Despite all the books, magazines and websites about parenting, you can only prepare so much. As your children age, new needs and challenges arise that you'll need to find solutions for.
Diet is one of the most important aspects of a child's development. Research is showing more and more that how we eat in our formative years can affect our health for the long term, especially with diabetes and childhood obesity on the rise. So, how do you make sure your child is getting everything they need? Multivitamins are one way to make sure there aren't any gaps in their nutrition even after you've finally gotten them to clean their plate instead of throwing their food at you.
When Children Need a Multivitamin
Mixed opinions remain about whether or not children need to be on a multivitamin. According to Jay L. Hoecker, M.D., a consultant for the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of foods available now, such as cereal and milk, that have been fortified with extra nutrients to give children what they need. He recommended speaking with a doctor first before starting your children on supplements, considering these scenarios:
Important Ingredients to Look For
If you and your physician determine your child is in need of a multivitamin, be sure to read labels carefully. Gummies, for example, are a popular option for children's vitamins, but make sure they aren't packed with sugar that makes them more like candy. Check for a wide range of vitamins and minerals that meet the recommended daily requirement for your child's age group.
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, here are the top ingredients to make sure are included in your child's multivitamin and what they support:
Zinc -- Proper gene expression, component of proteins and enzymes
Vitamin A -- Tissues like the skin and eyes, growth and development, tissue and bone repair and a strong immune system
Vitamin B -- Circulatory and central nervous systems, metabolism and energy
Vitamin C -- Antioxidant benefits, healthy muscles, skin and connective tissues
Vitamin D -- Absorption of calcium for bones and teeth
Fish oil and probiotics are also supplements that can make a big difference, but check with your doctor first. Make sure you're not giving your child too much of any of these vitamins or minerals, as they may already be getting enough from food. Consider making a food diary of what your child eats everyday for up to a month before a doctor's visit to determine what they may be lacking in their diet.
Tips for Healthy Kids
Now that you know how to add vitamins and minerals to their diet with multivitamins when they need them, here are some other tips for raising happy, healthy kids:
Make sure they're getting eight hours of sleep a night at the minimum. Children need more than that during infancy and their toddler years.
Encourage your children to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains. Try to limit their intake of fast food or processed food products.
Help your children stay active by limiting time in front of the television or computer. Exercise as a family whether its going for a hike, building a fort or playing a game like tag.
Stimulate their brains with games that test memory, recognition and simple math, depending on their age.
Stress open and respectful communication about their daily activities, relationships and questions.
Being a parent is the hardest job there is with a million things to remember. But providing your children with the proper nutrition from diet and a multivitamin will set them up for success.
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