Nutrition supplements are a great way to fill in the gaps of your child’s selective diet. Taking a multivitamin can help replete nutrients that your child is missing from a low-nutrient diet (usually a diet rich in highly processed packaged foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar). The most common reason for a selective diet is caused by sensory issues (mainly Sensory Processing Disorder), which makes eating foods with multiple textures, strong smells, and unique tastes very difficult. Unfortunately, this commonly makes taking a nutrition supplement difficult as well. Read on to find out how to help your selective child get the most nutrients via nutrition supplements like multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, and other products!
1. Find the right delivery method
Thankfully, you have many options for supplements including:
The ideal method would be a pill/capsule that could be swallowed, as this typically is the most sensory-friendly method. Although, swallowing a pill can be very difficult for younger kids or individuals with swallowing difficulty or dysphagia. In this case, a liquid, powder mixed into a liquid, or chewable tablet is the next best option. Gummies tend to have the weakest nutrient value since you can only fit so many nutrients into a gummy. Gummies also tend to be very hit-or-miss for many of my clients, as the sensory profile can be very difficult to tolerate.
2. Teach your child how to swallow a pill (for children at least 4 years old)
If your child doesn’t yet know how to swallow a pill, it is rather easy to teach! You can buy empty capsules from a health food store (or on Amazon) and practice. Refer to the chart below to buy the right size capsule (the higher the number the smaller the size - starting with size 0 is a good place to start). If this is still too daunting, have your child start with something less threatening and small, such as a mini-M&M (note: this is the only time you’ll see me recommend candy!)
The best way to do it is to put water in the mouth first and then the pill. This prevents the pill sticking to the tongue (which can cause a sensory aversion) and it makes it less threatening since it feels similar to swallowing water.
3. If using a powder or liquid, find the best way to take it!
For powders, orange juice is great to disguise the flavor and color! Vitamin B2, Riboflavin, has a yellow-orange color (disclaimer: it may turn your child’s urine neon yellow - this is completely normal and safe) that can be difficult for selective eaters. Start with 2-4 fluid ounces of juice and mix in the powder (or you can break open a capsule and mix!). If they have difficulty drinking from a small cup, you can use an oral medicine syringe to make it quick and painless! This is especially helpful for kids who are “onto you” about sneaking stuff in their food.
Here are some other ideas to have your child take powder/liquid supplements:
Blend it into a smoothie
Mix it in applesauce, yogurt, or pudding
Try a kid-friendly and fun way to give supplements and medicine - like this lady bug spout!
4. If your child won’t take the liquid, start small!
If your child is very opposed to trying a liquid (either via cup or syringe), start with plain juice first. For example, only give them a few fluid ounces of orange juice via syringe to start for a few days. When they have accepted this, add a small dose of the supplement (e.g. ½ capsule worth of powder) and continue. Keep working your way up until they accept the full dose!
5. Use positive reinforcement
Children love to be encouraged or rewarded for their good behavior. This is a significantly better option than being disciplined for poor behavior when taking supplements. For example, your child will be more likely to take a supplement if they receive a reinforcer after taking their supplements instead of getting something taken away for not taking them. Start a rewards system - like a sticker chart or token system! You can buy a sticker chart and let them choose their own stickers that would motivate them (ideas: Transformers, Frozen, or just plain shiny stars!). You can also use the chart below:
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