How Necessary are MultiVitamins for Preschoolers?

girl smiling ready to eat a strawberry

Do your preschool children take multivitamins? It may not be necessary. For many children who are healthy and growing normally, the best source of nutrients is food, and they can get all of the vitamins and minerals that they need from their normal meals and snacks. For that to happen, parents should keep their kids informed. Talk about the importance of healthy foods and find a way to appeal to their senses. Otherwise, they’ll just eat sweets packed with chemicals behind your back, which not good either.

3 Flintstone vitamins

What about picky eaters?

Some children will not eat a balanced diet. They won’t look at anything green, don’t like fresh fruit, and only want to eat peanut butter sandwiches or macaroni and cheese. If your child is in this category, you may well be wondering how they can get all of the important nutrients they need on such a limited diet. You may be thinking about supplementing their diet with multivitamins.

Even children who are picky eaters may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think. Breakfast alone can provide many of the nutritional elements they need, since many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins, as are milk and orange juice. This meal can be a good source of vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron and calcium. The child may still be lacking some other nutrients, though.

bottles of children's vitamins on store shelf

Cases where a multivitamin could be useful

If your child is not eating a balanced diet, with enough fresh fruits and vegetables, then it could be beneficial to give them a daily multivitamin. This can fill in any gaps left by their limited willingness to eat healthy food. Be sure to talk over your child’s nutritional patterns and your concerns with a doctor before starting to give your kids vitamin supplements.

Another case where a multivitamin could be useful is for toddlers who have specific diets that restrict their intake of certain foods. For instance, kids who are lactose intolerant and do not drink milk may not be getting enough vitamin D and calcium in their diet. Children who are on a vegan diet could need to get extra vitamin D, B12, calcium, iron, and riboflavin. In either of these cases, a multivitamin could be appropriate.

The risks of multivitamins

Taking a multivitamin is not risk-free. If your child is taking any medications, there is a chance that some vitamins and minerals could interact with those medications adversely. Also, taking too much can be toxic, so you need to make sure these are stored where a child cannot reach them and take additional doses by themselves. As a parent, you can assume that those colorful vitamins in the shape of a heart are not dangerous, but they can be mistaken for candy by a toddler who craves something sweet.

Another category of risk is getting complacent about not eating a healthy diet because you know the child is taking multivitamins. Supplements should never replace healthy foods. The human body absorbs nutrients more effectively from food than from supplements, so that should always be the primary source.

Recommendations

If you and your doctor agree that a daily multivitamin is a good idea for your child, then be sure to select a type that is intended for kids in that age range. It should not contain greater than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of any of the vitamins and minerals. Be sure to keep the pills out of reach, to prevent any accidental overdoses. Don’t refer to the pills as candy, because that will make children want to take more than they need. Also, if you’re not keeping them someplace safe, your kids may also start stealing the vitamins considering the sweet taste.

Some kids may need a daily supplement, but only a pediatrician should make that decision not the parent. If your child has erratic eating habits or a poor appetite, a vitamin supplement can be considered. Most multivitamins are over the counter pills, and although they are considered safe, let’s not forget they’re still drugs. Taken in increased amounts will lead to severe side effects, especially if we’re referring to fat-soluble vitamins like D, K, A, and E, which can be toxic.

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