As parents, we often wonder if our children are getting enough of the right stuff for their growing bodies. What if you have finicky eaters who wouldn't dream of putting anything green or orange in their mouths?

As parents, we often wonder if our children are getting enough of the right stuff for their growing bodies. What if you have finicky eaters who wouldn't dream of putting anything green or orange in their mouths?

That's where vitamins and supplements come in. But where to begin? There are numerous choices for children's supplements on store shelves. The best idea is to start with your child's health care professional for some answers.

Dr. W. David Dawdy with Associated Pediatrics in Westerville, said that vitamins are not necessary for children if they are eating nutritious diets. "The American Academy of Pediatrics' position on this matter is that children who eat a varied and balanced diet do not need vitamin supplements and I agree," he said. "However, many families - either because of expense or a hurried lifestyle - do not eat balanced and varied choices."

He stated examples such as the toddler who will eat only a few foods, or certain textures or colors of food; the grade school child who eats fast food on the way to or from soccer, dance or gymnastics; and the teen who 'doesn't eat' breakfast. "It takes time and money to purchase and prepare a kid-healthy diet," Dawdy said. "Fresh fruits and vegetables can be costly and take extra time to prepare. Often, I suggest a multiple vitamin when I know that a consistent, vitamin-healthy diet is not practical."

Dawdy said he suggests vitamin choices based on safety concerns, (i.e. no chewables for smaller children because of choking risk), taste and cost. "Expensive is not always better," he said. "And a horrible taste or texture will be rejected by most children."

Mark Pitstick, M.A., D.C., with training in clinical nutrition, is the founder of the Radiant Wellness Center in Chillicothe and author of the book, Radiant Wellness. He agrees that if kids ate healthy, organic foods most of the time, they wouldn't need vitamin supplements. He said that many of the average children's supplements on the market may not even be that good for the body. "Read the labels," he said. "Many are filled with sugar, food dyes and artificial ingredients."

Pitstick said that whole food supplements taken in concentrated, low dosages are better choices. "For example, Standard Process has a line of children's whole food supplements," he said. "These products are available only through health care professionals. The whole food concept means they contain living enzymes, which allow the body to recognize and utilize the supplements properly."

Tim Bahan is the regional director of Standard Process of Ohio, located in Westerville. He explained that the company, established in 1929, is the oldest physician supplement company in the country. "Our supplements are made from dried, organically-grown whole foods," he said. "But even though these supplements are good, it's still important to make proper dietary choices day in and day out. Proper nutrition supports the body's natural physiological processes of growth and healing."

Parents haven't always had to worry about whether their kids needed vitamins. Poor nutrition choices in our society have led to numerous health concerns that even supplements can't cure. "Our current lifestyle is leading to worse nutrition, not better," said Dawdy. "The rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease is frightening. We are seeing more diseases, once only common in older adults, now occurring in children. Most of this is related to poor nutrition. Even a ton of vitamins won't prevent obesity and its complications when a child's diet is high in fats and processed foods."

Pitstick explained that up until about 60 years ago, the American diet consisted of whole foods. He feels that getting back to basics with our eating will make a big difference in our children's health.

Dawdy said the best source of vitamins for growing children from toddlers to teens should be a healthy diet and adequate sunlight. He said that vitamins are not a substitute for good nutrition, but they can be a supplement to aid in optimal health.


The scoop on vitamin D

Dr. W. David Dawdy, with Associated Pediatrics in Westerville, said there has been a recent change in the vitamin D story. "Breast milk doesn't contain adequate vitamin D," he explained. "Therefore, current recommendations are for 400 IU of vitamin D starting by the first month. There are no liquid vitamin D drops, thus I recommend ACD drops for all breast-fed infants. They do not have the traditional vitamin smell and are easily tolerated by most infants."

Dawdy said that children from toddlers to teens also need at least 400 IU of vitamin D. (Four glasses of vitamin D supplemented milk contains 400 IU). Vitamin D comes primarily from a sun/skin reaction. "The use of sunscreens to prevent skin cancer, playing indoors and darker skin pigmentation all contribute to lowered Vitamin D levels," he said. "In addition to vitamin D's importance in good bone health, recent studies have suggested beneficial effects for the immune system."



Jan Myers is a freelance writer and mother in Coshocton. Her son Maxx is 15 and daughter Maggie is 10. She has thoroughly enjoyed every stage of her children's development.