Think about how
fast kids grow and change from infancy through their teen years. Babies triple
their weight in the first year. And up until puberty, children grow an average
of two inches in height each year. For children to thrive, all of this growth
depends on a solid nutritional foundation. Yet as any parent can tell you, kids
can be picky eaters. How can mom and dad be sure that their little ones are
getting all that they need to thrive, nutrient wise? Here are some ideas.
food. Kids should get the nutrition they need from a broad range of healthy
foods. Yet there is a tendency to want only their favorite foods and sometimes
an outright refusal to try new things. This is where a good kid’s multivitamin
can save the day by filling in nutritional gaps. It provides insurance that
kids can meet the minimum daily requirements of the most important vitamins and
Beyond a multi, parents need to
be sure kids, from babies to college age, are getting the critically important
omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
DHA supports healthy brain and vision development and is important in the
early years because of the increase in brain mass that occurs from birth
through puberty. DHA is a building block for the brain and is especially
abundant in grey matter and in the retina.
DHA supports healthy mood,
behavior, and cognition. Babies will establish better sleep habits and even
school children sleep better when they get DHA from foods or in supplements.
EPA and DHA are especially important to the adolescent brain. During the
teenage years, the regions of the brain associated with learning and memory
undergo significant growth, requiring an abundant supply of these fats. But a
typical child’s diet is lacking in omega-3s. Adding insult to injury, studies
also indicate that eating the fats found in junk food as a child appears to
have long-lasting effects on learning and memory in adulthood. It’s clear that
reducing the intake of junk food and saturated fats while increasing omega-3
intake is an important strategy for supporting teenagers’ brain health. Adding omega-3s
to your teen’s diet is a small action that has a huge impact on healthy brain
We can help our kids get DHA by
serving cold-water fish, like tuna or salmon, at least twice a week, and by
providing DHA through supplements. Omega-3 liquids can be stirred into anything
your child likes, such as hummus, yogurt, salsa, or even a peanut butter and
Boosting vitamin D intake is a
good idea for many reasons. A deficiency of vitamin D is linked to asthma and
allergies in obese children and teenagers, and vitamin D is needed for a
healthy immune system. Adequate vitamin D intake ensures that the body absorbs
and retains calcium and phosphorus, critical nutrients for building healthy
bones, and a deficiency increases the risk of bone fractures in older children,
teens, and adults.
According to the American
Academy of Pediatrics, recent studies show that most kids aren’t getting enough
of this essential vitamin through diet alone. The recommended daily allowance
is 400 IU (10 mcg) of vitamin D for infants 0 to 12 months and 600 IU (15 mcg)
for most children.
Along with vitamin D, calcium
is needed during childhood to build strong bones and teeth. Bones grow rapidly
during adolescence, and teens need enough of this mineral to continue to build
bone strength and prevent bone loss later in life.
Calcium is also vital for
stimulating the activity of neurons in the brain. It plays an important role in
muscle growth and contraction. Calcium is also needed to support healthy blood
clotting, the heart’s rhythm, proper functioning of the cell membranes, and the
release of hormones.
One survey found that in the
US, less than 15 percent of teenage girls met the recommended calcium intake,
and government statistics report that about one-third of kids ages 4 to 8
aren’t getting enough calcium. Too much juice and sugary drinks and too little
milk may be partly to blame. Furthermore, soda and caffeinated beverages
interfere with the body’s absorption of calcium. About 1,000 mg of calcium, or
two cups of milk (or a dairy equivalent) is adequate for normal bone growth
between ages 8 and 16 years. For kids of all ages—especially kids who can’t
consume dairy due to lactose intolerance or an allergy—a supplement will
provide a daily dose of calcium. Chewable calcium and liquid vitamin D are a
delicious and convenient way to ensure your child is getting enough of these
In addition to a diet rich in
citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, and red peppers, a vitamin C
supplement will supply all of the vitamin C your child needs for optimal health.
If your child is in school or daycare, you’re likely all too familiar with the
wide variety of germs that get passed around a classroom. Therefore,
immune-boosting vitamin C is another important supplement to consider for the
whole family. Vitamin C is important for the healthy growth of teeth, gums,
bones, ligaments, and blood vessels.
Speaking of the immune system,
along with promoting gastrointestinal health by defending against occasional
gas and bloating, probiotics are linked to strong immunity (after all, about 80
percent of the immune system is located in the gut), making probiotics a wise
addition to any child’s supplement regimen. Kid’s Probiotics Stix
offer a delicious way to give kids the protection of probiotics in a smoothie
or just dissolved on the tongue.
Good nutrition during childhood sets the stage for healthy development and helps ensure a healthy adulthood.