The Balancing Act - Business Media MAGS

The South African Schools Collection

The Balancing Act

Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life, but the endless choice in vitamins and supplements can be quite overwhelming. Lynne Gidish finds out what your child needs to ensure optimal wellbeing and health.

When it comes to ensuring that your child is getting all the vital vitamins and minerals they need for optimal functioning you should always start with a healthy diet, says Rhodene Oberholzer, a registered dietician at En Bonne Santé Dieticians.

“Good nutrition is essential at any age, and while it may be very tempting to grab vitamins and supplements off the nearest pharmacy or supermarket shelf, a food-first approach should be your primary focus, particularly when it comes to a growing child. These are all manufactured products that are there to supplement, not replace, your diet. If your child is eating a balanced diet containing all the different food groups, a supplement is most likely not needed,” says Oberholzer.

When to use supplements

Children require the same nutrients as adults, just in fewer quantities, says Oberholzer. “These requirements should primarily be met by nutrient-dense foods, but when this is not possible, supplements may then be useful,” she explains. Certain children will definitely benefit from taking vitamins or nutritional supplements, she adds.

Very picky eaters who do not eat a variety of food may lack or have a higher need for certain nutrients. Studies have shown that some picky eaters may consume less food that is high in zinc and iron, which may result in deficiencies.

Children following vegan or vegetarian diets may be at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies such as iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin B2, calcium and zinc.

Children with medical conditions that influence their nutrient absorption or requirements such as gastrointestinal disorders, for example, coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease where the absorption of certain nutrients (such as iron and vitamin B12) may be compromised.

What’s best for your child?

When it comes to giving your child any vitamins or supplements, Oberholzer cautions about going it alone. “Deciding what’s best for your child is not as simple as just going out and buying the supplement that contains the most nutrients,” she explains. “There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to any form of supplementation because oversupplementing with certain nutrients that exceed the recommended intakes can sometimes be detrimental to your child’s health. That’s why you should always seek professional advice before making any decisions. Discussing your concerns with a healthcare practitioner who can then assess and identify your child’s individual needs will ensure that what’s prescribed will work best for them.”

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