‘Sup?? My thoughts on dietary supplements

I was reading an article in my local paper last week about how kids should be eating foods, not pills, to get their vitamins. I don’t disagree with that thinking one bit (I might lose my dietitian’s license if I did!) but I also live in real life and see what my kids eat…and don’t eat. And I’ll tell you what – I give my kids (and myself) multivitamins and supplements every day.

I like to think that as a dietitian and mom with a reasonable ability to get healthy food on the table at most eating occasions, my kids are set up for success. If I do pack a lunch, my child knows it will include a main dish, a fruit, a veggie, a carton of lowfat milk and *maybe* a treat. If she buys school lunch it’s the same option: she must be served a fruit and a veggie, some milk and a main course. The difference is that I see what she eats and what she doesn’t when she brings lunch. I also see firsthand what she eats and doesn’t eat at breakfast and dinner. And let me tell you, it’s not the picture of perfection.

But I don’t push it. Why? Because I believe in the Ellyn Satter approach to feeding children. That is, as parents and children there are divisions of responsibility. I can choose what she eats, but the child will choose whether to eat it. If I push, force, cajole, etc., the result could backfire and instead I could be promoting an unhealthy relationship with food for my child. As much as I’d love my child to eat salmon with brown rice and wilted spinach for dinner (the omega-3s! The fiber! The vitamins!), most likely she’d eat the tomatoes and baby carrots she gets as a salad and maybe one grain of rice just to say she ate it.

Do I depend on supplements to give my child all the nutrients she needs? Not at all. Supplements are meant quite literally to supplement an overall (hopefully still healthy) diet. And yes, I will still serve her the salmon, rice and spinach over and over and over again. And one day she may eat it. Or not. But I know that at least for today, I don’t have to worry about lacking certain nutrients.

Disclosure: As a dietitian who consults with industry, I work with the Global Organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s, but I did not write this post as a result of that relationship nor was I asked to. I wrote this because of what I see in the media and my own take as a dietitian and parent. All views and words, as always, are my very own.

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Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

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