7 Things to Know About Dietary Supplements for Children

Toddler girl turning head away refuse to eat
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Dietary supplements can be useful for some kids in some circumstances, but it's always best to speak with your pediatrician before starting your child on any new dietary supplements.

Kids who eat balanced diets shouldn't need to take supplements, but children who are extremely picky eaters, have certain health conditions or have to follow restricted diets might be at risk of some deficiencies. In these cases, dietary supplements can be beneficial.

Here are six things you need to know if you're thinking about giving dietary supplements to your kids:

1. Regular dietary supplements designed for adults aren't always the best fit for kids. They may have dosages that are too high or have extra ingredients that aren't all that helpful. And some may be too difficult for a child to take.

2. A typical child's multivitamin contains all the nutrients required to ensure intake of essential vitamins and minerals. There's no need to take more than what the label directions indicate unless your health care provider has given you different instructions.

3. It can be difficult for younger children to swallow pills, so many kids' vitamins are sold as chewable tablets or gummies. They're usually flavored and contain some sweetener. The flavors and colors may be natural or artificial -- read the ingredients list to know for sure what you're putting into your kid's body. 

4. Although dietary supplements are generally safe for kids, keep all adult vitamins out of the reach of toddlers and young children. If a young child gets into a bottle of vitamins, grab the bottle and call your local poison control center or call 1-800-222-1222.

5. Some supplements such as probiotics, melatonin or omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in certain situations, but don't try to treat your children's health conditions with dietary supplements -- always speak to your healthcare providers first. Also, don't fall for claims that supplements can treat conditions such as ADHD or autism. And don't give your children weight loss supplements.

6. Supplements can help ensure your kid gets enough nutrients, but don't give up on him or her when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Continue to offer healthy choices at every meal. Be patient, a child may need to be exposed to a new food ten or more times before accepting it.

7. Your child might be getting plenty of extra nutrients from fortified and enriched foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, vitamin fortified drinks, calcium-enriched orange juice, or almond and soy milk that have extra calcium and vitamin D.

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