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A mother recently asked me whether to give her child vitamins because, He won’t eat anything but cookies and chips.”
A newspaper reporter recently asked me how parents know which vitamin supplements are good for kids, whether there are any dangers of overdosing on vitamins, and if children really need supplements.
I am very dogmatic about vitamin supplements for children. My dogma can be summed up in two sentences. 1) Most kids DO NOT NEED VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS. 2) If a child does need vitamin supplements, the child’s doctor should prescribe the kind and amount.
In other words parents should not pick up a package of chewable vitamins from the drug store and feed them to little Tommy.
Of course parents should be concerned about their child’s nutrition. But the balanced nutrients the child needs for health and growth should come from FOOD. And it is possible to overdose on vitamins especially today when many foods like cereal and milk contain added vitamins.
The most common reasons that lead a parent to ask about vitamin supplementation are 1) they have a 2-year-old child who eats a lot less food than he or she did last year and 2) they have a child who only will eat a few foods and refuses to eat many of the healthy ones.
Of course the 2-year-old now eats less because the child no longer is growing at the same fast rate as in earlier years. This is common, to be expected, and should not cause parents any worry.
The child who decides, like one of my grandsons did, to not eat anything green can drive parents up the wall but these children invariably grow out of their food fads and do not suffer any nutritional deficits.
Instead of rushing to the drug store for vitamin supplements I suggest parents find clever ways to get their children to eat a balanced diet. My grandson would not eat any vegetables for a couple of years but he drank juice and ate a variety of fruits. When one of my children balked at eating fresh fruit, I sliced apples very thin and spread the slices lightly with peanut butter. It worked.
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