Kids’ Vitamins – what’s really in them?
You may have noticed an explosion of kids’ vitamin products on the market lately.
We all just want what’s best for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy and full of energy. We want them to have all the nutrients their growing bodies and minds need.
Companies can see that we have that desire to make sure our kids are healthy and they make products that supply that need. But are they all they are cracked up to be?
Well, not necessarily! I have seen quite a few kids’ vitamin products recently that are very expensive and contain some really questionable ingredients.
The clever marketing spiel seem to be working and parents are buying these products thinking that they are doing the right thing by their children.
I’m not a medical professional, so I got my friend, who also happens to be my amazing nutritionist -Anita Rossiter to work with me on this article to give you a bit of basic information to help you make the best choices.
Do kids even need supplements?
Well, there is much debate around this topic. While most people can get all their nutrients from food, sometimes a little bit of extra help is needed.
Soil depletion, farming techniques, long-term storage, processing and a whole host of other factors mean that our food just isn’t as nutritious as it used to be.
Added to that, a lot of kids are not even eating enough good quality, nutrient-dense whole foods – for whatever reason. Processed foods are now very common in our kids’ diets too. Anita says that if kids are fussy, it’s worth seeking advice to ensure a nutritional deficiency isn’t underlying the fussiness.
There also seems to be an increase in issues like gut health which mean our bodies are not absorbing the nutrients as well as we could be.
I have always added in a few food-based supplements every now and again when the kids looked like they were getting sick or they were extra busy and getting a bit run down. I guess I look at it as ‘extra insurance’!
If you have any concerns about specific deficiencies or suspect a health problem, you need to get tested by a medical professional and supplemented correctly.
Naturopath Georgia Harding has some information about this here.
What to look out for?
When considering supplements, the first thing to do is get a full ingredient list. A lot of products will just display their ‘active ingredients’ but this is not a complete list. The rubbish often hides in the ‘inactive ingredients’.
Then you need to assess whether those ingredients are synthetic or natural. Food Matters have a great article on how you can tell the difference between natural vitamins and synthetic vitamins.
Check for sugars. They seem to be very prevalent in these products and will often be under another name like ‘tapioca syrup’. Some products are now claiming to be ‘sugar-free’ and substitute the sugar for things like xylitol and sorbitol. Unfortunately those components are highly processed and can cause digestive issues. In fact, I often see on the labels ‘this product may have a laxative effect’!
Check for artificial additives. Many use emulsifiers, flavourings, colourings and preservatives and even MSG. “Natural flavours” are not necessarily natural at all!
Get all the facts, do your research and then make a decision. Don’t be swayed by marketing claims!
Anita also says that many supplements are making a health situation worse as they can contain ingredients that are known to worsen gut health such as the additives, emulsifiers and sugars.
What to use?
The first thing to do is to try to improve your child’s diet by increasing nutrient-dense, good quality foods including fruit and vegetables. Anita says ‘you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet!’
If you think your kids have a specific health issue, consult a medical professional and get some thorough testing. I find integrative doctors, nutritionists or naturopaths are more likely to be better informed about up to date nutrition information and are able to recommend good quality supplements.
If you just want to your kids to take a broad spectrum multi vitamin and mineral as a back-up, look for those that are just whole food (preferably certified organic) without sugar, synthetics and artificial additives.
We like Nutra Organics and Superfoods for Kidz. Anita also has her recommended supplements on her website here.
Do your kids take vitamins? What are your experiences?