Home > Parenting > Child > Nutrition 22 January 2015 Should your child take a supplement? Intimidated by the shelf in your local supermarket that groans under the vitamin and mineral supplements for kids? Then read on. 0 iStock ASK The Paediatrician » Follow Health24 on Facebook » Quiz Are you ready for a baby? » Subscribe Parenting newsletter » 10 interesting Down syndrome facts Autistic savant 'reads minds' In an ideal world, all children are healthy, follow a varied and interesting diet, love fruit and vegetables, and have parents with the time and energy to cook fresh meals and pack interesting lunchboxes.However, we have to deal with the reality of kids who have health problems, who are picky eaters, parents who have an overfull schedule and little time to cook fresh and varied meals, and the presence of easily accessible processed foods.For healthy kids who follow a varied diet, the American Academy of Paediatrics doesn’t recommend. But they do concede that they may be necessary for kids who don’t eat as they should. After all, a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency can lead to serious health problems, such as iron-deficiency anaemia and rickets due to vitamin D deficiency.It is emphasised by researchers that children need a more varied diet, not more food. A diet rich in milk and dairy products, fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, protein (fish, meat, chicken or eggs) and whole grains (such as oats, low-GI brown bread and brown rice) can go a long way to ensure optimal nutrition for your child. Focus on these nutrientsEven though vitamin and mineral supplements can never be a substitute for healthy eating, no one can deny that a good multivitamin can be a lifesaver for children with certain chronic diseases, those with particularly nutrient-poor diets, or children who are run-down after an illness or a stressful time.When considering a supplement for your child, it’s important to know which combinations of vitamins and minerals are best, as children’s needs differ from those of adults. The following vitamins are essential for growing kids:- Vitamin A (promotes growth and development)- Vitamin Bs (energy production)- Vitamin C (promotes healthy muscles)- Vitamin D (bone and tooth formation)- Calcium (strong bones)- Iron (builds muscle)Children who definitely need a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, include the following:- Those who are very picky eaters, or who are simply not eating enough- Those on a restricted diet (such as a vegan, vegetarian or dairy-free diet)- Children who eat lots of fast foods and drink lots of carbonated drinks- Children who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems- Children who regularly take part in very demanding sportsAsk for help firstBefore giving your child a supplement, it’s important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist, as dietary supplements may interfere with other medications your child may be taking. Side effects in children may also differ from those in adults.Iron and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) can furthermore be toxic to children when taken in large amounts. As with all medication and supplements, it’s best to stick to dosage instructions.And, lastly, it’s important to keep vitamins and minerals out of the reach of children – especially the chewable variety, as these can easily be mistaken for sweets.Sources: WebMD; Foodforthebrain.org; US National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Susan Erasmus, Health24 More in Parenting Day care doesn't make kids gain weight More: ChildNutrition advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 0 comments Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... From our sponsors Keep an eye on your vision Which skin products are better, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’? Win 1 of 6 R5000 cash prizes Win Skin Renewal voucher Live healthier Exercise benefits for seniors » Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them. No relief for MS » Drug shows promise against MS in mouse study Vitamin D may slow multiple sclerosis Obesity in girls tied to higher MS risk Exercise may not lower women's risk of MS A Harvard study showed no evidence to support the idea that exercise lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis.