There are dozens of brands of multivitamins and supplements available for children, but do kids really need them? Find out if your child should take a vitamin and what types are best for little ones.
Begin with a balanced diet
Consider food the first line of defense when it comes to making sure kids are getting the right vitamins and minerals. Food is what our bodies are meant to digest and absorb nutrients from. “I look at multivitamin supplements as a way to fill in the blanks,” says Andrea Rumschlag, RD, from Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. “If a child is eating at least five servings of colorful vegetables and fruits daily (especially dark green and orange), and including whole grains in their diet, then a multivitamin may not be needed.”
Acknowledge that kids are picky eaters
Sometimes, kids simply will not eat enough food from every food group. In this case, a children's multivitamin can help where the diet leaves off. Always choose a multivitamin that's formulated especially for children. Kids' vitamins are made to meet the specific nutritional requirements of children. Read labels even when shopping for vitamins. Depending on your preferences and your child's dietary restrictions, you should find a brand that meets your needs.
Many kids can use a boost of vitamin D
“One vitamin I routinely recommend to supplement is vitamin D, as most children (and adults!) do not get enough from diet alone,” says Rumschlag. “Infants (both breastfed and formula fed) should be supplemented with 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily. Children ages one and older need at least 600 IU daily, which can come from a combination of foods and supplements.” Read nutritional labels and look for foods fortified with vitamin D. If you suspect vitamin D deficiency in you or your child, talk to your doctor about simple blood tests that can measure vitamin deficiencies.
Beyond the basics
Heather Mangieri is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to Mangieri, some kids have more need for vitamins and supplements than others.
“Children with chronic medical conditions or those with developmental disorders such as autism who restrict certain foods may benefit from supplementation,” says Mangieri. “Children with allergies or on special diets, such as dairy free or those following a vegan diet may be at risk for nutrient deficiency.” Talk to your child's doctor or a registered dietician before introducing supplements or herbal remedies.