Does Your Child Need a Daily Vitamin? Advice from a Pediatrician/Mom -Dr.Jen

“Should I give my child a multi vitamin?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked from moms. It’s often at a well child visit, wanting to know how to improve picky eating or also it comes up at sick visits when a child gets numerous colds and coughs and parents like you may feel their child is sick “all the time” and want to know how to “boost their immune systems” to prevent them from missing school.

As a pediatrician, kids health and well being is of utmost importance to me. Why? Not only do I want to keep children safe and care for them if they get common childhood conditions like ear infections, strep throat, eczema, and broken bones but I also want to teach parents (and kids) what they can do to control their health now and to drastically improve wellness as they got older by preventing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and so much more. A big portion of this is by instilling habits of good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.

Are vitamins a quick fix for most healthy kids? The short answers is no. If your child is eating a variety of foods and is not on a restricted diet, then extra vitamin supplementation is not needed. Can they hurt? A one a day multi vitamin for extra insurance won’t do harm (except the expense) but mega dosing on vitamins particularly fats soluble vitamins like ADEK that can build up in the body can cause toxicity. So more is definitely not always better. In addition, giving a vitamin supplement is not an assurance or a pass for your child to then eat unhealthy processed snacks and fast food. The biggest issues and concerns with the average kid’s diet is NOT the lack of vitamins (as even sugary cereals are fortified with vitamins) but that a typical western diet is low in fiber, fruits and vegetables and high in added sugar and unhealthy fats.

That said, here are 3 nutrients to know about that are often lacking and could use a boost in many children’s diet.

Iron – This is one of the most common deficiencies in kids of all ages particularly preemies, breast fed babies, toddlers who drink a lot of milk, growing teens and girls who menstruate. Low iron can affect neurological development. It can lead to iron deficiency anemia (a low blood hemoglobin level) this can cause a child to be pale, low energy, tired, headache and fatigue. There are many sources of foods rich in iron. Heme iron is a great source which is found in meats, turkey, chicken, liver, eggs and fish. There is also non-heme iron that’s is plant based in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, and dried fruits. Here’s an important tip, non heme iron will be absorbed better if eaten at the same time as some vitamin C. So serve together beans with sliced tomatoes, or even broccoli and bell peppers to dip in hummus.

Vitamin D - This is a fat soluble vitamin that is needed for bone growth and development and to prevent a disease called Rickets. You may be aware that the body can make vitamin D, however sunlight is needed so depending on where you live, the amount of sun exposure, the season and even how much sunscreen your child wears they probably still need to ingest some sources of Vitamin D.  Breastfed babies need additional Vitamin D as it is not as readily absorbed from breastmilk If you have questions or concerns speak with your pediatrician. For older children food sources of vitamin D include fish such as salmon, beef, liver and eggs as well as fortified foods such as many dairy products including milk and yogurt , non-dairy milk (soy, almond) and many cereals are fortified too.

Calcium – This is a mineral also important for strong bones and teeth as well as for functioning of  muscles heart and the nervous system. Dairy products (cheese, yogurt and milk) as well as non-dairy milks are very good sources of calcium.  Tip- when serving fortified nondairy milks, make sure to shake well as the calcium needs to be dispersed throughout before pouring otherwise it settles at the bottom of the container. Other no dairy sources include seafood, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, legumes, almonds and dried fruit. Lastly many cereals and breads are fortified with calcium as well.

Looking at your child’s overall diet for the week rather than just each day may be a better way to assess what they are eating and the nutrient value. A food diary for a week often can help clarify and you may be pleasantly surprised that with added nutritious snacks, your child may be meeting their nutritional requirements. Reach out to your pediatrician if you still have concerns about your child’s overall diet. They can evaluate and determine with you if added supplementation is needed.

“In most cases a daily vitamin for kids is not necessary, instead focus on healthy foods most of the time.” Dr. Jen

“In most cases a daily vitamin for kids is not necessary, instead focus on healthy foods most of the time.” Dr. Jen

Best Toys for Tots This Holiday Season

Best Toys for Tots This Holiday Season

Holiday time is here and there is increasing advertisements and marketing directed at parents and children about what are the best toys and must haves this season. In addition, your kids will be asking and pleading for the latest or most updated tech games or apps that their friends have or want as well.  There is also is a lot of pressure and guilt around this time of year to make you feel the more you spend on gifts and toys, the happier your child will be. As a pediatrician and mom, I am hear to tell you differently.

Toys are really a tool, that can be used to help bring meaningful interactions between you and your child that can foster language skills, motor skills and social-emotional development.  These are very important aspects of play, more so than one gets from electronic, battery operated toys and so called “educational apps” for babies. Most of these claims are unsubstantiated, with little or no scientific evidence, particular in young infants, and may be potentially harmful if used in excess.

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Here are some tips for choosing toys for your little ones

1.       Think old school.  Remember when you were young, you had the animal farm, or doll house that didn’t have a working doorbell or a battery operated cow that said moo. You had to act it out yourself.  This pretend play helps with creativity and imagination instead of quick reinforcement from electric generated sounds.

 

2.       Books are always beneficial. Whether you are reading to your child or they are at an age they can start reading simple books, this activity not only helps with language and vocabulary but also a great way to bond with your child.

 

 

3.       Spark the imagination and creativity. Manipulatives like blocks, legos, playdoh, markers, and  age appropriate crafts can grow with your child as their skills progress.  Also pretend play with kitchen sets, trucks, and cars can help kids simulate actions they see around them.

 

4.       Bored? Try a Board game. Board games are great for turn taking, following directions, and social interactions. Again, I prefer to look for non- electronic versions.  This way you don’t have to worry about replacing batteries or even the real dangers of accidental ingestion of batteries.

 

5.       Be active- Kids should not be sitting still most of the day. They don’t necessarily need organized sports at a young age, but they should be moving.  Various size balls, ride on toys, pull toys, all keep kids exercising and stretching during playtime.

 

 

6.       Less is more. Kids get so overwhelmed when they have too many toys to play with or to choose from. I suggest rotating toys that are in view every few weeks so an old action figure may seem novel again and a puzzle will seem exciting if they haven’t put it together for some time.

7.       Be mindful of screen time.  Earlier is not better when it comes to electronic media exposure. Don’t get sucked in to the hype about early infant learning with 2 dimensional screens. Babies need positive parenting and caregiver interactions to foster important brain connections for optimal learning.   So limit screen time (video/ computers games/ phone apps) to less than an hour for children 2 years or older.  Children younger than 5 years old (toddlers and preschoolers)  make sure its developmentally appropriate and preferable with adult supervision.

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Mom 2.0 Summit - The Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, California

What a fabulous time I had at the Mom 2.0 Summit that took place at The Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, California from April 27-29. An amazing networking opportunity for women to meet and hear from other influencers and leaders who create online content particularly in the parenting space but also in lifestyle, food, entertainment, marketing, travel and technology .

Dove was the main sponsor and I'm honored to be partnering with the brand and to participate in this world class event. Dove sponsored many activities including yoga, self esteem workshops as well as the keynote speaker Soledad O'Brian who spoke eloquently on the offline impact of our online words.

I know as a pediatrician that the power of our words can hugely impact others. Words can have an effect on self esteem, confidence and even our physical health. We must teach kids through our own actions as role models to use words to make a positive impression instead of a negative one. 
I spent most of my time in the Dove suite at the "genius" Dr Bar. I was accessible to all for mini consultations regarding children's skin care but also pretty much any pediatric topics the participants wanted to discuss. It was an awesome way to meet these women and also give them individualized parenting information they were seeking.


The energy was upbeat, positive and contagious throughout my whole stay . I ended with a very much appreciated foot massage and hairstyling which was free for all attendees courtesy of Dove. Can't wait to participate next year !


Dr.Jen