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Why I Don’t Give My Kids Multivitamins

Why I don't give my kids multivitamins - Holistic Squid

At least once a week, someone asks me what multivitamin I recommend for children. The short answer: none. I don’t give my kids multivitamins, and I don’t recommend them for my patients’ kids.

Before you assume that I think kids should be eating big plates of steamed greens at every meal, take a peek at the pics below of my kids indulging in a cupcake with green frosting and the remains of homemade marshmallows. I’ve got more photos like this, I promise.

My kids eating sugar - Holistic Squid

While my kids don’t eat a perfect diet, I don’t count on multivitamins to be their nutritional saving grace either. Why?

10 Reasons I don’t Give My Kids Multivitamins

#1 – Multivitamins are poorly absorbed – especially by children.

According to this great post by Mommypotamus, as little as 9% of nutrients listed on vitamin labels may be absorbed. This is in part because the vitamins contain synthetic hydrogenated fats know as stearates – which actually decrease the absoption of nutrients and are, themselves, toxic. (source)

Furthermore, despite scientists’ best efforts, synthetic nutrients are not easily recognized by the body – often requiring co-factors (not present in the multi-vitamin) or a conversion process (that kids’ bodies are not always great at completing). For example, the body needs fat and fat-soluble vitamins to best utilize calcium and distribute it to teeth and bones.

So, essentially those gummy vitamins are pointless bits of candy.  Got all natural ones?  Then you’ve spent your money on all natural candy. Not my thing.

#2 – Children don’t need as many veggies as you may think.

I know that this is blasphemy to modern nutritionists, but thank goodness it’s true.

Every wonder why most kids just don’t have a taste for green beans or beets? According to the wisdom of ancient Chinese medicine, kids are born with weak digestion, and do best with easy-to-digest foods. Especially when raw, fibrous vegetables are difficult to digest and act more as cleansing elements than nutritional boosters.

Adults on the other hand, are generally more stressed, more sedentary, and ingest more toxins (medications, alcohol, caffeine, etc) than kids – which is why grown-ups can usually benefit from more veggies on a daily basis as a gentle detox.

Because of this, I don’t worry about my kids getting enough veggies or needing a supplement to make up for their lack of greens.

#3 – My kids eat bone broth.

One of the best ways to nourish children is by infusing their little bodies with soups, stew, and sauces made from homemade bone broth. While bone broth may sound medieval, it is actually just soup stock made with the bones and is the key ingredient in meals from grandmas’ chicken soups to the most delicious gravies.

Not only is bone broth easy to digest, it is loaded with minerals, gelatin, and glycosaminoglycans (which include substances like chondroitin and glucosamine, keratin and hyaluronic acid, and more). These nutrients benefit skin, teeth, bones, hair, nails, and joints.

Bone broth is also a rich source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and other trace minerals that are vital for a child’s growth and development.

Sometimes my kids are funny about soup, so then I cook rice or quinoa with my bone broth and top with with butter. Voila – rice becomes a superfood. (Read more about making bone broth here.) Want the health benefits of bone broth, but don’t want to make your own? Buy bone broth online here.

#4 – My kids eat lots of butter, milk, and cream from grass fed cows.

Not only good because of the calcium and protein content, dairy from pasture-raised animals provides growing kids with essential fat soluble vitamins D and K2 – nutrients that are in minuscule quantities or non-existent in kid’s multivitamins but are necessary for good health and development.

Before you start pouring your little one’s skim milk or even reduced fat, consider that they need fat and cholesterol for nearly every function in their bodies. Non-fat and low-fat products cheat kids of essential nutrition that they need to thrive. Read more about why to skip skim milk here.

When it comes to grass fed dairy for my kids, I set no limit.  Want to eat butter straight?  Fine by me. Want cream in your milk?  Great. I’m counting on these nutrients to grow my kids strong and robust.

#5 – My kids eat liver.

Sure, it’s tucked away in meatloaf, Bolognese, cod liver oil, and other unsuspected spots, but nonetheless, my three and six year olds consume liver at least once per week, if not more. Liver is the best source of true vitamin A, which is required for brain and nervous system development, eye and skin health, immune function, and bone metabolism.

Multivitamins turn out a big zero when it comes to true vitamin A. Supplements for kids and adults alike rely on carotene to supply vitamin A, but carotene is only a precursor, and the body’s conversion from carotene to vitamin A is not very efficient, taking an average of 8 units of carotene to make one unit of vitamin A. (source)

On top of this, babies and kids are notoriously poor converters of carotene to vitamin A. Finally, the conversion can only take place in the presence of bile salts which are secreted in the presence of fat – hence a low fat diet with multivitamins means your practically devoid of vitamin A.

Cod liver oil (the one I get my kids is here) is my secret vitamin A weapon, so when liver dishes haven’t graced my table, I give my kids a bit extra cod liver oil that week.  (Read more about the benefits of cod liver oil here.) Finally, this is a great post on how to get your kids to actually take it.

 

#6 – Junk foods are not staples in our house.

I’m the first to admit that we are not strict about eating healthy. When my kids go to parties or play dates, I encourage them to eat what ever is being offered if it appeals to them – after all, eating is as much of a social experience as a nutritional one. Weekly, we walk to our local cafe and the kids pick out croissants, muffins, or cookies (not organic – gasp!). And often at restaurants, desserts happen.

BUT, our home is our sanctuary for eating REAL, nutrient-dense foods. We don’t stock the house with store-bought cereals, cookies, or frozen foods. So when these foods are not at hand, it’s not convenient to serve them. One thing I’ve learned: when kids are hungry, they’ll eventually eat what you give them.

#7 – My kids eat lots of seasonally fresh, organic fruit.

My kids go cuckoo for fruit, and thankfully it arrives in abundance in our farm box each week. Though their veggie palates are limited to raw carrots, bits of broccoli crowns, and the occasional salad, they will devour pretty much any fruit that comes through the door. Right now they are finishing off plums, peaches, nectaries, berries, and melon.

Fresh, seasonal, and local fruit provides my small humans with extra vitamins and minerals – and since they’re raw – important enzymes that are integral to cellular metabolism (a.k.a. life).

 

#8 – My kids take cod liver oil in the winter and fish oil in the summer.

Fish oil is the only supplement that I give my kids on a regular basis. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which reduces inflammation in all cells of the body and is essential for brain and nervous system function.

In the winter when the sun is scarce and colds an flu are running rampant, I opt for fermented cod liver oil (given with elderberry syrup to both mask the flavor and boost immunity) to supply vitamin D and A to support immune health.

(This is the cod liver oil and this is the fish oil that we use.)

#9 – I fortify my kids’ digestion with probiotics.

We keep plenty of foods in the house that are probiotic rich including: homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and raw milk.

If they need extra probiotics (too many birthday parties or feeling under the weather) I have a good kids probiotic supplement on hand to.

(This is our favorite kids probiotic. They also make a great infant probiotic too.)

 

#10 – I can always pick and choose quality supplements if necessary.

Listen, I’m not anti-vitamin, I just don’t see the point is cramming a whole bunch of practically useless nutrition into a bunch of sugar gummy bears and using that as an excuse to let your kids live off of goldfish crackers, fluorescent colored ‘yogurt’, and cereal.

Real food is delicious and kids love it. Eggs, bacon, sourdough bread and butter, even mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and PB&J can be healthy when you choose good quality meat and dairy, and properly prepared nuts and grains.

Now, if my little ones get a runny nose or decide to boycott milk, I can certainly choose to add some vitamin C or a calcium supplement, but for the day-to-day I’m serving my kids nutrition on the plate, not in the pill.

 How about you?

Do you give YOUR kids multivitamins?

Why I Don't Give My Kids Multivitamins - Holistic Squid

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Comments

  1. Racquel says:

    Hi Emily! This is such great information! Thanks for sharing. One question? Would you suggest to only give kids RAW milk? We usually buy organic milk, but I’ve been reading up on how that also isn’t all that great. :(
    Thanks!

    • Emily says:

      Hi Racquel, thanks for the question. I prefer raw milk, but if you do pasteurized milk make sure it is full-fat and from pasture-raised cows. Here in LA we can get Strauss, Clover and Grass Milk which are are pasture based.

  2. kathy says:

    All my children do hair mineral analysis. I highly recommend it. In this program, they give you the correct mineral supplementation for each persons needs based on their hair analysis. Dr. Larry Wilson’s website is a great resource for more information on this topic. AND, just like no other diet is the same as The Weston A. Price Foundation principles, most people and doctors do not read the hair analysis correctly. You must go to a lab approved by Dr. Larry Wilson or a lab that follows the principles of Dr. Eck. These labs are more reliable. Best, Kathy

  3. Sheila says:

    Interesting article, thanks! I have a 5 year old that probably has ADD like myself…impulse controls issues, no coping skills, attention deficit, etc. I would never think of medicating her, but hoped to find some sort of supplement or vitamins that might be helpful. I came across Natural Vitality Kids Natural Calm Multi. It’s in liquid form and has 24 organic fruits and veggies, Omega-3 DHA and EPA and other vitamins and minerals along with CALM Magnesium and Amino Acids. Can I tell you that after taking it for two weeks, her disposition completely changed. Suddenly she was way less impulsive and gained coping skills we had never seen. She can now focus and look us in the eyes and sleeps a million times better. I’m a person who’s hard to convince and highly skeptical, but this stuff is like a miracle juice to us. Cheers.

    • Yes my ADHD son also take Kids Calm it has worked wonders. He also takes Cod liver oil and I use essential oils on him. I have noticed that seems to be peeing a lot of the vitamins though.

  4. Ruth says:

    Thanks for the info. I have been wondering the same thing for my children. I have a 2 and a 4 year old and thank goodness they are healthy but i really question the multivitamins because they have flouride (which is a poison according to my toothpaste tube) and also because i recently read that a lot of synthetic vitamins contain petroleum, and other byproducts that actually can cause cancer. — Go figure that vitamins can make us sick! Anyway… i digress. I thought your comment about whole milk was interesting my doctor told me to only use low fat or 2% said that my four year old had high cholesterol. Has this happened to anyone?

    • Alicia says:

      I am sure others can give more information than I can but I will try and start the conversation. I will start by saying that my children 4 & 5 1/2 yrs have not had their cholesterol tested and I am not likely to have it done. I am also not a Dr.

      I have been seeing for the last 4-5 years as I have been reading about health and nutrtion contorversy about cholesterol. I am currently reading the following book from the library to try and put the pieces all together.

      http://www.amazon.com/Great-Cholesterol-Myth-Disease–Statin-Free/dp/1592335217/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374164237&sr=1-1&keywords=the+great+cholesterol+myth

      Both authors have their own websites too if you don’t have access to the book.

      I will say that the authors are critical of Drs who still feel that a total cholesterol number is a good indicator of heart dz concerns but they explain the information well (I am only part way through the book).

      You can find other places as to the role cholesterol plays in health – makes hormones, helps make bile acids, makes healthy cell walls, important for immune system.

    • Janne says:

      My doctor told me I was 2 points shy of “high cholesterol.” She told me to eat less red meat, and I told her I rarely eat it. She then told me to exercise, and I told her I exercise 4-5 days a week. She told me to eat more whole grains, and I told her I only buy whole wheat products. She was then at a loss.

      Sometimes a number is just a number. I eat real food, exercise, get enough sleep, and make sure to take “mental health” breaks during the day. That’s all I can do.

  5. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the info! My children eat a 100% organic diet, heavy on the veggies, light on the processed food. However, they still receive vitamins. Their multi is organic and raw. NOT those sugar bears. They also receive Cod Liver Oil and a coconut based probiotic everyday.
    I feel very comfortable giving them these 3 supplements every day and I’m sure they are healthier for it.
    Wish I could get them to consume bone broth though!! :)

    Thanks again. I cut out their Vit C they were getting after reading about seterates. (Sp) :/ Going to try and find a good C that doesn’t contain those

    • Amber says:

      Would love to know the brands you are using, Jessica!
      Thanks!

      • Jessica says:

        Sure :-) Their multi is from Garden of Life. It’s a chewable. Their CLO is from Nordic Naturals which is purity tested and contains no GMOs. Their probiotic is called Inner-Eco

        • Amber says:

          Thank you!! Ill look into the multi. We were using rainbow light but stopped due to the lead. :( We use Klaire labs probiotics and we use the same FCLO as you :)

        • Laura says:

          Hi Jessica, I was looking into the Garden of Life multi but it contains brewer’s yeast which I have never seen in any other multi. Is that ok for kids to take?

  6. Martin says:

    Add one additional reason: Most multivitamins are a cocktail of chemicals.

  7. I agree but I not only do not recommend them for children but for hardly anyone, you should not take a multi vitamin unless you know you need every supplement in that vitamin in the amounts in that brand. I agree with using supplements as needed works better, only take the supplements you know your body needs

  8. Erin O'Donnell says:

    Hi Emily,

    Good post. I’m with you1 Quick question: I’ve been giving my 20 month old GP CLO since she was tiny, but I’m a little confused about the fish oil thing. Would giving onegas/DHA and CLO be redundant? I don’t want to be remiss about something but don’t want to overload either….Thanks for your advice.

    • Jessica says:

      Erin, yes that would be redundant. I’d stick with the FCLO, good for you for giving your child a head start in life :)

    • Emily says:

      Hi Erin, I switch from FCLO to regular fish oil in the summer because my kids gets tons of sun (vitamin D) and eat liver (vitamin A). Intuitively it makes more sense to me too – the fish oil seems lighter and more seasonally appropriate. Hope this helps!

  9. Shara Hulburt says:

    What do you recommend for children who cannot eat dairy?

  10. Nancy N says:

    Good for you for feeding your children right. As a rep of a company that sells children’s nutritional supplements please don’t lump all supplements in the gummy or cave man or mass market basket. I only wish that there were more mothers like you, especially when I see a young child who eats what he or she is fed and cannot shop or cook for themselves. Supplements need to be in the right form, in the right proportions and manufactured with high standards to be helpful.

  11. Susan Weckter says:

    I agree with most of your article as we eat much the same way. -ok just not so much on the liver :(
    I do give my kids a supplement for vitamins. For the most part a agree with not giving supplements as most are made from coal tar, petroleum, and rocks then added to sugar. I did find one that is made from real food (yes it has co-factors etc). It is a powder that you add to foods etc. I just thought I’d share the information if you ever do want to add a vitamin (antioxidant too). If you’d like to take a look at it: http://tinyurl.com/k8auuht

  12. Erin O'Donnell says:

    I know we’re talking about getting what’s needed with awesome nutrition, BUT while we’re discussing supplements for kids…does anyone have any experience with the Child Life line, created by Dr. Murray Clark in Santa Monica. I’ve never seen him but my osteopath whom I adore and trust said his stuff is great. I did notice that some of his formulations had fructose which didn’t thrill me.

    And Emily….yes, that Klaire probiotic is the best.

  13. Gail says:

    I never gave my kids milk. They are now adults and never have had a glass. Cow’s milk is for baby cows and isn’t necessary or desirable for humans. They breastfed until around age 3 or older. I agree healthy children don’t need multivitamins.

  14. misti says:

    My youngest child takes a vitamin because 1. she is allergic to milk (not lactose intolerant – she breaks out in hives, gets upper respiratory infections, and wheezes). 2. she has major sensory aversion to textures including food textures so she subsists on crackers and pretzels and the occasional chicken I can force feed her. I don’t know what else to do except multi vitamins :(
    any suggestions? please email me!

    • bobbi halverson says:

      my oldest still has aversions to chunky foods-good luck! he got better and better as he grew older at eating chicken, fish, ect.. you might want to see a speech therapist-they can help because it has to do with the mouth..

  15. [...] Have you guys ever check out the Holistic Squid?  Emily has so many good things to say.  This month she shared a post on the selenium/mercury connection and why we may not have to worry so much about mercury in fish.  Yay for sushi!!  She also wrote a great post on why she doesn’t give her kids multivitamins. [...]

  16. Kristen says:

    Hi, do you feel this way about all-natural organic vitamins from The Honest Co? http://www.honest.com I like their kids multi-vitamin but not if its glorified candy?

  17. Suzanne says:

    Emily! Fantastic post! Any particular reason you don’t use the FCLO with butter oil?

  18. […] count on gummy vitamins to shore up your children’s nutrition – learn what to use instead of multivitamins here. Though it may seem like common sense, make sure they get plenty of sleep, fresh air, and […]

  19. Anh says:

    Are the Honest Co. Multi-Vitamins good or just like the other “not so good ones”?

  20. Cathy says:

    great info, but would substitute fish oil with plant based omega 3 to avoid toxcicity (and we all know the issues with farm fished salmon)! .. Also check out the results of this study http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhNxhCx9h7Y

  21. Lee says:

    This plan may work while your kids are still young, but please keep an eye on them as they transition through puberty. I think the dramatic increase in hormonal activity – especially with girls – can cause teens to become nutrient deficient unless their diets are stellar from birth and include plenty of veg along with the broths, clo and liver. I speak from experience with a daughter who loved fish, liver, raw cream and clo as a child, but still managed to end up with side effects from nutrient deficiencies after puberty due to her aversion to all things green. Now we use a good quality multi in addition to clo, liver, etc. and she’s doing better. Still working on the green veg however. :)

  22. Donnie says:

    Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my
    old one! It’s on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design.
    Excellent choice of colors!

  23. Karli says:

    Hi! I started my kiddos on the fish oil you suggested (Carlson Kids Chewable DHA) and they love it! Only problem is I read somewhere they may contain gmo ingredients. Do you know if this is true? If so do you have any suggestions? They love the soft gel because they can “pop” them in their mouths…they aren’t too happy about the liquid forms. Thanks!!

    • Emily says:

      Hi Karli – Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure if they use GMO’s, but that would be unfortunate. I use FCLO and Elderberry Syrup regularly, and use the chewables as a back-up when they’re not in the mood for FCLO.

  24. Karli says:

    Thank you Cathy! I will look into that. In the meantime, I found that Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA (Strawberry) is non-gmo certified. http://www.nongmoproject.org/find-non-gmo/search-participating-products/?catID=25

  25. Gayathri says:

    Hello Emily, I love to read your posts.
    Can you tell me some good places to buy grass fed diary products and how to know whether the cows were pasture-raised? I am in the Twin Cities, Minnesota (and I have been looking for natural good dairy for sooo long). I have a 13 month old and she turned out very gassy when I started her on organic whole milk so I am still nursing.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Gayathri – Thanks for your question. My advice would be to get to know your farmers and find out if their cows are pasture raised.

  26. Bri says:

    I really liked the article but quick question…do you still recommend cod liver oil for children under the age of four? I’ve read that it is not recommended for little ones because of the high amount of vit a. My youngest is three so I didn’t know whether to skip the cod liver oil or not.

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