Does My Toddler Need Nutritional Supplements?

Mar 17 2018     /     , , , ,

I am often asked this question and have wondered it myself considering the fact that I have a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who, for the most part, is a stellar eater but tends to be sporadic with his food intake as most toddlers are. Should I be supplementing my son’s diet with a daily multivitamin? What about Vitamin D? And Omega-3? After taking a closer look at his weekly food intake, I’ve come to the conclusion that my son likely doesn’t need a multivitamin, but he does need vitamin D, an Omega-3 supplement and maybe even a probiotic supplement (at least in the winter months).

When it comes to figuring this out for your own kids, it really depends on what foods are offered and how much of it the child is actually eating.  So, if you’re questioning whether you should pick up some Flintstone vitamins or Dora the Explora Omega-3 fish oil supplements for your little one to ensure they are receiving optimal nutrition, read on…

Multivitamins:

If your toddler is growing well and you are feeding them responsively (letting them lead and self-feed), and are offering a fairly well-balanced diet, they’re likely getting what they need through food alone. If you’re unsure, keep a two to three-day food diary of what your child is eating and then assess from there (or see a pediatric dietitian for guidance).

Another way to look at it is if your toddler is eating a fairly well balanced die–three meals per day containing at least three different foods, and two snacks a day containing at least two foods—they’re likely meeting their nutritional requirements, even if they are not eating everything offered. Most kid’s multivitamins contain low doses of Vitamins A, B, C, D and E and some minerals, but it is unlikely that they aren’t receiving proper amounts of these nutrients from food. Some exceptions are if your child is an extremely picky eater, failing to thrive, or has several food restrictions. In these cases, I would discuss their personal needs with a Pediatric Dietitian who may suggest a multivitamin among other supplements.

What if my toddler has “picky days”? Should I supplement then?

Realistically, all toddlers will have “picky days” now and then, or go through one or more picky eating phases (they’re discovering their new-found independence and craving some control, after all!). On these days—or through these phases—you may feel the need to supplement your toddlers diet, and this is where Baby Gourmet Shakers can come in. Shakers are made with whole, organic milk and are supercharged with added vitamins and minerals (24+ in total!) that are essential for this critical time of growth and development. Plus, they’re shelf-stable, perfect for on-the-go, and really tasty—my kids LOVE them! I serve them either as part of a meal, or as a snack on their own.

Vitamin D – toddlers and older children still need a supplement!

No matter how nutritious your toddler’s diet is, I always recommend a Vitamin D supplement of 400 IUs/day, especially if you live in Canada. Vitamin D is normally synthesized under our skin from sun exposure, but since we live in a climate where sun exposure is scarce (and we usually lather our kids in sunscreen when they are exposed to the sun), your little one is likely not getting enough. Vitamin D is important for bone health (calcium absorption), and there is promising research to suggest that this it can help to prevent certain cancers, heart disease and even depression.

Most toddlers drink whole milk (about 2 cups per day), and eat some yogurt and cheese on top of that, and because of this, some parents assume that they don’t need their vitamin D supplement anymore. However, the recommended amount of Vitamin D  jumps from 400 IU’s to 600 IU’s after the age of one. One cup of milk only contains about 80-100 IU’s of Vitamin D, therefore, even if your child is having two to three servings of dairy per day, he or she is likely not meeting their requirement, so continuing with a 400 IU drop every day is what’s recommended.

Omega-3:

Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acid (specifically DHA and EPA), naturally occurring in oily fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna and trout, have beneficial effects on brain, nerve and eye development in babies, toddlers and children. Although there are no concrete guidelines on how much Omega 3 children should be consuming, some experts believe that for children ages two to three, about 430 mg of DHA and EPA combined is appropriate. The best way to ensure that your toddler is getting enough is to serve oily fish at least twice a week. If your child does not eat fish for one reason or another, it may be beneficial to give him or her an Omega-3 fish oil supplement that is government regulated (NPN # somewhere on label), and age appropriate, daily.

Probiotics (optional, but not a bad idea—especially during the winter months):

Probiotics are “good” bacteria, and when consumed in sufficient amounts, can provide many health benefits (and keep all things “gut” in check). Research is showing that if humans can maintain a healthy gut microbiome (a favorable ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gut), it can protect against certain chronic diseases, autoimmune disease, and more. Probiotics may also be able to boost your kids’ immune response, helping them fight illness such as cold and flu. Although probiotics can be found in certain foods such as yogurt, the live bacterial cell count is relatively low compared to a supplement, which often have at least a billion active cells per serving. Baby Gourmet’s newest innovation, Puffies (puffed quinoa snacks) contain 1 billion active cells per serving, so this is a nutritious and fun option to get some more probiotics in too!

All in all, if your tot is eating a well-balanced diet most days, is growing steadily, and does not have several food restrictions, allergies, or intolerances, he or she likely does not need to take a multivitamin but should probably be taking 400 IU’s of Vitamin D, and perhaps Omega-3 and probiotics too

Thanks for reading!

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