Our kids push boundaries with us all the time, it’s an important part of growing up. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case when it comes to food, where the battle to be adventurous is most often lost by the parent.
Irish Pharmacist Sheena Mitchell, and founder of the health podcast at WonderCare.ie appeals to parents of ‘beige food’ eaters not to despair, as a good multivitamin can help to bridge the gap. A mum of three children herself, Sheena urges parents not to dismiss multivitamins for children out of hand as a ‘marketing ploy’. Children need certain vitamins and minerals for their bodies to function properly, and fussy eaters may not be getting all of these through their food alone.
With darker days afoot, nasty viruses like Flu, RSV, Covid, and many more are back in circulation. Added to the fact that classrooms are packed tightly with little ventilation, parents will want to ensure that your child’s immune system is in top notch bug-fighting condition. While also maximising their energy and concentration levels for their schoolwork.
Families have access to more fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish varieties in supermarkets than ever before. But for some children, variety is not the spice of life and beige food reigns supreme. Food preferences are picky, and parents are tearing their hair out. Working parents are busier than ever, time is short and convenience food is sometimes a necessity. A good multivitamin can be a handy way to give your child every chance to be at their best.
A recent poll of over 500 Irish parents by health podcaster and pharmacist Sheena Mitchell of Wondercare.ie, showed that multivitamin choice is perceived as a minefield. Marketing often wins over merit, and most parents are confused:
- 64% of parents think their child needs a multivitamin, while 22% are unsure.
- 85% of parents think it is hard to know which multivitamin is the best for their child.
- 84% of parents don’t know how to identify if their child might have a vitamin deficiency.
The founder of the WonderCare.ie podcast and health advice platform www.wondercare.ie believes she can demystify the multivitamin market by stripping it all back to the facts. She has created a simple chart of what’s actually in each of the leading multivitamin brands, and what your child might actually need, depending on their diet.
“If you stick a cartoon character on a jar with vitamin jellies inside, your kid is going to want to take them,” says Pharmacist, Sheena Mitchell. “But before you buy, how do you know if this is a marketing win or if they actually need a multivitamin? And which ones are worth your money?”
“Parents regularly ask me in the pharmacy if their child really needs a multivitamin, and if so which one? There’s no straightforward answer however, as it all depends on each child’s diet. The content of each multivitamin designed for children varies widely, even within the same range.”
“My recent WonderCare.ie podcast episodes explore the role of vitamins and minerals in your child’s health, and how to spot deficiencies. It also breaks down the different brands of multivitamin that you will find in your local pharmacy, so that you can make an informed decision based on your child’s needs. No bias, no brand advocacy, just facts.”
Choosing a Multivitamin for your Child?
The tiny text on the labels of many multivitamins makes it difficult for parents to make a quick decision at a glance. Some even require you to peel off the sticker to read the information fully. Pester power from children will try to persuade you to buy the most attractive packaging or those that look like sweets. Vitamins can be expensive, the Irish Pharmacist recommends research first, before you buy.
Sheena Mitchell says, “I am a pharmacist, but I am also a mum. I know what it’s like to try and get a rainbow of food colours into a child every day. I have taken the hard work out of this for parents by publishing a free fact-based chart that compares the leading brands of children’s vitamins found in pharmacies nationwide. It looks at the European guidelines for reference intake of these vitamins in children and it will also tell you where you can source each nutritional element through diet.”
“So now parents can easily identify which foods their child is definitely not eating and may require a supplement. I believe that information is power when it comes to your family’s health, which is why I take to the airwaves every week with my podcast. Here you will find episodes demystifying the role of multivitamins in achieving optimum health for your child.”
We live in the developed world, where severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare. A severe vitamin or mineral deficiency in your child will be picked up by the GP as they will be very unwell.
“When I advise people about supplementing their diet with vitamins, it is always to achieve optimal health,” says the pharmacist. “Signs that your child has moderate deficiency might be a constantly tired child, lacking energy or concentration. Here, it's worth considering a supplement with B vitamins which supports the release of energy from food.”
“Tiredness as well as poor sleep quality, headaches, and some restlessness can be linked to a magnesium deficiency,” Sheena Mitchell advises. “If your child is a bit run down, then vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc can help a little bit with immune support. If your child is deficient in iron, you may see symptoms like paleness, irritable behaviour, or a lack of energy. Your GP will be able to do a full blood panel to identify any vitamin or deficiencies, if you have concerns.”
The WonderCare.ie multivitamin charts are available on the wondercare.ie website and social media platforms. The recently released podcasts episodes demystifying multivitamins for children can be found here and on all listening platforms.