Recently, parents have been serving up lots of questions regarding their child’s nutrition based on more fiction than facts. So, this week I thought I’d do some myth-busting of common nutritional myths.

Is a multivitamin a solution or supplement?

For example, parents ask me if taking a daily multivitamin gives their children all the nutrients they need.

That is not true. While multivitamins can supplement a balanced diet, they are not a substitute for it. Children need nutrients, such as vitamin C and potassium, which are not usually found in a multivitamin. These nutrients, however, are easily found in fruits, vegetables, proteins and starches or carbohydrates.

A good reminder is the more colorful the food, the more nutrients it has.

Is a non-fat foods diet the best choice for my child?

Another rumor is that if children eat non-fat foods, they won’t become overweight.

Well, that’s not true either. Young children actually need fat for many reasons. They need fat to help their brains develop and to protect organs in our body. Additionally, fat intake makes you feel satisfied or full after a meal. If a child does not get enough fat in their diet, they may make up for it in less nutritional foods. These foods may be high in sugar and salt and could actually lead to excessive weight gain.

Consider foods that contain unsaturated fats for your child, such as those that contain nuts, olive oil, or fats found in lean meats.  Remember that some fat in your child’s diet is better than no-fat when it comes to keeping them healthy.

Your child’s health care professional or a nutritionist can also give you more suggestions of just how much fat intake to consider.

Is breakfast really that important?

Another rumor is that if a child eats a great lunch or dinner, breakfast is really not that important.

In reality, your child needs three meals a day, especially the mix of protein, fruit, and carbohydrates they can get at breakfast. Breakfast will give them the energy needed for the school day and for sports later in the day.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be huge! Giving your child a hard-boiled egg or low-fat yogurt to pair with whole grain toast and a piece of fruit or juice as they run out the door is better than not having breakfast at all.

Hopefully tips like these will be easy ones to digest when it comes to separating the facts from the fiction in regard to your child’s nutritional health.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. 

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