Does Your Child Need Nutritional Supplements?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's always ideal for your child to meet her nutritional requirements through the things she eats and drinks.  To this end, it's essential to offer a variety of lean proteins, calcium rich foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. But as you probably know all too well, some kids are fussy and won't eat the things they need, leaving them susceptible to a range of health problems, both now and in the future.

Kids and Nutrition: Daily Recommendations

To see how your child's diet measures up, please read the following overview of the recommended daily allowance for different stages of your child's life, compliments of the American Heart Association.

Babies: Your baby's nutritional needs start at the time of conception. That's why most women are advised to take a prenatal vitamin to help their children develop properly right from the start. Once your baby is born, breastfeeding should meet all of her nutritional needs for the first six months or so, at which time other foods can slowly be introduced.

Toddlers: Toddlers need to eat a variety of foods to meet all of their nutritional needs. The goal at this age should be to eat about 900 to 1,000 calories a day, including a healthy mix of fats, protein and carbohydrates. At one year of age, your baby's fat intake will be about 30 to 40 percent of her total calories. At this stage, she'll need about 1 cup a day of fruit, ¾ cup of vegetables, 2 cups of milk, 1.5 ounces of lean protein and 2 ounces of whole grains every day. By age 2 or 3, her fat needs decrease slightly, but the needs for nutrients begin to increase to 1 cup of vegetables, 2 ounces of protein and 3 ounces of grain. Her milk and fruit intake needs should remain the same.

School-Age Children: School-age children are very active and need about 1,200 (or 1,400 for males) calories a day. About 25 to 35 percent of this should come healthy fats, such as fresh fish, nuts and vegetable oils. You should also make sure a child of this age eats 1.5 cups of fruit, 3 to 4 ounces of leans proteins, 1 cup of vegetables (or 1.5 for males) and 4 ounces (or 5 ounces for males) of whole grains/high fiber breads and cereals. Keep in mind that your child continues to need 2 cups of milk a day through about age 8.

Tweens: Once your child gets to age 9, her calorie needs increase to about 1,600 (or 1,800 for a male) and her nutrient needs also go up significantly as well, although the fat ratio shouldn't change. At this time, and for the next few years, she will need about 5 ounces of lean protein, 2 cups of vegetables (or 2.5 for males), 5 ounces of grains (or 6 ounces for males), and 3 cups of milk. The amount of fruit needed should stay at about 1.5 cups a day.

Teenagers: Teenagers (ages 14 to 18) have higher calorie needs. Girls typically need about 1,800, while boys need about 2.200. Again 25 to 35 percent to this should come from unsaturated fats. Females continue to need about 5 ounces of meat or protein, while males may need as much as 6 ounces by this point. She'll also need 1.5 cups of fruit (2 cups for males), 2.5 cups of vegetables (or 3 cups for males) and 6 ounces of grains (or 7 ounces for males). Her milk needs will stay steady at 3 cups.

Coping with Kids and Nutrition Gaps

If your child meets these guidelines, she'll probably be getting the proper amount of most vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in her daily eating and won't need to take extra vitamins or supplements. However, there's one exception.

The latest AAP recommendations released in 2008 increased the required amount of Vitamin D to 400 International Units (IU) per day for babies, children and adolescents, which is more than most get through their diet and exposure to sunlight. Therefore, you should ask your pediatrician for advice in this area. In addition, if your child is a particularly fussy eater, has been very sick or is more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, which can be most common very early in childhood and then again in adolescence, you should also talk to your child's doctor about making up any deficiencies that exist by having her take a multi-vitamin.



American Academy of Pediatrics/Healthy Children

American Heart Association

American Medical Association

US National Library of Medicine/Medline Plus