Children have different nutritional needs than adults, and it is vitally important that these needs are met in order to ensure healthy growth and development.
The vitamins and minerals they need depend on their age, sex, size, how much they are growing, and how much activity they do each day. In particular, growing bones require plenty of vitamin D and calcium and brain development requires sufficient zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12 and D, to name just a few.
Children who do not have a healthy, balanced diet
Ideally we would all get our nutrition from a healthy, balanced diet. However even with good intentions it can be hard to achieve this. Eating healthily can sometimes be more expensive and may not be affordable for some families. Also, modern food these days may not always provide the nutrition that it should do, as a lot of it is processed, refined or artificial. If children are not growing at the predicted rate, or if they are chronically ill or suffer from repeated infections, poor nutritional status could be the reason or a contributing factor. Many children are fussy eaters and all parents know that it is very difficult to get children to eat something if they do not want to. In these cases, a multivitamin tablet can be considered. However it is important that if given, the multivitamin is not seen as a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
Some children may be missing out on key nutrients if they eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. In these cases the same advice applies as it does for adults and, although it is possible for a child to get everything they need from a plant-based diet, it requires careful thought on the part of the parent to ensure they are getting enough calcium, iron and zinc in particular. Vitamin B12 is a particular concern, as it only occurs naturally in animal products and so must be obtained from foods fortified with B12 or a supplement.
Vitamin C and zinc for colds
All parents will be well aware that children get a lot of coughs and colds. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers have an average of 8 to 10 colds a year and if they attend a kindergarten it can be as high as 12 a year. The frequency of colds reduces as they get older, as they become immune to the different viruses, so that when they are adolescents the frequency is around the same as for adults, an average of two to four a year.
Single vitamin or mineral products, and multivitamins, are available in liquid, tablet and gummy formats and there are pros and cons for each. Tablets can be difficult for young children and sometimes the chewable versions can have a chalky texture which may be off putting. Gummies taste great and are easy for children to take, but they may contain high levels of sugar and have an added risk of overdose if mistaken for lollies. Liquid versions are easy to take and are not a choking hazard, but it can be harder to give an accurate dose.