Are you worried about hiding supplements in ‘safe’ foods?

We often get asked the question, ‘Should I hide my child’s supplements in their food?’.
Of all the different ways of getting supplements into kids – hiding them in foods is probably our least favorite. This should be a last resort and yet we find a lot of people try this as their first approach.

Should you be hiding supplements in foods that you know your child likes, or in a food or meal that is safe for them?

We’re of the opinion that, for kids that are very selective eaters and for children with sensory issues this isn’t always a great idea.

Firstly, for children with sensory issues with foods and children that have a very limited diet, we run the risk of losing that food.

Why does it matter if a child stops eating an “unhealthy” food?

It doesn’t matter if this safe food is hot chips, chicken nuggets or white bread.
If that was one of the 5 foods that your child eats they’ve now lost 1/5th of the variation in their diet. Our actions have now restricted their diet by a further 25%.

So you could be sitting there thinking, ‘ok so now a child won’t eat hot chips – we all know that’s not a highly nutritious food to begin with so that’s no real loss.’ Except it is, it’s a very big loss.

We want to focus on increasing safe foods, not creating further limitations

In situations such as this, we don’t want to cut more foods out of a child’s diet. We want to work towards increasing variation. So how on earth are we going to start that process if we’ve lost their trust so early on by trying to trick them?

We see this happen often.

Once the trust is gone, it’s hard to get back

If you’ve had a practitioner recommend hiding a supplement in one of your child’s ‘safe’ foods and your child has caught on to this – and they almost always do. I’m sure you’re now having a really hard time trying to convince them to take it any other way.

This still applies to supplements that are tasteless. We do absolutely have the option of prescribing supplements that are tasteless, that look exactly like water, or powders that completely dissolve in their drinks.

Most children are still going to find out that we’ve lied to them.

We have to look at this from the child’s point of view

We completely understand why they put their foot down and refuse supplementation from then on. We’ve tricked them, we’ve betrayed them. The parent who has done this and the practitioner who has asked the parent to do this have broken the child’s trust. They’ve tainted something that was safe for them.

And when you’ve only got 5 different foods on the entire planet that are safe for you, that’s a big betrayal.

Sometimes it is ok to hide supplements

Having said all of this, obviously, every kid is different and treatment protocols vary because of this.

There are definitely kids out there that we can easily and safely hide supplements in foods for. Especially ones that aren’t in any way going to interfere with taste and texture of foods or drinks.

IT’S CALLED BODY AUTONOMY

Kids are smart and they want to have a say in what’s happening to their bodies. Everyone deserves to be involved with their treatment and have someone explain this process to them in an age appropriate way. This gives them options in how to proceed with their treatment.

The development of body autonomy is a significant developmental milestone. This can kick in around age 2. So that explains some of the challenge’s parents experience at that ‘terrible two’s’ stage.

Children want to have a say in what’s happening to them

It’s important that we understand and respect that your child is a person. Though they may be young, they have a right to be involved in decisions that are being made about their body.

Ultimately we want to support this developmental milestone, not crush it.

We need to involve children in this process

We find it best to be honest with all the different ways we can take a supplement. Giving your child some flavor options or brainstorming with them ways in which we could get them to take the supplement will have better treatment outcomes.

Have you thought about why your child resists supplementation?

Take a moment to think about what issues you could be facing when trying to get your child to take a supplement.
Are they resisting? Why? What could have caused that?

With an honest approach, the child is on board. They understand why and we’re much more likely to be able to get the full course of the prescription into them and then obviously we’re much more likely to see the treatment outcomes that we’re aiming for.

So the next time you’re caught wondering, ‘Should I hide my child’s supplements in their food?’, perhaps stop and rephrase that to ‘how would my child feel if they knew I was hiding supplements in their safe foods?’.

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