Dietary habits of healthy kids

With so much information available about kids' nutrition – what to eat, how to supplement and more – it's hard to get a firm grasp on what it takes to raise a healthy child. In the U.S., a significant portion of children are not getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins D, E and A, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA according to the 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

"It's quite difficult to get all the essential vitamins and nutrients solely from diet – especially if you have picky eaters in your house," says Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. "There are tips and tricks parents can follow to establish healthy eating habits for their kids, but it's also important for parents to consider adding multivitamins to their child's routine to fill in the gaps."

Somer focuses on five important tips parents should follow to ensure their kids are getting adequate amounts of the essential vitamins and nutrients they need. These nutrition tips can build the foundation for healthy habits long after kids leave the nest:

  1. Look to MyPlate to fill your plate – MyPlate is an updated guide to nutrition from the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama – think of it as the new Food Guide Pyramid. Check out the tips for a well-rounded diet focused on fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  2. Decorate your plate – Create a colorful plate of salads with spinach, strawberries and blueberries or other fruits and veggies for meal and snack times. Kids need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. More is even better.
  3. Sport a milk mustache – Children need two-to-three glasses of calcium-rich milk or yogurt each day. Give them milk fortified with DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid shown to benefit brain development, eye health and even sleep – and you'll add a punch of nutrition to each glass.
  4. Eat your ABCs – Listing essential vitamins is a lot like reciting the alphabet. According to recent research, though, kids are not getting enough of vitamins D, E or A as well as the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Dark leafy greens, oily fish like salmon, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, milk and carrots are good examples of foods that can deliver these nutrients.
  5. Fill the gaps – For both kids and adults, it's difficult to achieve optimal nutrition through diet alone. It's especially difficult for picky eaters. Therefore, an age-appropriate, well-formulated multivitamin and mineral supplement provides extra insurance that your little one is getting all the nutrients he or she needs. And, if your child is not eating multiple servings of fatty fish (like salmon) per week, consider a quality fish oil supplement for omega-3s DHA and EPA.

For more information on kids' nutrition, and healthy tips for the whole family, visit