Kids’ Vitamins

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 (yes, that means the broccoli and spinach your child abhors)
  • protein like chicken, fish, meat, and eggs
  • whole grains like oatmeal 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)
  • particularly active kids who play physically demanding sports
  • kids eating a lot of fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods
  • kids on a vegetarian 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.

  • 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, cheese, and yogurt (especially fortified dairy products), egg yolks, and fish oil.
  • 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.

Healthy kids get their best start from what you put in your grocery cart.

Good nutrition starts by serving a wide variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible. That’s far better than serving up fast foods or convenience foods — and hoping that taking a kids’ vitamin will undo any nutritional no-no’s. 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 give kids more vitamins, aim for more variety — not simply more food. Twice as many kids today are overweight than just two decades ago, 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 won’t eat a particular food for a few days — like vegetables — don’t fret. But reintroduce those foods again a day or two later, perhaps prepared in a different way. Kids’ “food strikes” usually end by themselves.

Vitamins and Healthy Kids: Five Tips

If you do give vitamins to your kids, follow these tips:

  1. Put vitamins away, well out of reach of children, so your child doesn’t treat them like candy.
  2. Try not to battle over foods with your kids or use desserts as a bribe to “clean your plate.” Instead, try giving a chewable vitamin as a “treat” at the end of a meal. Fat-soluble vitamins can only be absorbed with food.
  3. 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.
  4. Try a chewable vitamin if your child won’t take a pill or liquid supplement.
  5. Consider waiting until a child is 4 years old 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 if at all possible.

Vitamins are organic molecules that the body needs to maintain normal growth and activity.

Many vitamins are necessary cofactors or coenzymes in metabolic functions. Without vitamins, many body processes could not occur. Fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and dairy products are just some foods that contain important vitamins. Children are especially vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies because of their rapid growth and development. Children can be given vitamins in a pill form or through fortified foods, like breakfast cereals and juices. However, providing your child with a varied diet of whole grain, natural foods is the best alternative to ensuring they get all the vitamins they need for optimal health.


Some vitamins can be stored by the body to be used whenever they are needed. Other vitamins have to be eaten often because the body cannot hold onto them. Vitamins that can be stored in the body are called fat soluble vitamins. These vitamins stay inside the fat cells of the body. When the body needs the fat soluble vitamins, it breaks down the fat cell and uses the stored vitamins. Two fat soluble vitamins are Vitamin A and Vitamin D.

Water soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body. Instead, they are carried around in the bloodstream. If the body does not use up the water soluble vitamins, they are excreted from the body. The body has to keep getting a new supply of water soluble vitamins. This is one reason why it is important to eat a balanced diet everyday. Two water soluble vitamins are Vitamin B and Vitamin C.

Orange foods, like carrots, have Vitamin A.

Vitamins are best absorbed by the body when they come from whole and natural food sources. Vitamin supplements are helpful but not a good substitute for your child’s balanced diet. The USDA recommends a diet centered on fruits and vegetables with whole grains, lean meats and dairy products to serve your child’s nutritional needs. Some good sources of Vitamins A through K are: milk, cheese, eggs, whole wheat, oatmeal, spinach, legumes, kale, meat, fish, citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupe and mangoes.
Whole grains and cereals are a good way to get your B vitamins.

The USDA’s recommended dietary allowances of vitamins for children are dependent on age, sex and activity level. If the recommended daily allowance cannot be determined, an adequate intake is given. The most recent dietary intake recommendations were formed in 2005 (Find a link in References). The next dietary guidelines will be available in 2010.
Expert Insight

A sedentary lifestyle may add to vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem among children in the U.S. A 2009 study performed at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University estimated that 70 percent of U.S. children have vitamin D deficiencies. This can lead children to other health problems like heart disease, rickets and high blood pressure. Vitamin D helps the body retain and use calcium, a mineral that is necessary to bone formation and muscle activity. Vitamin D is created by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Children need 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure, without sunscreen, for the body to make vitamin D. Darker skinned children, who have higher levels of the ultraviolet blocking pigment called melanin, and children who live in northern areas where the sun is weaker, are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Sun exposure is not sufficient to produce enough vitamin D. The study’s researchers recommend that parents give their children a combination of supplements, sun exposure and a diet full of foods like milk, cheese, eggs and fish.

Fish are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and minerals go hand in hand. Minerals are inorganic substances that are also a requirement for a healthy diet. Minerals, like some vitamins, act as essential cofactors in the metabolic functions of the body. Iron, for example, is a mineral that aids in delivering oxygen throughout the body. Specifically, it enables hemoglobin to form and function as the oxygen binding pigment in red blood cells. Mineral deficiencies, like vitamin deficiencies, are common in children and levels should be monitored by your child’s physician.

Eating a nutritionally-balanced diet is good advice for children as well as adults. In fact, teaching children to make the right food choices is one of the best tools you can arm them with. Unfortunately, many children today aren’t taught how to make good food choices because their parents don’t know what the ‘right’ food choices are.

There’s no denying that the vitamins and minerals children need to grown are found in fruits and vegetables. They’re also found in lean meats and dairy products, foods that children generally pass up when given the choice. Why eat those foods when the world has so many others to offer?

Take a look at food through a child’s eye. What do you see? Pizza, ice cream, corn dogs, hot dogs, French fries, potato chips, sugary fruit drinks, energy drinks, caffeinated soda, cake, cookies, candy, processed portable lunch ‘kits’ and of course, the all-important, readily-available, drive-thru fast food.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the food pyramid, you know that these types of foods are represented, but only by a tiny sliver. That means these foods should make up just a fraction of a person’s daily food intake. They shouldn’t be eaten at each meal, and in between, as snacks. But they are, all too often. It’s obvious just by looking at children that many are not eating properly.

Not only are the wrong food choices causing children to be dangerously overweight, they’re also the reason why many children are not getting the vitamins and minerals their bodies need to function properly. Of the essential vitamins and minerals the body needs, it is capable of producing just a few on its own. The rest must come from food.

From the first days of life, a child needs Vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial to the development of healthy, strong teeth and bones. Rickets, a disease thought to be under control, is once again becoming a serious health issue. Its symptoms include bones that are deformed and that are soft and brittle. The skull, for example, is supposed to be thick and hard. One of the first notable signs of rickets is a skull that is thin and soft. If the shape of the head doesn’t form properly, as can happen with Rickets, teeth may not grow in properly. And from there, it’s getting worse. Wrists, ribs, knees, ankles all may experience abnormal growth.

Deficiencies in other vitamins may not produce such obvious effects, which is why many parents may not even realize problems exist. Vitamins provide the instructions for all bodily functions including vision, production of red blood cells and growth hormones and proper development of every major system including the immune system, circulatory system and digestive system.

If your child’s diet consists of the foods listed above, you need to take immediate action. Try to introduce more vitamin-dense foods into the diet. In the meantime, encourage your child to take a daily vitamin supplement that has been formulated for children. It will provide the nutrients your child needs to develop properly, it’ll taste good, and it’ll be easy to chew or swallow Vitamins.

Read more: Vitamin Facts for Kids | Vitamins

This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!