Ideally, kids should get their vitamins & minerals from a balanced, healthy diet and not as supplements.
With working parents & nuclear families, 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
- Picky 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 consult the doctor before starting supplements if your child is on medication.)
- Those who eat a lot of fast food, convenience food, and processed food
- Kids on a vegetarian or a vegan diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need calcium supplements), or other restricted diets
- Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies
Six KeyVitamins & Minerals for Kids & Sources
Vitamins and minerals, 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. Promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin. Good sources include citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli. It 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. Good sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Iron builds muscle and is essential for healthy red blood cells. 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 get too much of them. Ditto with iron. Your kids can get too much of a good thing.
Fresh Foods Sources to Avoid Supplements
Good nutrition starts by serving a wide variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible. That’s far better than serving up fast food or convenience food.
You’ll find the most vitamins and minerals in foods high in carbohydrates and proteins (rather than fats). By far, the most high-vitamin foods of all are fresh fruits and vegetables.
To increase your kid’s vitamin intake, aim for more variety — not simply more food. Twice as many kids today are overweight, so use kid-sized food portions, which are one-quarter to one-third the size of adult portions.
Spread the variety of foods into several small meals and snacks throughout the day. If your child doesn’t eat a particular food for a few days — like vegetables, accept it. But reintroduce those foods again a day or two later, perhaps prepared in a different way. Kids’ “food strikes” usually end by themselves.
Five Tips to Keep in Mind
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 key role in your child’s development. So, rather than relying on supplements, opt for feeding a range of healthy foods to your kids.