The great vitamin debate

What do you do when there are nutritional gaps in your kids’ diet? Should you give them multivitamins? If your child already eats all her fruits and vegetables, is giving her supplements overkill?

These thoughts and more are part of a multivitamin dilemma parents are at odds over. But according to a certified nutrition coach, both sides are technically correct in their opinions.

“When it comes to the question of whether or not vitamin supplements are necessary for their children, a lot of parents are divided. One school of thought is: As long as my child has a balanced and healthy diet, they don’t need supplements. The other school of thought is: Whether they need it or not, giving my child a multivitamin is an insurance policy. The truth is both sides have the right idea,” says Justin Noble, who also penned the fun health and wellness book series for kids, “My Body Village,” with his wife Le-Anne.

Noble agrees there are pros and cons when it comes to the multivitamin dilemma, and points out in his recent article, “To Vitamin or Not to Vitamin, That is the Question.”

The way our food is sourced and grown, what cows are being fed, and even the quality of our soil, has changed dramatically over the decades. Noble says that because of this, we’re not getting the nutrients we think we are, in which case, taking vitamin supplements is worth it.

“All produce is not the same. A lot of our foods nowadays are grown on nutrient-depleted soil and the animals that are fed these foods are nutrient deficient as well. So, consuming these foods doesn’t guarantee that you are getting the nutrients you expect. Do your research, and whenever possible, do your best to buy products that are both organic and come from sustainable farms.”

Of course, not every family can afford to buy organic and sustainable food. As food prices skyrocket and many parents are working around very busy schedules, feeding kids well-balanced meals every day can be tricky. To fill in the gaps, Noble suggests vitamins.

Another problem: a lot of big cities, like New York, have areas known as food deserts. Sadly, there are families living in neighborhoods that have a shortage of grocery stores and supermarkets with fresh produce. And many folks may not be lucky enough to have a farmer’s market or health food store near their home, so they have limited access to produce, quality meats, and better meal options. These families can benefit from vitamins.

But what about the naysayers? In his article, Noble writes: “One fear of those against supplements is that their children may get too much of certain vitamins. While vitamin toxicity is possible, it is rare. To avoid overdosing, find a multivitamin that provides no more than 50 percent of the adult Recommended Dietary Allowances for major vitamins and minerals. Once a child reaches age 12, a full adult dosage is OK. (Always check with your health care professional, especially if your child has a unique health issue.)”

“So, in essence, both sides have it right,” writes Noble. “While you should try to get all the nutrients your child needs from a balanced and healthy diet, it is a good idea to insure that your child is getting everything he/she needs in order to be as healthy as possible, by supplementing with a multivitamin. A quality vitamin is a great insurance policy.”

Whichever camp you’re in, if you do decide to add supplements to your family’s diet, Noble suggests you do your research first.

“When choosing a multivitamin for your child, do your homework,” he writes. “You want to make sure to get a vitamin that is derived from natural, whole foods. You also want a vitamin that is easily absorbed by the body. With vitamins, you tend to get what you pay for. Quality vitamins are often times a little more expensive, but this is not an area to skimp.”

Noble’s “My Body Village” book “Artie’s Party Featuring the Vita-Men!” is available now at www.MyBodyVillage.com, Amazon, and soon at book stores and libraries. “Steven the Upset Stomach,” about eating too much junk food, will be available later this summer. “Betty Bladder Makes a Big Decision,” which deals with bed wetting, will be coming out this fall, and “Toots Journey,” a book that explores flatulence, will be available in the winter.

Tammy Scileppi is a Queens-based freelance writer/journalist, parent, and regular contributor to New York Parenting. Interviewing hundreds of New York City’s movers and shakers has been an amazing adventure for this mother of two bright and talented sons.