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Do Picky Eaters Need Supplements?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 28 Feb 2011 | comments*Discuss
Picky Eater Supplements Gp Vitamin

Until Sarah was nine, she enjoyed a unique diet of her own making. She only ate food that was white, shunning virtually everything else that had any pigment in it whatsoever.

Sarah existed on just a few food items: white rice, prawn crackers, white bread, chips, vanilla ice cream and milk, although occasionally she’d have a fish finger or a piece of apple. Although she was thin, she had bundles of energy and did extraordinarily well in school.

“I was a bit worried, but not to any great extent, mainly because she drank so much milk,” said her father Sam, a writer who also has two younger sons, who always ate normally. “We thought about taking her to the doctor, but as she appeared healthy we decided not to.”

When Sarah turned nine, her eating habits changed. She began to eat like everyone else, and expanded her diet to include a wide repertoire of food. Now at university, she is still slender but enjoys eating food like any other student – when she can afford it!

Need for Supplements?

Sarah’s parents are unique, in that they never worried too much about their daughter’s eating habits. Most parents, however, obsess about their picky eaters, and either try to force them to eat other food, or ply them with supplements.

Health professionals agree that forcing your child to eat can often have the opposite effect, and set them up for eating disorders in future. If your child is a picky eater, they say, the best thing you can do is ignore it – as long as they are gaining weight and developing normally.

If they are not, however, your best course of action would be to see your GP, and see what specific supplements or even course of medical or psychological action he or she would prescribe. Some picky eaters, for example, are more prone to upper respiratory tract infections, so they might get prescribed special supplements to combat this by your GP.

Top Tips for Buying Kids’ Supplements

Some parents whose children are developing normally still worry that their diet is not adequate, so decide to add supplements just in case. If your children fall into this category, there are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for supplements…

  • Only purchase supplements from a reputable supplier. Go to a large supermarket or health food store and ask for advice. Don’t buy supplements off the Internet from a supplier you have never heard of before.
  • Don’t buy supplements that offer more than 100 per cent of the RDA, or Recommended Daily Allowance of specific vitamins and minerals. You can have too much of a good thing.
  • Keep in mind that if your child takes an excessive amount of one vitamin, it can change the absorption rate of another, and therefore have a detrimental effect. For example, too much zinc can have an effect on the absorption rates of iron and Vitamin K.
  • Don’t allow your child to keep on taking a supplement after it has passed its expiration date, as the potency will fade over time.

Top Tips for Picky Eaters

Another way to combat perceived inadequacies in your picky eater’s diet is to encourage him or her to eat better. One way to do this is to establish regular meal times, and not allow them to graze outside these parameters, with the exception of designated snack periods.

You can also offer new foods in conjunction with familiar favourite ones, but don’t pile on the pressure. If they balk at trying it, don’t force. Experts say picky eaters may need to be exposed to a new food 10 to 15 times before they decide to try it.

Serving plain finger foods is often best, although you can “hide” healthy foods in items like chocolate (banana) milkshakes or fruit smoothies. If your child loves pasta sauce, you may be able to puree vegetables to include within the sauce itself.

Finally, never use pudding as a reward to finish off a meal, and allow your child some say in what is being served. If they refuse to eat no matter what, don’t offer them something else. Instead, let them wait until the next mealtime or snack time.

Proof is in the Pudding

It’s normal for parents to worry about their children’s eating habits, but if your child is healthy and appears to be growing and developing normally, your fears are probably unfounded.

If your picky eater is underweight, has some growing or developmental problems or seems to pick up every cough and cold around, it might be time to see your GP and see if supplements could make a difference to their overall health.

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