We all love our kids. They are fun and creative and surprise us every day. One way they often surprise us is in the food they will and won’t eat. It can feel like we need to have a degree in mind reading to predict what is going to go down and what is going to sit, cold, in the middle of a dinnertime standoff.

It can be a real struggle to get them to eat that ideal balanced, healthy diet that I know they should have. Then pile on the work it takes to get them exercising outdoors, and it’s not a perfect scenario for growing a developing bodies.

3 Great Choices

Fortunately, there are supplements available for kids that can target the biggest areas of need. Instead of multivitamin that may give them boosts where they don’t need it and lack the vitamins where they have gaps, you can select the vitamins and minerals that they really need.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Lots of kids hate fish, which is too bad because fish is a really good source of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for a growing, healthy child. It’s linked to better brain development in very young children who get enough of it. It’s associated with better sleep patterns in children, which can positively affect behaviour and cognitive function. It’s very important for good eye health, as the highest concentration of DHA, one of the fatty acids, is found in the retina. And it’s an important support in maintaining healthy skin.

Unfortunately, a lot of omega-3s come in foods that many kids don’t gravitate towards. The ones that are best absorbed by the body, that is DHA and EPA, are found mostly in cold-water, oily fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all excellent sources of DHA in particular, which is the key to good brain health and development. 

If your child is not eating enough fatty fish then they likely require an Omega 3 supplement --  and not just any Omega 3 supplement. Choose one that is labeled 'high DHA'. This will ensure your child is getting the level of this fatty acid required for optimal brain health.

Adequate intake levels vary by age. Kids under a year old should be getting about 0.5 g a day, and that goes up to 0.7 g for 1 to 3 year-olds, 0.9 g for 4 to 8 year-olds, and 1.2 g for 9 to 13 year-olds.

Probiotics

It can be fun to tell kids that their guts are full of bacteria. In fact, it’s believed that we have somewhere between 10 and 100 trillion microorganisms living in our tummies, and that these are responsible for how healthy our intestines are. Unfortunately, lots of our guts are not so healthy. But when these microorganisms get out of balance, it can cause tummy troubles.

Probiotics feed the belly with “good” bacteria that can address several issues. They’ve been shown to help lower the risk of gastrointestinal diseases, can help prevent diarrhea associated with taking antibiotics, and have even been suggested as an anti-inflammatory treatment for intestinal problems. 

Yogurt is a good way to get probiotics into some kids, but not all of them like it. An alternative is probiotic supplements for kids. Dosages for kids haven’t been established, so talk to your doctor about the best type and amount of probiotics for your kids.

Iron

Iron is an important mineral that promotes healthy muscle function, energy formulation and brain function and development. When your child is not getting adequate amounts of iron, he or she could appear tired and pale, and display signs of irritability and poor concentration. A child with an iron deficiency could also show poor physical and mental growth.

Kids who are most likely to suffer from iron deficiency -- or anemia -- include those who are picky eaters, those who have recently had a surgery and/or had a large amount of blood loss and those who drink a lot of milk, since milk can prevent iron from being absorbed.

In addition to ensuring your child eats a variety of iron-rich foods (examples: red meat, poultry, fish, grains, legumes, nuts, beans, vegetables and fruit) and that these foods are eaten with a good source of vitamin C for optimal absorption (example: oranges, strawberries, red or green peppers, peas, tomatoes, broccoli) your doctor may suggest taking a quality iron supplement as well.

The amount of iron required by your child will depend on his or her exact age. Children 1 to 3 years old require 7 mg, and children 4 to 8 years old require 10 mg.

Check It Out First 

Until all kids transform into true omnivores, it will continue to be a worry to parents if their children are getting enough minerals and vitamins. By supplementing their diets with these three nutrients, parents can ensure their kids won’t suffer deficiencies in these areas, and that their children’s bodies will have enough of what they need to grow and develop properly. As with all dietary supplements for kids, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new regime.