I often get asked about supplements for kids and teens and I always take a food first approach. However, when it comes to kiddos of all ages, it’s not always easy to get them to eat nutrient-rich foods. Some kids and teens have food aversions and allergies, others just have an immature palate. For these reasons, supplements can make sure their growing bodies are getting what they need to thrive.
But First, Where to Buy Quality Supplements?
Supplements vary a ton when it comes to quality control. Many contain unnecessary fillers or don’t contain enough active ingredients. Recently there’s been concern over the heavy metal content (mercury, arsenic, and lead) in some products. For this reason, I use Fullscript, a professional-grade supplement dispensary. Fullscript makes it super easy for me to collaborate with my clients on the best supplement plan. They guarantee products are never past expiry, counterfeit, or stored incorrectly.
To make things easy, I’ve created a special category for Children’s Formulas. To access, you’ll need to create an account and login here.
Once logged in, click Danielle Omar’s Dispensary, then click Catalog on the left-hand column, then click Danielle Omar’s Dispensary Favorites. There you’ll see Children’s Formulas.
Five Supplements I Recommend for Kids & Teens
Did you know that your brain is 58% DHA? It’s especially important in young children as their brains and bodies are still growing and developing. Since DHA is found mostly in fish, intake among children is typically low. Studies show support for supplementation and indicate that adequate DHA plays an important role in school performance. Some research even suggests that supplementing with fish oil can counteract some of the negative effects that junk food has on the brain!
ALA is another type of Omega 3 found in plant-based sources like chia seed, flaxseed, and hemp seed. If your child won’t eat fish, but does enjoy these foods, that’s great! These plant sources of ALA are converted into EPA and DHA in the body.
EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response while DHA strengthens the brain, eyes, and central nervous system.
If your child doesn’t enjoy ANY omega-3 rich foods, a supplement can help.
Vitamin D is needed for calcium and phosphorus absorption for strong teeth and healthy bones. It’s also important for a strong immune system. Studies show that a deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection. Babies up to 12 months need 400 IU of Vitamin D per day. If breastfed (or partially breastfed) they may not need a supplement (baby formula is fortified). I recommend a liquid vitamin D supplement for babies and young children because it can be added to formula or water.
Most older kids get their Vitamin D from sunlight, but it’s important to get their levels checked, as low vitamin D can predispose children and teens to bone fractures.
The first three years of life are critical to gut health. A whopping 69% of kids are exposed to antibiotics before age 2. This may lead to a die-off of beneficial bacteria and cause gut issues later in life. Having healthy gut flora is important for a strong immune system, and may help to reduce the incidence of colic, eczema, constipation, and/or diarrhea in infants.
For a daily dose of live cultures, I recommend full-fat yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt) for children and teens. For problems with digestion, elimination, and food allergies (excluding premature infants and children with compromised immune systems), a probiotic may help. The probiotic strain matters, so do reach out if you need help identifying what supplement is best.
Magnesium is super important for growing children! It’s needed for strong bones and teeth, good sleep, respiratory function, and maintaining energy. Low intake can cause poor sleep, constipation, lack of concentration, growing pains, and muscle cramps. Magnesium is necessary for boosting bone health and may ease “growing pains.”
Magnesium can also help teenage girls manage their menstrual cycle. It’s been shown in numerous studies to improve premenstrual moods, decrease menstrual cramp pain, reduce water retention, and lower migraine frequency. Magnesium is found naturally in almonds, spinach, cashews, and black beans!
B-12 (for vegans & vegetarians)
Vitamin B-12 is essential for brain development, neural myelination, and cognitive function. Inadequate vitamin B-12 during pregnancy and early childhood has been associated with impaired cognitive development. Most of us are not deficient in B-12, however, your child may need to supplement if they follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet (or just doesn’t like animal products), as this vitamin is found mainly in animal-based foods.
When choosing supplements, I recommend you choose brands that don’t use additives, colors, fillers, and other unwanted ingredients. This is especially important for kids and teens! Studies have shown a link between some artificial colors and additives and behavioral issues. Supplements should be formulated for children. Children who have chronic medical conditions, have celiac disease, poor appetite, drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages, or take certain medications may need more targeted supplements.
Reach out for a personalized recommendation from me, or work with your Integrative Dietitian for guidance around supplements for specific health concerns or issues.