I hadn’t even considered the question of a daily multivitamin until a friend asked me about it the other day. Should my almost-2-year-old be chewing a sweet gummy daily?
Naturally, I turned to Facebook and got a wide range of responses. Some mom-friends are doling out a multivitamin, plus fish oil, plus a B-12 supplement. Others just rely on a single daily vitamin. But few, if any, pals chimed in that they don’t give their kid a daily vitamin at all.
I tend to think we should be getting our nutrients from our food. That’s easy to say as an adult. I know what I need to eat to keep me healthy, so I make it a part of my diet. Can we say the same for our kids?
Some days my kid seems to subsist solely on Cheddar Bunnies (the organic version of goldfish you get at Whole Foods. Same thing.) Other days, it’s just cheese. Or miraculously it seems as if he eats virtually nothing but still seems to survive with little loss of energy and attitude.
Of course, that’s not for lack of trying to get him to eat healthy, or eat at all. In fact this exact exchange happened this weekend:
Me: Would you like a snack? How about an apple?
My kid: Bunnies.
Me (said with my most excited salesperson enthusiasm): Apple!
Kid (equally enthusiastically and super cute): Bunnies!
He won. He had one sliver of apple and a handful of the cheesy snack. I threw some raisins in there, too, for good measure.
I don’t choke food down this throat (or try not to) or coax or bribe. I feel like that’s just not a healthy approach to food. I want him to enjoy it, not feel forced to shovel it into his mouth, especially if he hates the taste. I want him to explore food and try new flavors. Even if that sometimes means just cheese crackers. But, for the most part, he eats what we eat (no separate dinner for toddler before the grown ups eat) and gets a pretty good variety of food over the course of a normal week. And just for the record, tonight he willingly ate tons of broccoli and spinach snuck into a messy delicious spaghetti sauce.
So does he need a multivitamin?
I do remember eating Flintstones’ chewables as a kid. Do they still make those?
The Internet, of course, was split on the issue. Some say, sure the extra piece of mind is great, especially if your kid only eats white foods. Others say parents might just rely on the vitamin and forgo efforts to encourage healthy eating.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t think kids who receive a well-balanced diet need vitamins. Plus, they note large doses of vitamins “can produce toxic symptoms, ranging from nausea to rashes to headaches and sometimes even more adverse effects.” So perhaps that begins to answer my questions of why not and what’s the harm?
That seemed to be the opinion of my pediatrician, who I absolutely adore and trust wholeheartedly. In an email, he told me that he agreed with my thoughts that nutrients should come from food, and that if my boy eats real food, no need for vitamins.
So for now, I think we’ll skip the supplement. I say this knowing my kid hasn’t entered a white-only food stage and still will gobble up veggies sometimes.
Sara Michael is a first-time mom with Type A tendencies. She likes rules, makes lists, and follows plans. That all seemed to work out fine until she had a baby. Now she balances her need for order and answers with the desire to enjoy the unpredictable journey she is on with her 2-year-old son (and a second on the way). Her day job? She is a writer and editorial director at a health care media company where she manages content for an online publication. Her journalism background started in daily newspapers, covering health, science and government. Follow her on Twitter @sara_the_writer.