By Karen Appold
An infant’s best “supplementation” is mother’s breast milk, so mom should be supplementing herself while nursing to make sure baby gets as much nutrition as possible, according to Michele McRae, a certified nutritionist at Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems in Santa Cruz, California. Once a baby is weaned, supplementation can be started in addition to food consumption.
Because young children can be finicky eaters, they do not always get the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals necessary for their optimal growth and development.
“Starting at six months of age, most babies can benefit from a daily multivitamin that can help bridge dietary gaps,” McRae said.
As families increasingly rely on high-calorie convenience foods, diets suffer from a lack of fresh whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey found that roughly four out of five 1-year-olds are not meeting recommended levels for vitamin E, 87 percent of 1-year-olds are not meeting recommended levels for zinc, and approximately 60 percent of 1-year-olds are not meeting recommended levels of iron.1
In addition, more than 86 percent of girls and 63 percent of boys ages 12 to 19 are not getting adequate levels of calcium, according to the Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis.2
“If a child doesn’t eat dairy or you don’t have a lot of it in the house, it can be hard for them to get adequate amounts during the most important time for bone development,” said Aimée Gould Shunney, ND, a licensed naturopathic physician in Santa Cruz and Campbell, California.
Children need 500 mg for 1- to 3-year-olds, 800 mg for 4- to 8-year-olds and 1,300 mg for 9- to 18-year-olds.
A report published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that 70 percent of American children aren’t getting enough vitamin D.3
“According to nutritional research, the most common nutrient deficiencies in school-age children are calcium, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E,” McRae said.
Research also increasingly reveals that there are many health benefits associated with taking omega-3s, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Fish oil supports emotional well-being, behavior, cognitive function, and immunity in children of all ages, according to Shunney.
“It isn’t easy to get kids to take supplements, so I focus on making sure they taste good and don’t have any added sugar,” Shunney added. “Keep the list simple as long as they’re healthy and eating well.”
Karen Appold is a writer in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
1U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. “Food and Nutrient Intakes by Children.” ARS Food Surveys and Research Group. http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400530/pdf/scs_all.PDF. Published December 1999. Accessed October 2014.
2NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. “The Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You.” National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/SGR/surgeon_generals_report.asp. Published March 2012. Accessed October 2014.
3Chang SW, Chiu CY, Gu PW, et al. “Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in relation to lung function and exhaled nitric oxide in children.” The Journal of Pediatrics. 2014.