Vitamins for Kids: Do Healthy Kids Need Supplements?
If you believe the ads, every kid needs a daily Flintstone or Gummy Bear vitamin. But is it true?
Not necessarily so, the experts agree. Ideally, kids should get their vitamins from a balanced, healthy diet that includes:
- Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt (preferably low-fat products for kids over age 3)
- Plenty of fresh fruits and leafy, green vegetables
- Protein like chicken, fish, meat, and eggs
- Whole grains like steel-cut oats and brown rice
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 calcium supplement), 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.
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.
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.
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.