Family Matters: Supplements for kids

Family Matters: Supplements for kids

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We know lots of young kids can be picky eaters.  So it may not be a surprise that more parents are turning to vitamins. About one-third of kids now take them.   But is a multivitamin the answer?  What about other supplements, like DHA?  

A commercial for Enfagrow, a formula marketed for toddlers, asks, "Is something missing from your toddler's diet?  Maybe it's DHA, an important nutrient that can help nourish the brain "

Ads like that one and packaging on all kinds of products tell you your young child isn't getting enough DHA.   

"It's very important for cognitive development, for brain development, cardiovascular health, and nerve myelination," said Mercy pediatrician Dr. Savannah Stumph.  

Dr. Stumph hears from concerned parents, worried their picky eaters might need supplements. "Especially after the one-year visit, I get this question quite a bit."

And there are plenty to choose from, like fortified milk, eggs, and oatmeal to countless vitamins.

"As  long as your toddler is a good eater, meaning getting a varied diet, so fish, meats, milk, fruits, veggies, then supplements usually aren't necessary," said Dr. Stumph.

While it may not be beneficial, she says a multivitamin certainly won't hurt your child. "As long as you're dosing just within the recommended guidelines," said Dr. Stumph.  "Taking more than recommended is never a good idea.  There can be some toxicities with some vitamins."

So what about those pricey DHA fortified foods? Even the experts can't agree on this one.  "There actually is no agreed on recommendation of how much DHA kids need at this point either," Dr. Stumph said.  "So that makes the parents' job and my job a little bit harder also."

Your best bet  is getting the DHA straight from the source.  Skip the supplements, and instead encourage your child to eat fatty, cold-water fish, like salmon and tuna.  

 "They're very healthy, they're superfoods, they're nutritious," said Dr. Stumph. "So even having 2 servings a week is way better than spending the money to buy fortified foods at the supermarket."

You'll save money and perhaps teach your children that good nutrition starts in the kitchen, not in the medicine cabinet.

Dr. Stumph shares this advice if you don't think you can get your kids to eat that healthy fish: kids often need repeated exposures to get them to like a food.  So don't be discouraged if they throw it on the floor the first time.  Just keep offering it.

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