The toddler years are a time of huge transition – and one of the biggest changes is in how they receive the majority of their nourishment. Not so long ago, their diet consisted of milk or formula, but now they are (hopefully!) enjoying a balanced diet, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, adequate protein and whole unprocessed foods.
As a naturopath, I am often asked if children need vitamins and supplements. Since small children can be notoriously picky eaters, I always recommend that parents give children the following three supplements, either individually or as part of a toddler formula, as they provide broad health and development benefits that even the best diet won’t deliver.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth, helps maintain muscles and nerves, and plays a vital role in activating white blood cells that protect from illness. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D can also lower the risk of certain serious health conditions, such as cancer.
I am a big proponent of little ones getting some of their daily dose of “the sunshine vitamin” the old-fashioned way: by playing outside. But in today’s environment, about 15 minutes is enough sunscreen-free time in most climates. In order to ensure toddlers are getting enough (400IU according to RDI guidelines), I recommend a vitamin D supplement – especially for children who don’t get sun exposure, or live in northern climates.
Vitamin D is available in capsules or as an emulsion (liquid form) and both are good options. Since my kids don’t like taking capsules, I use Bio-D-Mulsion® by Biotics Research, which supplies 400 IU of vitamin D3 in just 1 drop.
Probiotics are healthy, living bacteria that inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. Research has shown that consuming a probiotic supplement helps to promote optimal gut health, which can help treat and prevent common concerns like viral diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Probiotics also help keep harmful bacteria in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to optimal immune function.
Adding probiotics to your child’s diet is easy, and it doesn’t take much. Just a pinch of powdered probiotic in their applesauce, yogurt or water can have a powerful effect. As an extra bonus, kids tend to love probiotic powder, as it’s naturally sweet due to the sugar probiotics require to live.
I recommend HMF (Human Micro Flora) by Genestra as an easy way to add this helpful bacteria to your little one’s diet. Ensure that you keep the bacteria alive by keeping this supplement in the fridge.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s – eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and α-Linolenic acid (ALA) – play a number of important roles in toddler development, including promotion of healthy neurological and eye development and regulation of healthy immune function. They also have anti-inflammatory and mood balancing effects.
Because the North American diet tends to be heavier in Omega 6, found in foods such as vegetable oils, and light in Omega-3 rich fish, most people have a hard time consuming enough Omega 3. I recommend that children aged 1-4 get 600-700mg of EPA and DHA per day.
Serving up this healthy supplement is easy. I like to use a liquid form, like Barlean’s great- tasting Mango Peach Fish Oil Omega Swirl. Just a teaspoon and a half delivers the perfect amount. My kids take it right from the spoon or in a smoothie. Just make sure you keep the liquid in the fridge.
A balanced diet is the best way to ensure optimal development during childhood, and toddler formula or supplements, especially those above, can round out any potential deficiencies.
We’d love to hear your ideas for ensuring your little one gets the nutrition they need! Please share your best tips in the comments section.
 Bjelakovic G, Gluud LL, Nikolova D, Whitfield K, Krstic G, Wetterslev J, Gluud C. Vitamin D supplementation for prevention of cancer in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;6:CD007469.
 Liu XL, Li ML, Ma WX, Xia SL, Xu BL. Clinical trial on the prevention of diarrhea by oral BIFICO for infants aged 1-6 years. Zhongua Shi Yan He Lin Chuang Bing Du Xue Za Zhi. 2013;27(4):277-9.
Photo credit: David Goehring