Ideally, children and adolescents (and adults!) should get their recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals from their healthy balanced diet. However, with picky kindergarteners or suddenly vegetarian teens, it can be hard to determine what they might be lacking. While there is a full alphabet of vitamins and minerals, six stand out as the most important for growing children.
|Vitamin A||Promotes growth, healthy skin and aids in vision||Yellow to orange vegetables and dairy products|
|Vitamin Bs||Assist in metabolic activities, energy production and red blood cell formation||Meat, fish, milk, eggs, whole grains and enriched breads/cereals|
|Vitamin C||Aids in strengthening connective tissue and skin, increases resistance to infection||Strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and green vegetables like spinach and broccoli|
|Vitamin D||Promotes tooth and bone formation and helps the body absorb calcium||Fortified dairy products, fish oils and sunlight (changes naturally occurring compound in the skin to an active form)|
|Calcium||Helps build strong, healthy bones||Low fat milk, cheese, yogurt and small amounts in broccoli and spinach|
|Iron||Essential for production of red blood cells and building muscles, teenage girls often require extra||Meat, spinach, beans and iron-fortified cereals|
As you can see, to ensure your child gets their vitamins, it is best to aim for a variety of fresh whole foods especially since most vitamins are best absorbed from their natural sources. When certain new veggies or foods don’t pass their taste test, try preparing them differently and reintroduce them in a few days. If you’re having trouble with fruits and veggies in particular, many parents find that morning smoothies are a great way to get some of the daily servings in.
That said, if you have a picky child and/or think your child might benefit from supplementation, children’s chewable daily multivitamins are generally safe for all, but there are certainly many to choose from. You can use the NIH’s Dietary Supplement Label Database to look up nutrition facts for certain vitamins and use their fact sheets to look up individual vitamins, but also please feel free to talk to your pediatrician for further guidance. Remember to keep all medications and supplements in your home stored safely and out of reach of your young children.
Jacqueline Phillips, MD, September 24, 2021