Most parents have at least wondered about giving their children vitamins and nutritional supplements. Busy lifestyles combined with food allergies and picky eaters mean it can be difficult to guarantee that children are getting their daily dose of micronutrients from their diet - and it's so important that they get enough.

Children's bodies are growing, and they need proper nutrients to support this growth.

The good news is most kids can get enough nutrients from eating a healthy, balanced diet - no vitamins supplements needed. However, if a child is a picky eater, has periods of rapid growth, has food allergies that preclude many types of food (e.g. lactose intolerance) or has a selective diet (e.g. vegan), then it may be necessary for them to take vitamin or mineral supplements. While it's always best to check with your child's healthcare provider before you give your child a supplement, here is a list of the vitamins and nutrients that some kids are likely to benefit from.

Probiotics

During childhood, gut flora is still developing. Supporting this development is incredibly important since gut flora helps the body digest food, aids in the production of some vitamins , bolsters the immune system, and fights off harmful microorganisms, thereby keeping the gut healthy and operating optimally.

A good quality probiotic can do great things to support this health, stepping in where our modern society has fallen short. Since many vegetables we eat have been sterilized and as such, they don't have the probiotic strains from the environment. As a society, we also ferment fewer foods as a means to preserve them, so we miss out on these strains of probiotics too.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D drops are commonly recommended for exclusively breast-fed infants, especially those born in the winter months. During this time, babies -- and people in general - are less likely to spend a lot of time outside, and therefore do not get sufficient vitamin D from the biggest and best source: namely, the sun.

Older children who play outside in the summer likely will not need a Vitamin D supplement on its own, particularly if they are taking a multivitamin. However, in the winter, a supplement may help if they are not getting enough sunlight. Vitamin D can help support their immune system and help bones and teeth grow (and stay) healthy and strong.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral involved in many body functions, especially for muscle and nerve function, release of energy from food and also helps in the building healthy, strong bones. Magnesium is naturally found in abundance in foods like nuts, seeds, spinach, oatmeal and broccoli but if a child is allergic or simply will not eat these foods, then a kid’s supplements may be necessary.

Growing pains are part and parcel of childhood and may include leg cramps. These leg twitches and cramps may be an effect of low dietary magnesium and may benefit from a magnesium supplement.

A common way that children can get a magnesium top-up is by taking a multivitamin that includes magnesium.

Vitamin C

Generally, children do not require Vitamin C. It is in high supply in fruits and vegetables, so even a picky eater will usually like enough of these foods to get enough. However, during cold and flu season, pumping up Vitamin C intake can help support the immune system fight illness.

Vitamin C supplements for kids come in a range of tasty options, including powders and chewable tablets.

 

As with all vitamins and minerals, however, it’s important to make sure children understand that these supplements are not candy, but medicine. Taking too much of any vitamin or mineral supplement can be dangerous. Parents should keep the vitamin bottles away from their children. Again, check with your child’s healthcare professional before beginning them on any vitamin or mineral supplement regimen.

Vitamin and mineral supplements do not replace a balanced healthy diet. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.