By Yong Wai Chin
As parents, we want the best for our children and that includes ensuring that they get the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.
A common question that many parents ask is: When should I start to introduce vitamin supplements to my child? My personal recommendation is when the child is four-years-old and above.
However, there are instances where younger children may be picky eaters and as such, may not be able to obtain all the nutrients that he or she needs, based on daily food intake alone. In such cases, you can consider introducing a suitable children’s supplement at an earlier stage to ensure your child receives all the vital nutrients and vitamins needed for healthy growth.
The key vitamins that are essential for a child’s healthy physical and brain development include all the foundation vitamins, namely Vitamin A, Bs, C, D and E. Important minerals include Calcium, Iron and Zinc.
A good children’s multivitamins and minerals supplement (MVM) should contain the above essential vitamins and minerals in the appropriate dosages. Children’s MVM should also not contain any herbs or herb-based ingredients as there is still a lack of safety studies being conducted on herb-type ingredients for children’s consumption. You should also purchase the supplements from a reputable and credible supplements manufacturer with a dedicated range of supplements specially formulated for children.
A common concern and grouse from parents with school-going children is the frequency of their child falling ill due to communicable viruses and cold bugs they catch in school. To boost your child’s immunity, you can consider vitamin C supplements or a superior antioxidant like Pycnogenol® (25-50mg) which is a patented ingredient extracted from French Pine Bark.
In addition, because children tend to be more selective in terms of taste and texture, most children’s supplements come in a variety of forms and flavours, such as chewable tablets, gummies and in flavoured liquid and syrup form. You will need to experiment to see which kind your child prefers.
Another common question that I get asked regularly: Is fish oil and cod liver oil the same? Which should I give to my child? The answer is actually in the name. As the names suggest, fish oil is derived by extracting oil from the whole fish, whereas cod liver oil is extracted from the liver of cod fish. Both contain different nutrients.
Fish oil is consumed to provide DHA and EPA which are important nutrients to support brain and heart health. Cod liver oil, on the other hand contains mainly vitamins A and D with trace amount of DHA and EPA.
While cod liver oil is beneficial for supporting children’s immunity, it is also important to note that vitamins A and D are fat-soluble vitamins which can be retained for longer periods of time in the body and thus it is important that you do not exceed the recommended dosage, as excess accumulation of fat-soluble vitamins can have adverse rather than beneficial health effects.
The key to good nutrition ultimately, is moderation and conscientious efforts to consume a balanced and nutrition diet that should contain more whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables as well as healthy proteins and good fats. When in doubt, it is always recommended to consult your paediatrician on your child’s health and development.
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Yong Wai Chin is a senior nutritionist with Nature’s Farm Singapore. She holds a Bachelor in Nutrition from the National University of Malaysia and specialises in health and wellness retail. For free health- and nutrition-related enquiries, WhatsApp Nature’s Farm at (65) 9118 3779.