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Children's Supplementsby Dave Foreman
As a parent of two children (Adam 11, Amanda 7) 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 18-25 years of age. 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. In recent seminars I restructured the Council for Responsible Nutrition's Dietary Supplement Pyramid. I also realized that our children's needs are different than ours. The following is how I would structure a program for our growing children.
STEP 1 -TAKE CARE OF SPECIAL NEEDS
I start with this because I understand that many Americans cannot afford all levels of the pyramid. As your budget permits, add additional steps. Special needs are why most people go to The Vitamin Shoppe. I joke that even though the store is called The Vitamin Shoppe, most people don't go there just for a vitamin. 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) If my child was sick with a virus, I would probably have greater success using a blended formula like Esberitox (echinacea, thuja, and wild indigo) than using Echinacea by itself. You can easily find combination products in your Vitamin Shoppe that will address your child's special needs.
STEP 2 - OMEGA-3 FROM FISH
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-3 benefits for our children are:
As you can clearly see, these are MAJOR health benefits for your child. It is imperative you supplement your child's diet daily with a high quality fish oil product. My favorite is Coromega's Child Brain and Body. First, it is DELICIOUS (Tastes like candy and has the consistency of pudding). Second, it is formulated with a higher ratio of DHA to EPA to match that found in breast milk. Another company I love for fish oil supplements is Nordic Naturals. They also have great tasting products and the added benefit of being available in liquids, chewable softgels and capsules. You can't lose with either brand.
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. 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 your child's age and taste buds.
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 change and so should their vitamins. Many companies make male and female teen vitamins which would be much better than a generic one-size-fits-all product. I have sampled a ton of children's vitamins and the clear leader in taste for younger children is Nordic Berries (Nordic Naturals). The problem is that often these products contain a ton of sugar or are not broad enough in content. Please compare labels and be sure of serving size (often times the dose may be 2 or more per dose).
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 am 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.
REMEMBER,OUR CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE.
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.