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As parents, we want all our children to start life healthy and remain this way. 

A child’s emotional, physical and cognitive growth is at its most rapid before the age of 13 and this is when their good eating habits can cut the risk of degenerative diseases later in life. 

The question is: what really is a good balanced diet for a child? 

And what do you do if you have a child who pushes away their vegetables a little too often?

Don’t miss our article on getting your kids to eat their greens.

What is a Healthy Diet for a Child?

If you have a fussy eater, it’s fairly clear that your child won’t be eating a diet varied enough to be called ‘good’ by the experts. 

Vegetables provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals—so if your little one doesn’t eat them, their nutritional status could suffer.

All experts won’t agree on whether children should be given supplements.

Nutritious diets for children include plenty of fresh fruits and green vegetables, proteins (fish, chicken, beef, eggs), dairy products, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains. 

Each of these foods plays a role in providing numerous vitamins and minerals that are critical for infant health: namely vitamins A-D, calcium and iron.

Little girl eating bowl of Cheerios and milk

If you have a fussy eater, their nutritional status could suffer

Do Children Need Supplements?

All experts won’t agree on whether children should be given supplements.

Some will say that with a well-balanced diet, there’s no need for additional vitamins and minerals; whereas others will say all children need supplements.

Here we can look to research to fill in some gaps for us. 

Over half of children under 24 months old are deficient in vitamin E, according to a study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association.

Yet the same study also showed these children to have excessive levels of vitamin A and zinc in their systems—even without supplements.

The ones who had been given supplements by their parents were drastically overdosing on these nutrients and were also over the upper limit for folate levels.

A health professional will be able to check for deficiencies in nutrient levels before you make a decision.

The resulting advice? When deciding on vitamin and mineral supplements, we need to be careful that we’re not overloading our children and causing a vitamin toxicity—especially when some foods are also being fortified with vitamin A, zinc and folate.

Remember though, that if your child has special needs of any type, their mineral compositions—and subsequent needs—may vary. This should be sorted out by a clinical nutritionist.

Hand holding a yellow capsule vitamin pill

All experts won't agree on whether children should be given supplements

Helpful Tips on Supplementing your Child’s Diet

The following are cases where it might be a good idea to check with your doctor about adding nutritional supplements to your child’s diet: 

  • When your child is a picky eater, and chooses foods that are not healthy.
  • When your child’s diet contains processed foods or fast foods.
  • Whenever your child is taking prescription medications, as these will deplete the body of vitamins and minerals.
  • When your child has digestive illnesses, asthma, diabetes or other chronic diseases.
  • Any child eating a vegan or vegetarian diet (these are lower in protein, zinc, iron, and other nutrients).
  • Whenever your child starts eating sugar, desserts, or beverages containing a lot of sugar.
  • When your child has food allergies and major food groups are eliminated from their diet.

Recommended Daily Intakes

To help you out, here’s a table of the recommended daily levels of vitamins, minerals and compounds—up to the age of 13.

As with all health-related decisions, there should be no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Your child will always be different to your neighbor’s.

A health professional will be able to check for deficiencies in nutrient levels before you make a decision on which—if any—supplements are right for your family.