By Dr Joanna McMillan
A pandemic has put broader health concerns front-and-centre for most Aussie parents, with nearly half (47 per cent) reporting that immune health is their biggest concern, according to new research from Bubs Australia. ^
Nutrition plays a big role in immune health, which can leave parents wondering whether kids’ diets are up to scratch. Vitamins are one solution, but almost one-third ^ ^ of parents say they don’t know how vitamins could be useful for their kids.
Here are seven tips for deciding whether your little one needs supplements and how to choose the right type.
1. Identify any nutritional gaps
Eighty per cent of parents admit they’ve been concerned their kids aren’t getting enough vitamins in their diet. The first step in addressing this is to take stock of what nutrients your child needs most. Check the Australian Dietary Guidelines and compare the estimated serves of each food group for your child’s age with what you think they eat.
How closely do they match? Are there any food groups that are way off? The further away from these guidelines you are, the more likely your child may be short on one or more nutrients.
2. Consider food allergies and intolerances
Allergies and intolerances tend to limit kids’ food options, and supplements might help. Probiotics might be part of the equation since they promote good gut health – the development of normal immune function depends on a varied microbiome (that is, the body’s collection of ‘good’ bacteria, viruses and fungi). In fact, the microbiome ‘trains’ the immune function in the early years of life and may be involved in the development of allergies.
3. Round out the diet of a picky eater
Whether your child is just going through a phase or there’s a more prolonged issue, fussy eating makes it trickier to ensure nutrition through diet alone. For example, kids who dislike meat may not be getting enough iron because it’s difficult to absorb enough iron from plant foods. And unless kids eat oily fish or other seafood several times a week, they may not be getting enough long-chain omega-3 fats. A supplement can help fill gaps or top up general nutrition with a multivitamin and mineral formulation.
4. Take health needs into account
Does your child have any medical or health problems that impact their food and nutrient intake, such as chronic sickness during infant or toddler years? These children may need nutritional support.
Or, have they needed rounds of antibiotics for repeated ear infections or gastro? They may benefit from a clinically tested probiotic. If they suffer frequent coughs, colds or other infections, they might benefit from additional immune support via nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C, or specific ingredients like colostrum or lactoferrin. Speak to your doctor about whether nutritional support is appropriate.
5. Consider hard-to-get nutrients
Some nutrients are simply hard to get through diet alone – like vitamin D. This is essential for bone development and growth in kids, but its main source is usually sunshine on skin. While it’s important to be sun-safe, there’s a risk of vitamin D deficiency, especially among kids who may not get outside as often.
6. Healthy eating remains most important, but vitamins can support
Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies aren’t always visible to parents, and many take a long time to develop. In the meantime, kids’ growth, immune function and gut health can be impacted. In Australia, four in ten (39%) say they don’t know where to start when it comes to giving their child vitamins. ^ ^ ^
Supplements can never replace a healthy diet, but they can support and offer some peace of mind to parents. This can be especially true when things get hectic – diet diversity and nutrient-rich foods are always the main goals, but working parents usually can’t plan, prepare and supervise every meal or snack. Options created specifically for kids can support everything from growing brains and bones to digestive, immune and general health.
7. Stick to professional guidance
Again, it’s essential to speak to a doctor or dietitian to understand your child’s health needs and how supplements may help. And make sure to stick to the dosage guidelines or as advised by a medical professional. There is an optimal range for nutrients – more is not always better!
The Vita Bubs™ product range from Bubs Australia is now available in Chemist Warehouse. More information about the Vita Bubs™ range can be found at bubsaustralia.com.
^ Bubs® Australia surveyed 1,029 Australian parents with children under the age of 12 in October 2020. The research study was undertaken by independent market research company YouGov on behalf of Bubs® Australia.
^ ^ Bubs® Australia surveyed 1,029 Australian parents with children under the age of 12 in October 2020. The research study was undertaken by independent market research company YouGov on behalf of Bubs® Australia.
^ ^ ^ Bubs® Australia surveyed 1,029 Australian parents with children under the age of 12 in October 2020. The research study was undertaken by independent market research company YouGov on behalf of Bubs® Australia.