Do Kids Need Supplements?
It can be common as a caregiver to wonder if children are meeting their nutrient needs through the foods that they eat and if they could benefit from anything additional. Generally young children who eat a variety of foods, are growing well and are active and happy, probably do not need extra vitamins or minerals, except vitamin D. We can look to Canada’s Food Guide for guidance on how to build meals and snacks to meet our nutrient needs from food.
For some children, depending on their health status and intake, they could need more of certain nutrients. Speak with a qualified health professional like your doctor, nurse practitioner or registered dietitian to assess whether your child is lacking in certain foods or requiring more of a nutrient.
If you do need to provide a supplement to a child, do not call it “candy” or “sweets”. Some formulations do resemble and taste this way to children and they could take too many which is dangerous. Keep them of out sight and out of reach.
Vitamin D is important for the development of healthy bones and teeth, and it may help prevent chronic diseases later in life like diabetes. We can co consume it from a small amount of food sources and we make vitamin D in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight with a sufficient UV concentration. In Canada, our Northern latitude means we do not get enough UV exposure in the winter months or for those in Northern parts of the country. As well, people who limit sun exposure like young children and the elderly, may need supplementation year-round.
How much vitamin D do children need each day?
• Breastfed infants need 400 IU (10 micrograms) daily which can be provided in a liquid supplement. Formula will have varying levels of vitamin D—consult the package information if supplementing with or using formula exclusively before providing an additional supplement.
• Children over 1 year need 600 IU vitamin D per day which can be found in food sources like salmon, egg yolk and fortified cow’s milk.