When used correctly, supplements can be helpful in preventing deficiencies, particularly in cases where a child is very underweight, on a restricted diet or has certain medical conditions. But despite being marketed as a routine part of a healthy diet, in most cases they are simply a waste of money.
The best way to get vitamins and minerals is from the diet, as real food contains a host of nutrients, such as fibre and phytonutrients, that can’t be isolated and packaged. Supplements never remove the need for a child to be eating a well balanced diet.
Many foods for children are already fortified and by adding a multi on top, you may risk your child getting too much of certain nutrients, particularly the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These can accumulate in the body in high doses and become toxic.
Some children’s diets may be lacking in certain nutrients, such as iron. If so, make sure any breakfast cereal they have is fortified with iron, such as Weetbix. Milo is fortified with both calcium and iron, so makes a good after-school drink when made with milk or a dairy alternative.
If you’re concerned your child doesn’t eat vegetables, remember that fruit contains many of the same nutrients, particularly if your child eats a variety of colours.
Speak to your GP if you’re worried about your child’s diet, and ask to see paediatrician or specialist dietitian.
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Jenny Boss, Nutritionist