if she's getting enough nutrients from food, or whether you should consider vitamin supplements?
A Good Idea or a Waste of Money?
Circle of Moms member Nikki S. posed this question when her daughter began preschool and started getting more frequent colds. She wonders, as do many parents, if vitamins would help boost her immune system.
Kelly's son began taking vitamins when he was three because, although his diet is healthy and varied, he often goes on food "strikes," and she figures that the vitamins will help fill in any gaps.
And Theresa A. is concerned about whether her child gets enough vitamin D during the winter months, as most of us get it primarily though exposure to sunshine.*
Experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that supplements can be beneficial for preschoolers under certain circumstances. If your child does is very picky about food and doesn't gravitate toward healthy choices, a supplement can cover her bases. The major vitamins and minerals to consider are A, all the B's, C, D and iron. Vitamin D's importance has recently been upgraded because of its role in the absorption of calcium, which is important for growing bones, as well as in the formation of teeth. And iron is essential during periods of growth, as it produces blood and builds muscles.
But don't expect vitamins to prevent your child from getting colds. As your preschooler's immune system develops, she'll get colds as a way of building immunity to future viruses. It's just par for the course. But many moms, including Mel H., swear by Vitamin C as a cold preventive, and because it can shorten the duration and lessen the severity of a cold.
If your child eats a varied diet — not necessarily every day, but over the course of each week — and gets enough vitamin D from sun exposure and milk, then a supplement might be overkill. That said, many vitamins are water-soluble, and anything that's not needed by your child's body is urinated out daily. So while unnecessary, taking a multivitamin can be a good hedge, and it's one that's unlikely to harm your child.
What are the Dangers?
Not all vitamins and minerals are water soluble and easily expelled by the body however. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D and K) and iron can be dangerous for your child (or you) in excessive quantities, so pay attention to your child's daily intake. Vitamins that contain iron are now labeled with warnings about the dangers of overdose, as overdoses are a leading cause of poisoning in early childhood. Be sure to choose brands that offer child safety locks, as many, especially chewables, are designed to taste good — which means your child may be tempted to ingest more than he should.
The bottom line? Vitamin and mineral supplements can help balance a picky eater's lopsided diet, and even if her body doesn't need them, they tend to be harmless. Just be sure to check in with your pediatrician, and always keep the bottle out of reach!
Do you give your child a multivitamin or other supplement?
*Vitamin D-fortified milk is also a popular source.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.