Once the fall came around and I was reminded to give my daughter her vitamin D drops again. I wondered if there was anything else in the way of nutrition that I should be supplementing, since she eats a rather choosy diet and tends to have a low appetite. I was thrilled to be put in touch with Kids’ Nutritionist, Aviva Allen. She is the mother of 2 boys ages 4.5 and 7 and specializes in helping parents deal with picky eating and other feeding challenges. She’s also the founder of the Healthy Moms Toronto Discount Card, helping health-conscious moms save money on natural/eco-friendly products and services throughout the GTA.
What follows is the Question & Answer email correspondence between us, in which Aviva answered my queries on multivitamins and supplements for toddlers.
Toddler Nutrition Q & A
Question 1: When my little one was a baby, health professionals encouraged me to give her vitamin D drops daily. No other forms of supplement were recommended as necessary. Being that I breastfed and tried to keep up with my own vitamins, I felt confident with that advice. Now that my toddler is 2, and is hardly breastfeeding at all anymore, I’m feeling like I should be providing her with more of the supplemental vitamins, minerals and oils that she’s not getting in her picky, tiny, toddler diet. Should I be looking for a daily multivitamin or another supplement that can be taken by children this young?
I am not a huge fan of multivitamins. Typically they only offer a small amount of a handful of nutrients that your child may or may not need. Unless a child is not eating any fruits or vegetables whatsoever, I don’t usually recommend a multivitamin. It would be better to supplement with specific nutrients that are either difficult to get through diet alone or addressing a known or suspected deficiency identified by blood test or through a symptom-based assessment done by a doctor, nutritionist or other healthcare professional.
Question 2: What should I look for when choosing a quality multivitamin or supplement for children?
Look for supplements from reputable companies that do not include any unnecessary additives such as artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners. I prefer liquid or powder supplements for kids as opposed to many of the gummy products marketed to children these days.
Question 3: Is there a specific vitamin or nutrientI should be looking to include in my toddlers intake, whether in diet or supplemental form, that is especially important at this age?
Fat is very important and omega 3 fatty acids are particularly important for your child’s brain development. These can be found in foods such as nuts and seeds (and nut and seed butters), avocado and fatty fish. If your toddler does not love fish you may want to offer a fish oil supplement. There are many options available in kid friendly flavours. Vitamin D is another nutrient that is difficult to get from diet alone. Our main source of vitamin D is from the sun and between the months of October to April, we don’t get enough in this part of the world. It is recommended for children over the age of 1 to get a minimum of 600IU of vitamin D per day.
Question 4: When it comes to nutrition, I know it’s considered best to get our nutrients from whole food sources, rather than supplements. Do you have any tips or ideas for encouraging toddlers to eat more and more varied foods (that don’t come out of a crinkly package)?
Repeat exposure is key. Serving your meals family style versus plating your child’s food for them is something I always recommend. Try not to assume that your child will never eat certain foods. If they are never offered or never make their way onto their plate, it makes it much more difficult for them to learn to enjoy that food. I have many different techniques that I use to help families and their children address picky eating and other feeding challenges, but one common message I send to parents is to avoid pressure at the table.