As a parent of two children I understand the everyday challenges and concerns of keeping our children healthy. Let’s face it, getting our kids to eat healthy at home is a challenge, but at school and other outside events it is nearly impossible. I believe it is even more important that we give our children dietary supplements than ourselves. Why? Our children are in the most important phase of their lives-GROWTH. Take bone health for example. Your child is building bones up until the age of 18-25 and then stops. An old friend of mine says you put bone in the bank in your youth and then try to hang onto what you have the rest of your life. This is just one of many examples of the importance of “proper” nutrition with our children.
Most of you will agree that it is a challenge to get our children to eat right all the time. We also understand that even if they do eat well, there are certain things missing from their foods that are critical for health. This is why I created a Children’s version of the Dietary Supplement Pyramid. The following is how I would structure a program for our growing children.
Step 1- Take Care of their Special Needs
I start with this being the most important level because I understand that many Americans cannot afford all levels of the pyramid. (As your budget permits-add additional steps. Special needs are what most people go to a health food store. We shop for our special needs or interests. In children it might be for allergies, ADD, ADHD, Depression, Immune health or some other health and wellness issue. I recommend you find a product with multiple ingredients for the same challenge. (Kids hate taking “medicine” and supplements so the fewer bottles the better). In my seminars I call them synergistic blends. Synergy happens when you combine two or more things (supplements in our case) and the resulting strength is greater than predicted if they were acting alone. (With synergy, 1+1+1=5 not 3) An example of a synergistic formula would be if my child were sick with a virus, I would probably have greater success using a blended formula like Esberitox (echinacea, thuja, and wild indigo) than to try Echinacea by itself.
Step 2- Omega-3’s
Grandma always said “eat your fish-it will make you smarter”, and this is only one of many reasons I think our children need to get a fish oil supplement each day. Omega-3s benefits for our children are:
- Brain Development
- Eye Development
- Healthy Joints
- Mental Clarity
- Heart Health
- General Health, Growth and Development
As you can clearly see, these are MAJOR health benefits for your child. It is imperative that you supplement your child’s diet daily with a high quality fish oil product
Step 3- Build Strong Bones
As mentioned above, building strong bones occurs when we are a child and teenager. With the amount of refined foods and lack of consumption of foods high in Calcium it is necessary to give your child a supplement to support bone health development. Too often the focus is just on calcium which is not the only nutrient needed to develop strong bones. Again, look for a combination formula that contains other ingredients. Calcium/bone health supplements come in all forms: Liquids, chewable, gummies, powders and tablets. Find one that is right for you child’s age and taste buds. One of my “must haves” in bone health supplements is Menaquinone-7. Make sure this is part of the supplement you are using with your child (or yourself) because it is a valuable tool in building bone.
Step 4-Multivitamin/mineral -The most important Nutrient
Just as with adults, children need to take a good broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral everyday. Science has shown that prolonged nutrient depletion can lead to more serious health challenges over time. You are never sure what nutrient you may be deficient in and that is the main reason I recommend that we ALL take one every day. When buying a multivitamin, look for one that is appropriate for the age (and maybe gender) of your child. As children age their nutritional needs will change and so should their vitamin. Many companies make male and female teen vitamins, which would be much better than a generic one-size-fits-all product
I am aware that this pyramid differs significantly from other articles I have written. As a health professional I am always trying to learn more and blessed with the right to change my opinion based on new information. I am also a realist and understand the everyday challenges of raising a child and what there specific needs may be. We as parents (or guardians) must lead by example. It is hard for a child to understand why there are different rules for adults. Make taking supplements an enjoyable experience and part of the family environment. Help your children understand that supplements are not medicine and that they are designed to help them be better, healthier and happier people. If you are challenged giving your children their supplements, I am including my hot health tip from an old newsletter to help you along.
Special note: With regards to the sugar content in children’s supplements I have this comment: Sometimes it is more important to get it in your child than worry about the amount of sugar in the supplement. Factor these calories into your child’s diet when considering other food choices too.