Healthy kids do not need vitamins! Right? Fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins are indeed great sources of the nutrients kids need. But when it comes to growing bodies and developing brains, there can be an important difference between getting enough of some nutrients and getting too little. And sometimes healthy food alone is just not enough for kids to get what they need.
While the new “for kids” vitamins and supplements are cute, they may not make sense nutritionally. With all the claims out there, it is hard to decipher fact from fiction. So what vitamins are essential for kids? Let us look at what we eat vs what vitamins & minerals kids may need to be healthy.
Vitamins for kids are not always needed; that is if you are a healthy kid. Getting what you need from a balanced diet of nutritious foods, coupled with exercise, provides the most benefits for your growing body. However, some kids may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need from diet alone. If so, it is an easy fix: simply take a daily multivitamin.
The nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk, cheese, and yogurt can provide important vitamins and minerals, but if your child is a picky eater, it is best to find out if your child needs a vitamin supplement.
Do Kids Need Vitamin Supplements?
Even the most nutritious diets leave out vitamins and minerals found in abundance in whole grain slices of bread, cereals, fruits, and veggies. But which kids need supplements, given the reality of time-crunched parents, those well-rounded home-cooked meals are not always possible?
- Your child must get the proper nutrition to meet his or her unique needs. Kids who are not eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods and/or kids who get little daily exercise are more likely to have vitamin deficiencies. That is why it is recommended that young children take vitamins designed for their age group, whether the vitamins are in table form or chewable form. Adults should also take a multivitamin formulated for adults.
- Younger kids need the same nutritious foods as adults, but they only eat about half of what adults consume. Their smaller stomach capacities, smaller bodies, and growing bone and muscle masses mean many do not get the nutrients they need. If your child is a finicky eater who simply is not eating enough, chances are he or she may be suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency.
- If you are the parent of a child with one or more chronic medical conditions—such as asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, the flu, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or colitis—you may have heard conflicting information about whether your child needs a daily vitamin supplement.
- Children who eat a lot of processed food and fast food are more likely to need vitamin supplements. A well-balanced diet, however, should keep most kids well-nourished.
- Children who grow up on restricted diets (a vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free diet) might not get enough of the vitamins and minerals that their bodies need to grow. In many cases, a vitamin or mineral supplement can be a helpful addition to your child’s diet.
- Vitamin supplements can help fill those nutritional gaps by offering essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and calcium. For example, children who drink a lot of carbonated sodas sometimes suffer from vitamin leaching—all that fizz is taking something out of kids’ bodies (they are still good for you though). Our kids’ multivitamins support a healthy immune system and promote overall growth and development.
Vitamins and Minerals for Kids
Let us face it. kids are constantly growing, and they need a lot of nutrients to support healthy development. So, what are the top vitamins and minerals that kids need to have plenty of?
- Vitamin A keeps your children healthy, strong, and beautiful. Top sources include milk, cheese, and orange vegetables like carrots and squash.
- B vitamins help your body convert the food you eat into energy. They are also essential for healthy skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soybeans. Vitamin B2, otherwise known as riboflavin, is found in spinach and dairy products like milk and cheese. It helps you digest food and heal wounds and helps make the pigment in your red blood cells that carry oxygen through your body. Riboflavin is a healthy addition to any diet!
- Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin. Good sources include citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli.
- Calcium is an essential mineral for the growth and development of healthy bones, teeth, and soft tissues. While it might be associated with dairy foods, the best sources of this nutrient are fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Getting plenty of vitamin D is key to a strong skeleton; the best source of this vitamin is sunlight.
- Calcium is important for your growing child’s body. The best sources of calcium are low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Tofu and products made from it contain calcium too. Calcium-fortified orange juice also provides this nutrient.
- Want to build muscle, aid in healing, and help keep anemia at bay? Then the iron is your ingredient of choice. A lack of iron can result in anemia, which can compromise the health and performance of about every athlete. Iron deficiency is especially common among women because they lose blood during menstruation. Eating meat is a great way to get more iron into your diet. Just remember that too much iron can be harmful. Athletes should limit their intake of certain types of red meats and seek nutrition advice before taking supplements.
- Do not overdo those vitamins for your kids. Megavitamins are large doses of vitamins. Do not give them to kids. The fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if kids get too much of them. Ditto with iron.
Add Fresh Foods to your Cart for the Best Vitamins
Fresh foods deliver top-quality vitamins, so kids can grow up strong. Plan to fill small hands with fresh-tasting fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. And the best place to start? At the beginning of every week, with a trip to your grocery store’s produce section.
Serving a wide variety of whole foods is one of the best ways of ensuring good nutrition for your kids. This means that you should avoid fast food and convenience foods, and instead serve up meals made with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. By far the most vitamin-rich foods available are fresh fruits and vegetables — so by serving more of these each day, you give your children all they need to reach–and even surpass–their daily nutrient needs.
Aim for more variety, not simply more food, when packing meals for your kid. The portions of their foods should not be bigger than the serving sizes listed on the packaging. It is important to give your kid enough vitamins, so aim to offer a variety of food in smaller portions, such as half of a cup of pasta or a quarter cup of rice.
Emphasize different foods in your child’s diet — both foods you want to encourage and those you want to avoid — throughout the day. Instead of a big meal or sugary snack, serve a small one so he can have four small meals or healthy snacks instead of two big ones.
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