Every parent goes through it—the stress over whether or not your child is eating enough of the right foods. Maybe they refuse to eat green vegetables. Or they turn their nose up at anything that doesn’t resemble a chicken nugget.
Commonly, parents will give their children multivitamins to make up for what goes uneaten on the dinner plate. But as long as your child eats a relatively balanced diet, you can probably rest easy.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, even though more than half of all preschoolers are given multivitamins, most children do not need them.
“If you child is healthy, supplementing over and above what they get in their general diet isn’t necessary,” said Rachel Meadows, a nurse practitioner and pediatric hospitalist with Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital. “It can actually do more harm than good in some cases.”
Getting vitamins and minerals from a variety of health foods is the best thing. Take a look at some tips from Rachel on how to get the most essential ones into your child’s diet:
- Vitamin A keeps skin and teeth healthy and helps with tissue repair and vision. Find it in yellow vegetables, dark-colored fruit and dairy products.
- Vitamin B supports brain function, metabolism and red blood cell formation. It can be found in meats, poultry, fish, soy, milk, eggs, whole grains and enriched bread and cereals.
- Vitamin C strengthens muscles, skin and teeth and aids in healing wounds. Some of the best sources are citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, greens and strawberries.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is important for tooth and bone formation. It is particularly important for children to get enough Vitamin D. You can find it in dairy, fish oil and eggs.
- Iron is important for growth and development. Good sources include meat, eggs, spinach, beans, prunes and some enriched cereals and flours.
- Calcium builds strong bones. Find it in milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli and spinach.
When thinking about how to get your kids to eat a variety of foods, be creative.
“Vegetables can go into smoothies or be mixed with something kids enjoy, like sauces and casseroles,” said Rachel.
You can also make learning about food fun by visiting the Kids’ Place on MyPlate.org.
If your child is a very picky eater, if your family follows specific diets like vegetarian or vegan or if your child has chronic health issues, talk to your pediatrician for recommendations on diet and supplements that might be helpful.
For more information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics or the U.S. National Library of Medicine.