All kids need vitamins.
So which vitamins or supplements should you give them?
“The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that healthy children receiving a normal, well-balanced diet do not need vitamin supplementation over and above the recommended dietary allowances, which includes 400 IU (International Units) of vitamin D a day in infants less than 1 year of age and 600 units/day for children over 1 year of age.”
AAP on Where We Stand: Vitamins
It depends. Most kids don’t actually need to take any extra vitamins.
Which Vitamins Should My Kids Take?
Wait, if all kids need vitamins, then why don’t you need to give them extra vitamins?
That’s easy. Most kids should get enough vitamins from the foods they eat.
Are your kids missing out on something? Then that would be a clue on which vitamins and minerals they would need to take.
Does your child have a chronic medical condition?
Are they on a special or restrictive diet?
Even if they are a little picky or don’t eat as much as you like, do they eat some foods from each food group, leading to a balanced diet by the end of the week?
In general, to see what your child might need, focus on your child’s intake of:
- iron – can be low (anemia) in preterm babies, when infants are exclusively breastfeeding and not eating foods with iron, toddlers and preschoolers who are drinking excessive amounts of cow’s milk and not eating foods with iron, other kids who don’t eat many foods with iron, and teen girls who have heavy periods
- vitamin D – can be low when infants are exclusively breastfeeding and don’t take a daily vitamin D supplement and older children who don’t eat or drink enough foods with vitamin D, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and orange juice
- calcium – can be low when children don’t eat or drink enough foods with calcium, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and orange juice
- fluoride – can be deficient when children mainly drink bottled water, soda, and juices, but since too much fluoride can lead to tooth staining, it is best to get fluoride from drinking fluoridated water – offer it daily once your child is about six months old
- vitamin B12 and folate – can become classically low in vegans (who don’t take a supplement) and kids who drink goat milk that’s not fortified with vitamin B12 and folate
- vitamin C – rarely low, which would cause scurvy, as most fruits and fruit juices are high in vitamin C
What other things do parents think about supplementing?
- protein – while many parents worry that their kids aren’t getting enough protein in their diets, protein is rarely the thing that they are missing out on, as only about 20 percent of our calories need to come from protein.
- calories – if your child is a picky eater, you might think that they aren’t getting enough calories and might think of supplementing them with a shake or two to boost their calories, but keep in mind that these typically end up replacing meals, leading kids to eat even less food and teach them to just drink their calories
- vitamin K – typically only a problem for breastfeeding newborns who didn’t get a vitamin K shot, as vitamin K is found in many foods
- vitamin A – since milk and many other foods are fortified with vitamin A, this is rarely a vitamin that we worry about being low. Supplements are also a concern, because too much vitamin A can be toxic.
- potassium – few people worry about their potassium intake, but maybe they should. Most of us don’t eat enough foods with potassium.
- magnesium – since magnesium is so easily absorbed, this is rarely a mineral that we get concerned about being low.
- vitamin E – most kids get enough vitamin E in their diet, so a supplement probably isn’t necessary unless your child has a malabsorption problem or abetalipoproteinemia
- iodine – most kids get enough iodine thanks to salt iodization, but extra iodine is recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
- zinc – many foods contain zinc, so zinc deficiency is rare
- fiber – giving kids extra fiber can be a good idea if your kids don’t eat enough high fiber foods, especially if they are having stomach issues
- probiotics – although taking probiotics is one of the latest fads, there is little evidence that probiotics are helpful for much of anything in healthy kids
- fish oil – another fad, there is likely no benefit to giving your kids omega 3 fatty acids
So which vitamins and supplements do your kids need?
Best Vitamins and Supplements for Kids
Once you figure out which vitamins and minerals your kids need, you have to figure out the best way to make sure they get them, understanding that the answer isn’t always going to be a gummy vitamin.
You also will likely need a different supplement if you are actually treating a deficiency vs if you are just trying to prevent your child from developing a deficiency in the first place.
So the best supplement(s) might be:
- a multivitamin with iron – keeping in mine that gummy vitamins typically don’t contain iron, so if your main concern is that your child isn’t getting enough iron, then you should give your child an iron vitamin or a multivitamin with iron. Also low in calcium. Either liquid (infants), chewable, or tablets.
- a multivitamin without iron – keeping in mine that in addition to not containing iron, these types of multivitamins also often don’t contain very much calcium. Often available as liquid (infants), gummies, chewables, and tablets.
- a vitamin D supplement – was your child’s vitamin D level low or do you just think that he doesn’t get enough vitamin D in his diet? These are typically available as liquid, gummies, chewables, and tablets.
- a calcium supplement – These are typically available as gummies, chewables, and tablets.
- a vitamin D supplement combined with calcium – These are typically available as gummies, chewables, and tablets.
- an iron supplement – if your child’s iron was low, then they will likely need an iron supplement, like Feosol, Niferex, or Fer-In-Sol. Either liquid or tablets.
- a fluoride supplement – do you live in an area where the water isn’t fluoridated? Do you use a reverse osmosis system that filters out fluoride? Usually available as a prescription only. Or you can buy ‘baby water’ with added fluoride.
Again, remember that unless your child has already been diagnosed with a deficiency, you can often work to get your kids to eat more foods with these nutrients instead of giving them an extra supplement, including vitamin fortified foods.
Look to you pediatrician and a registered dietician if you need extra help.
More on Which Vitamins Should My Kids Take
- AAP – Where We Stand: Vitamins
- Kids Need Their Nutrients
- Do your kids need vitamins or supplements?
- CDC – Micronutrient Facts
- FDA – Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins
- Does My Child Need A Supplement?
- 4 Infant Supplements to Ask Your Pediatrician About
- How Much Calcium and Vitamin D Does My Child Need?
- AAP – Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Young Children (0–3 Years of Age)
- AAP – Clinical Report—Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Young Children (0–3 Years of Age)
- AAP – Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents
- AAP – Iodine Deficiency, Pollutant Chemicals, and the Thyroid: New Information on an Old Problem
- FDA – Infant Overdose Risk With Liquid Vitamin D
- Dairy Alternatives for Kids Who Won’t – or Can’t – Drink Milk
- Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)
- FDA – Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide: Appendix C. Daily Values for Infants, Children Less Than 4 Years of Age
Last Updated on August 22, 2018 by Vincent Iannelli, MD