Nutritional supplements - Do kids really need them?

Nutritional supplements - Do kids really need them?

Nutritional supplements, as the term suggests, supplements a diet that doesn't otherwise meet the standard nutritional requirements of an individual. While vitamin and mineral intakes are best absorbed by children in the form of natural foods, our urban lifestyles may sometimes not give room for this. Junk foods which are calorie dense but nutrient poor have eaten their way into the family's diet and this can affect the development of your child's physical and mental health. Iron deficiency anaemia is a common problem among all age groups in India including infants and children. Poor diets and lack of adequate consumption of foods rich in iron is a primary cause of this issue. The lack of optimal nutrition can be made up for either in the form of specific foods or nutritional supplements. In the case of supplements, the type and dosage need to be determined with the help of a nutritionist/dietician. A general medical test and blood analysis can reveal the status of your child’s health. Along with the medical tests, a nutritionist/dietician can recommend the type and dosage that can be taken to correct and prevent deficiencies.

Infancy

Babies are born with sufficient iron content in their bodies. While nothing can substitute breast milk as the best form of nutrient-intake for the baby, breast milk could also be lower on iron and vitamin D when compared to bovine milk. Nutrient composition of breast milk to some extent depends on mother’s dietary intake. Iron supplement can be added to mother’s milk. Vitamin D is essential for the growth of healthy bones and can be administered to babies through fortified formula. When choosing a formula food, read the labels carefully and make sure it's got the right percentage of the vitamin for your baby.

Toddlers and school going kids

For children who are growing at a normal rate, it is imperative to up their intake of iron, calcium and vitamin D. Kids at this age can also be extremely picky eaters - refusing milk or fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. It is important to provide calcium and vitamin D together in supplements as vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium. Hence, is advised that parents to give them iron, calcium and vitamin D supplements as required to keep the bones strong and growing. At this point, parents can also consider nutritional supplements like Himalaya's HiOwna Kidz that have herbal ingredients that contain essential vitamins and minerals for growing children.

Teenage

This is the final growth spurt for most children. The bones tend to absorb as much calcium as possible from the digested food. The daily recommendation of calcium for teens is -800 mg per day. Iron requirements spike among girls as menstruation sets in and hence, important to ensure good diet and iron supplementation. Calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D are the need of the hour during this phase as teens complete their growth spurt. So if you've got a teenager in the house, make sure they have their daily glass of milk and other dairy products. Dairy is the best source of vitamin B12 as well as vitamin D. Fortified cereals and soy milk are also good sources of both these vitamins. Adequate outdoor sporting activities facilitate muscular strength and bone development with the additional benefit of vitamin D formation from sunshine.

Other conditions

Generally, vegetarian families are advised to size up their protein and dairy intake as there is no meat or sufficient eggs in their diet. Another category of children that can consider supplements are those who have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Be it proteins, vitamins or minerals, it is important to find a substitute for the food type that has been prohibited for the individual.

Whatever the case may be, it is best to consult your doctor or paediatrician before adding supplements to the child's diet. This is so because in some cases, an overdose of certain vitamins or minerals can lead to liver or skin problems and in some cases even nausea and stomach cramps. A professional nutritionist will be able to recommend the best composition of supplements best suited to the child's age, health and growth rate.