Do you have a little detective at home that can sniff out anything that you try to sneak in to their food, regardless of your ninja-like skills? It might be broccoli or spinach that they refuse to eat, or you might have trouble encouraging them to take the supplements they have been prescribed by their health care practitioner. These tips will mean that you can leave your skills in stealth for other important tasks.
Supplements are generally prescribed to help correct nutrient deficiencies or excesses, or to encourage your body to make a shift to correct imbalance and encourage it to heal itself. Although great lengths are employed to ensure supplements are palatable for tiny taste buds, some children (and adults), cannot be convinced.
Firstly, involve your child in the reasons why they are taking the supplements. Your practitioner may be able to provide a taste test of the supplements. Explain to your child the reasons for the supplements and how they will feel after taking them, and be honest with them about the flavours or textures of the supplements before they try it and allow them to take some responsibility (if age-appropriate) for taking their supplements.
With consideration to the old adage from Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, thoughtful food choices can offer more than just a hiding place for supplements. Often, the foods you use can be just as important to healing as the supplement themselves. For example:
- The gelatine used to make gummy lollies provides a great amino acid profile. Proline, for example, is required for the production of collagen and cartilage. Proline is absorbed more readily with vitamin C, so by adding vitamin C rich fruits to your gummies you will be increasing the health benefits.
- Adding supplements to fruit smoothies for an added vitamin hit. You could even freeze the smoothies for a refreshing icy-pole treat over the warmer months.
- The healthy fats found in an avocado mousse have the added benefit of improving absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Adding probiotic powders to natural, sugar-free yoghurts can increase the diversity or amount of probiotics being offered.
Supplements that lend themselves to these methods include powdered probiotics or herbal and nutritional supplements, liquids such as fish oils or herbal teas. Keep in mind that most supplements are effected by heat and this should be considered when preparing your supplement camouflage. Try stirring the powdered or liquid supplement into the prepared food just before serving. If adding to foods that require heating, such as gummy lollies, stir the supplements through once the mixture has cooled, but not yet set.
You could also try a reward system with your child as encouragement. For example, immediate rewards such as a sticker for each dose or having a favourite food to wash down the taste of the supplements such as a few strawberries or a teaspoon or raw honey (a great one for sore throats!) can be successful. A points-based system where you can negotiate a reward with your child such as a movie night or trip to the zoo) can be great for older children who understand the value.
Sometimes, the supplements that your child has been prescribed could be the very thing that improves their appetite, their desire to want to try new flavours, or the noticeable improvement to how they are feeling, that they can connect that positive experience and choose to take the supplements themselves. It is great to reinforce these connections to promote your child’s self-awareness.
The key to successfully helping your child take their supplements as prescribed is patience, persistence and a big imagination. Chat to your health care provider if you have any concerns about the preparations you create, or if you are struggling for new ideas. Remember, it is important to speak to your health care practitioner before giving supplements to your child.
Written by Bree Jenner – Naturopath, Melbourne