Which Kids Need Vitamin Supplements?
Given the reality of time-crunched parents, those well-rounded, home-cooked meals aren’t always possible. That’s why pediatricians may recommend a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement for:
- Kids who aren’t eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods
- Finicky eaters who simply aren’t eating enough
- Kids with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems, especially if they’re taking medications (be sure to talk with your child’s doctor first before starting a supplement if your child is on medication)
- Kids eating a lot of fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods
- Kids on a vegetarian or a vegan diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need a calciumsupplement), or other restricted diet
- Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies
Top Six Vitamins and Minerals for Kids
In the alphabet soup of vitamins and minerals, a few stand out as critical for growing kids.
- Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development; tissue and bone repair; and healthy skin, eyes, and immune responses. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow-to-orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.
- Vitamin Bs. The family of B vitamins — B2, B3, B6, and B12 — aid metabolism, energy production, and healthy circulatory and nervous systems. Good sources include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soybeans.
- Vitamin C promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin. Good sources include citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli.
- Vitamin D promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Good sources include milk and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight.
- Calcium helps build strong bones as a child grows. Good sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
- Iron builds muscle and is essential to healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency is a risk in adolescence, especially for girls once they begin to menstruate. Good sources include beef and other red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.
Megavitamins — large doses of vitamins — aren’t a good idea for children. The fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if kids overdose on excessive amounts. Ditto with iron. Your kids can get too much of a good thing.
Vitamins and Healthy Kids: Five Tips
If you do give vitamins to your kids, follow these tips:
- Put vitamins away, well out of reach of children, so they don’t treat them like candy.
- Try not to battle over foods with your kids or use desserts as a bribe to “clean your plate.” Instead, give your child a chewable vitamin after the meal. Fat-soluble vitamins can only be absorbed with food.
- If your child is taking any medication, be sure to ask your child’s doctor about any drug interactions with certain vitamins or minerals. Then the supplement won’t boost or lower the medication dose.
- Try a chewable vitamin if your child won’t take a pill or liquid supplement.
- Consider waiting until a child reaches age 4 to start giving a multivitamin supplement, unless your child’s doctor suggests otherwise.
Sound nutrition plays a role in your child’s learning and development. So, rather than relying on cartoon characters selling supplements, commit to feeding a range of healthy foods to your kids.