Physical well-being of young children and the role of supplements in promoting it

Parents are understandably concerned when it comes to the well-being of their children. They would try to promote it in all possible ways. One of which, is giving their children supplements.

Physical well-being: A healthy diet is key but supplements can help

The physical well-being of a child can be defined as his attainment of physical growth milestones, his immunity against infections, his fitness level for pursuing age-appropriate activities and his resilience to bounce back after an injury or an illness. Needless to say, children need a wholesome and healthy diet to promote their physical well-being.

A wholesome and healthy diet is one that provides the child with carbohydrates and fats (energy foods), protein (building blocks), vitamins and minerals (immunity and growth foods) and fats (brain foods). To be able to obtain these from the diet, a child needs to eat a variety of food items such as whole grains, rice and alternatives (including wholegrains), bread, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, oils and nuts, every day.

However, a modern lifestyle and paucity of time means frequent quick-fix meals at home, eating out or takeaways from fast food joints and food courts, which may lead to an inadequate intake of key nutrients. To add to this unhealthy trend is the fact that most growing children are picky eaters – they may choose ‘tasty’ over healthy foods, show a preference for salty and fried foods instead of the healthier meal of veggies and lean meats and consume unhealthy amounts of sugary drinks every day.

The resultant dietary deficiencies in children lead concerned parents to look for solutions. One of the easiest and simplest solutions is supplementing the child’s diet through multi-vitamins that provide almost the whole recommended daily allowance of the essential vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

For parents who do not want to go the ‘one-multi-vitamin-a-day’ route, other options include boosting the child’s immunity by giving him vitamin C tablets, pastilles or syrups; promoting the child’s bone and teeth development by giving him calcium tablets; fortifying the child’s health and boosting his brain development by giving emulsions that provide the vital omega-3 (DHA) normally lacking in unbalanced diets. Fortified juices, milk and cereals also serve to supplement the diet through food-based choices.

We asked experts from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, to weigh in on the issue of children’s well-being and the necessity of supplements to that end.

How can we promote the physical and mental well-being of young children? Are supplements necessary for the physical and mental well-being of children?

Ms Ang Bixia, Senior Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KKH, a member of the SingHealth group says, “Obtaining good nutrition through food rather than supplements is always encouraged. Hence multi-vitamins are generally not necessary for healthy children. Multi-vitamins may be recommended if a child follows a strict vegan diet or if he/she is not eating well (e.g. fussy eater) and hence does not obtain all the required nutrients from the different food groups.”

Read on for expert tips on fulfilling dietary requirements of children, without giving them supplements.

Ref: S13