Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailers help send kids back to school

Debby Hamilton, MD, of Holistic Pediatric Consulting in Boulder, Colo., discusses how retailers can help parents prepare for back-to-school season.

Q: How can retailers help customers gear up their kids for school? 
A: Now’s a great time for retailers to promote vitamin D. As we head into fall and winter, we all get less sunlight, thus less vitamin D. Supplements with vitamin D and multivitamins go a long way toward lessening the risk of flu and colds. Vitamin D is particularly important for kids because it’s needed to absorb calcium.

I’d love to see retailers create endcaps that highlight kid-specific products. Suggesting vitamin D for immune support, for example, may not be something that parents immediately think of. In the grocery section, I think there are a lot of questions about school lunches—what to pack, what’s healthy for various ages, etc. Suggesting healthy options like carrots and hummus or peanut butter on sprouted-wheat bread is very helpful to parents.

Q: How important are delivery forms with kids’ multivitamins?
A: I do think kids need multivitamins, because most kids don’t eat as well as they should. But some of the chewables and gummies have a lot of sweetener in them to make them taste better. Definitely, kids can absorb a liquid vitamin better than a gummy. I’m not a huge fan of gummies because they’re often not complete. Sometimes they only have one or two minerals, or just iron. Parents also need to watch out for artificial dyes and sweeteners in these vitamins.

Q: In addition to taking a multivitamin, what else do you recommend for kids? 
A: Definitely omega-3 fatty acids. That’s something that is very much missing from our diet. Kids really need omega-3s because they support brain health. If I could choose a third, it would be probiotics. Kids can get them in capsule form, but parents can also look for foods with natural probiotics, like kefir.

Q: How do children benefit by taking probiotics?
A: A lot of people associate probiotics with digestion, but they actually help with our immune systems too. Around 70 percent of our immune system is in our digestion system. Sugar decreases immune response, so diet can play a big role in terms of getting sick. This can be particularly valuable information for parents preparing to send their kids back to school. Probiotics can also help regulate eczema and allergies.

Q: What should parents look for in an after-school snack?
A: A lot of kids eat lunch really early so they definitely need a snack, but I think it’s helpful to think of it more like a mini meal. Retailers should suggest options that have protein and good fat, not just carbohydrates. High-carb snacks spike kids’ blood sugar. They need something that will carry them until dinner—cheese, yogurt, apples and nut butter are all great options. 

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