Updated: Feb 4, 2019
My youngest will eat an entire head of broccoli himself, the next day he declares to the world he doesn’t like broccoli, and makes it well known. Sound familiar? When my kids were starting to come off of a diet of solely milk around age one, I worried if they were getting all the nutrients they needed heading into the toddler years. My oldest balked at food that wasn’t brown. Anything other than an organic tortilla chip, chicken, natural peanut butter, or oatmeal was scary. I knew he wasn’t getting all of his key nutrients. Flash forward 4 years and he is a great eater. He is the kid who eats the broccoli on his plate before anything else and asks for hummus as a side. Still, I am concerned he isn’t getting all of the nutrients his body needs.
Supplementation in kids is easily forgotten. As adults, we take our daily multivitamins, probiotics, pre-biotics, and other essentials like clockwork. But kids, it’s almost like we forget they need supplementation. If you think of a multivitamin like sand and a child's nutritional needs like an empty jar, it makes sense. Follow me. Every piece of food that enters the body is like a rock in that jar, it fills up the nutritional needs little bits at a time. When the day is complete, the jar may be full of rocks, but the gaps between the rocks may be pretty significant. That’s where the sand comes in. Pour sand in the jar to fill in the gaps, completely filling the jar. Just as the sand completes the filling of the jar, a multivitamin fills in the gaps of a diet. Even if kids eat absolutely perfect every single day of the year (find me that kid), there will still be gaps. Why?
Food today is not like food of the 1930's. It's what's called the dilution effect. More pounds of produce from the same soil means less nutrition per pound of produce harvested. A study of 27 fruits and vegetables showed that modern produce has been nutritionally depleted by an average of 20%. Just a few of the jaw-dropping numbers include calcium dropping 46%, iron 27%, and zinc 59%. Since the crops are less nutritionally dense, meat and dairy are also nutritionally depleted. Iron content has fallen 47% in meat and 60% in milk. This is just a small handful of products we use on a daily basis. Other numbers are just as alarming. Walking through the grocery store today versus the 1930's, our food is only a ghostly nutritional image of it's original greatness. Of course all the produce looks appetizing and delicious on the shelf, because it's engineered and grown with purchase appeal in mind (Shanahan, 2016).
With our food nutritionally depleted and gaps in diet, I choose to supplement. I have tried numerous different multivitamins for my kids. I prefer to pick one that is at a minimum Non-GMO and from a trusted retailer. By trusted retailer, I don’t mean your local drug store. If you want to see the studies of your famous trusted retailers and tests done on supplements on their shelves, Google can help you out. Many bottles of supplements have been tested and resulted in showing absolutely nothing on the label was actually in the bottle.
With so many options available, how can you determine what is right for your kids? What nutrients are actually key for growing and health? Are you actually getting what it says on the bottle, or are you trusting a company to make your kids’ vitamins that knowingly allowed asbestos to be put in baby powder? That’s right, all you Zarbee's Naturals users out there. Your vitamins are made by Johnson & Johnson, who is under severe fire and litigation for knowingly allowing asbestos in baby powder for as many as 40 years. J&J paid their first of many asbestos talc powder lawsuits in April of 2018 totaling $37 million to a man who lost his wife to a cancer that a J&J product caused. If a company knowingly allows asbestos in a product that goes on the body, what will they allow in a product that goes in the body? I’ll pass on the risk of some Vitamin A with a side of cancer.
After much trial and error, here is what I have landed on for my kids. Both of my kids eat phenomenal but still take these or have taken these on a regular basis through their early toddler years and beyond.
XFactor Kids – The main reason I love this vitamin is that it is a 2 for 1. A probiotic and a multi-vitamin that are gluten free, vegetarian, and Non-GMO with no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or added preservatives. Previously to this product I was purchasing both supplements separately. If you’ve ever purchased a kid’s powder probiotic, you will know what I mean when I say they are EXPENSIVE! XFactor Kids cut my costs by purchasing both together. The 13 essential vitamins kids need most are found in this product including 1000 IU of Vitamin D. It eliminates all the non-essentials that can be found in many other products on the market. Why pay for things you don’t need?
NutriBear Multi Vitamin – This was our starter vitamin. Again, hence the only will eat brown things problem, chocolate fell into the brown category. These chocolate vitamins with iron were the first introduction to vitamins for the kids. These are kosher milk chocolate vitamins with 17 vitamins and minerals including iron, with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The main reason I started with these is for the flavor and the iron, as we have ferritin level troubles in the family.
Get it Here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0038ZEZ0K/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=beinewellness-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0038ZEZ0K&linkId=b245ad076718596cbe7cb41337d5f961
If you’re child doesn’t need iron, then the non-iron version called Yum V’s Multi V with multi-mineral formula is great. I have used that one and supplemented with additional iron as needed.
Get it Here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008GTJXSC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008GTJXSC&linkCode=as2&tag=beinewellness-20&linkId=fdc2aed3d077d2caa28ce62b0c4f0e75
Navitco Nutribear Iron – I currently use this as a supplement in addition to the XFactor Kids. Each serving contains 5mg of iron. Absolutely do not use this without your doctor's consent, as too much iron can be extremely dangerous. This vegetarian and kosher supplement contains no artificial colors or flavors. My kids don’t love the taste, but they eat them just fine. It’s a way better taste than the lemon flavored liquid supplemental iron product available at the pharmacy.
Get it Here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079RZQGB9/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B079RZQGB9&linkCode=as2&tag=beinewellness-20&linkId=f895dd8487c7698e6525afd8127bf061
Whatever you land on for your child's supplementation needs, make sure you find a product that you can trust the ingredients without question. If we could all grow our own crops and harvest food like the 1930's, supplementation wouldn't be as needed as it is today. Unfortunately, we live in a country where food is now grown for mass production, over processed and lacking in nutrients.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Shanahan, C. (2016). Deep Nutrition. New York: FlatIron Books
About the Author: Erica Beine is a former collegiate athlete and Division I collegiate coach turned foodie and cookbook author. She is currently publishing her first cookbook and runs a company called Beine Wellness Building while staying at home with her young two boys. Follow Erica on Instagram at @ericabeine and check out how to transform your lifestyle at www.beinewellnessbuilding.com