Do your kids really need a multi?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

By Cliff Harvey PhD

The simple answer to this question is that no, kids (like adults) don’t need to take a multivitamin or multimineral supplement. Given the right food, lifestyle, and environment, humans are more than adequately equipped to gain all the required nutrients through our diet. However, there can be compelling reasons to consider a supplement to help support optimal growth and performance, particularly with modern-day diets.

Do you get what you need from diet alone?

As adults, many of you don’t get all the essential micronutrients that you need to thrive from your diet alone. This is especially true of vitamins A, B1, B6 and B12, plus iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Without all of these vital nutrients, you are unable to perform at your best or have robust good health, and this is true for kids, too!

Why you don’t always get what you need from your diet alone

The major reason for not getting all you need from diet alone is simple: people eat more refined and processed foods. In Australia, around one third or more of daily energy intake comes from ‘discretionary foods’, which are defined as  “foods and drinks not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs” but which are rich in calories. 

Over time, people are also eating fewer nutrient-rich whole foods, with less than half consuming the recommended amounts of vegetables and fruit that you should to optimise health. 

The US Department of Agriculture data shows that some fresh produce (vegetables, fruits, and berries) may only provide around half the amounts of some vitamins and minerals that they did in the 1950s. So, while you have been eating more over time, and taking in more than enough calories and ‘fuel’, you aren’t necessarily getting enough of the ‘little guys’ – the vitamins, minerals and secondary nutrients that help every system of your body run optimally.

There are additional reasons why your diet are becoming more insufficient, including:

  • Increasingly stressful lifestyles which increase your demand for micronutrients
  • A longer ‘food chain’ (i.e. more time in transport and storage and less local, fresh produce) which can reduce the amounts of nutrients 
  • Lack of variety in food choices 

How can a multi help kids?

A multi is never a substitute for healthy eating, and the focus should always be on working towards a diet mostly based on natural, unrefined foods. Multis can be beneficial to help fill the gaps in nutrition though and are considered a safe and effective way to ensure a healthy intake of essential and beneficial nutrients. 

Ensuring nutrient density

The shift towards more sugar and more ‘ultra-refined’ processed foods has been detrimental to kids’ health, and your key focus should be on encouraging the receptive minds of young people to become reconnected with real food. 

  • Try to make at least 80 percent of what you put on your child’s plate natural, whole, unprocessed food
  • Choose natural, unrefined carbohydrate choices (such as sweet potato, yams, potato and some whole, unprocessed grains) over pasta, bread, crackers and other refined choices
  • Choose water over fruit juices
  • Get kids eating vegetables early! Much of your food preferences are based on what you ‘learn’ to eat early in life
  • Use smoothies made with whole, unprocessed foods (such as vegetables, berries, nuts and nut butter, seeds and fruit) as an option in addition to meals to boost vegetable intake
  • Consider a wholefood-based multi-nutrient supplement.

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but you should always try to prioritise whole, natural, foods to provide the essential nutrients that growing and active bodies (and minds) need.


Dietary supplements are not a replacement for a balanced diet. Always read the label and use as directed. References:
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