Vitamins: Does Your Child Need Them?
I have a hard time getting my child to eat a healthy meal. In fact, on one particularly stressful day recently, I told him if he would just lick a piece of grilled chicken, I’d give him a cookie. I know nutritionists everywhere are collectively clutching their pearls and praying to the antioxidant gods that I serve some kale every now and then, but the truth is, it’s tough. Really, really, really tough.
For many parents like me, gaining some semblance of control over calcium and amino acid deficiency is to provide our children with the holy grail of nutrition-in-a-pill: vitamins. Most of us grew up popping Flintstone tablets each morning. In hindsight, those chalk rocks tasted so much worse than a cucumber, but darn it if that little cartoon face of Dino didn’t sell me every time. I suspect my parents subscribed to the same school of thought I do now. “At least it’s something!”
But are vitamins all they’re cracked up to be? Do our kids really need to take them? Research conflicts, as do plenty of opinions on that subject. (If you don’t believe me, just Google “do my kids need vitamins?”) For now, let’s break it down in real terms.
If Life Were Perfect: Congratulations! Your children get exactly what they need in their daily diet. The leafy greens, pinto beans, freshly-laid eggs, lean meats and jack fruit you are serving in perfect proportion at each meal are more than adequate. Your child will easily enjoy a healthy, active life, adorned by hair that glows like the sun.
Because Life Isn’t Perfect: Your kid just licked the dirt off her boot in protest of eating her peas. Your son loves fruit but won’t go near salmon. Like thousands of children around the world experience, your kids end up with some nutritional gaps on the regular. A daily multivitamin can help fill in those gaps, particularly for vitamins A, B and C, and keep your child healthier all around.
If Life Were Perfect: Your child is sugar-free, gluten-free and has never touched a Capri Sun in his life. Therefore, sugary, gummy vitamins are out of the question, and you will continue to provide nutrition solely through healthy foods and a shot of wheat grass in his morning chia seed shake.
Because Life Isn’t Perfect: The only way to motivate your daughter to eat a vitamin is to slather it in sugar and tell her Halloween is every morning. Fair enough, Mama. Do what you have to do. The good news here is many vitamins are lower in sugar (or completely sugar-free) and still have all the benefits of the nutrients she needs without the sugar that is, in fact, not great for her.
If Life Were Perfect: Your child has developed amazing daily habits, such as doing goat yoga, crystal meditation and meticulous food journaling entries to ensure he is receiving the correct amount of each vitamin required for him to thrive.
Because Life Isn’t Perfect: Your child can’t even remember to pull his underwear all the way down before using the potty. Ergo, creating healthy habits for him is a challenge. A daily multivitamin can establish the building blocks of healthy behavior that, encouraged over time, will hopefully translate to his adult life. After all, adults often don’t get the daily nutrition they need either. A daily multivitamin habit now is more likely to stick around once adolescence is well behind you.
Too Much of a Good Thing
There’s no denying that the gummy vitamins taste pretty good, and there’s a real danger in a child’s eating too many. In fact, an overdose of some vitamins can have severe or even deadly side effects. A best practice is to treat vitamins as a medication and keep them completely out of reach of tiny, curious hands.
Vitamins Aren’t a Fix-All
We should never rely on vitamins as an alternate for nutritious foods. The truth is, parents’ responsibility is to set healthy examples and offer healthy foods. It simply takes a huge amount of patience and consistency on your part. Likely, a child will have to try a food upwards of 10 times before she accepts it as “good.” That’s 10 times of throwing the food on the ground, spitting it out, fake-vomiting it up, and screaming at you that you’re killing them. But trust me, as the parent of a child who eats carrots and enjoys eggs without the addition of ketchup … you can do it.
Keep fighting the battle. You’ll win the war.
Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and toddler son.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.