Back to School Naturally: The ABCs of Supplements

For parents, back-to-school season is a whirlwind of logistics—from getting the right school supplies to organizing carpools. For kids, it means swapping days spent outside in the sun for days inside the classroom. In a nutshell: Keeping the healthy momentum going as kids head back to school can seem daunting, with limited food options, six hours at a desk, rapidly cooling weather, and increasingly shorter days to contend with. But good news: it doesn’t have to be. The key to keeping kids on their A game when it comes to health? Striking a balance that begins with the right foods, supplements, and lifestyle. From little ones to teens, a baseline supplement plan should include: MULTIVITAMINS Why they need it: Is your kiddo a picky eater? It can be tough for anyone to have the perfect diet complete with leafy greens, lean protein, and nutrient-dense veggies. A multivitamin will make up the difference in essential vitamins and minerals. Kid-friendly tip: Many children’s formulations use sweeteners to mask vitamins’ unpleasant taste, so try to find one that limits added sugars and uses healthier alternative sweeteners such as fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, and honey. Also favor a liquid formula to easily sneak into foods and to optimize absorption. Try Kinder Love. PROBIOTICS Why they need it: One nutrient you won’t find in most multis? Probiotics. Plenty of adults find gastro relief by supplementing with these gut-friendly bacteria, and kids can reap similar benefits, too—especially if they’ve taken antibiotics and experience GI upset. Probiotics can also help support a healthy immune system in kids as early as infancy. Kid-friendly tip: Too young for capsules? Open them and mix into yogurt or smoothies, or sprinkle over food (just make sure the food isn’t too hot, as heat may damage the probiotics). Dose: 5 billion CFU or more daily, as needed. Try Flora’s Children’s Probiotic. VITAMIN D Why they need it: Indoor school days could result in a vitamin D deficiency. Kid-friendly tip: Fish, eggs, and cod liver oil are naturally rich in vitamin D3, but kids can bulk up on this nutrient with taste-free vitamin D drops, which can be added directly to foods. Dose: Younger kids need 400 IU daily, tweens should meet 1,000 IU, and teens need as much as 2,000 IU. EXTRA CREDIT The Brain Booster: Omega-3s Great for kids: Look for a plant-based source of Omega-3s in the correct ratio to omega-6 and omega-9. Great for teens: Omega-3s have been linked to joint health, a benefit for any student athlete. Dose: Children over age 4 need about 250 mg DHA and 180 mg EPA daily; teens need about 500 mg DHA and 365 mg EPA daily. Kid-friendly tip: Omega-3 oils are easy additions to any smoothie recipe! Try 7 Sources.