From infancy to adolescence, children’s bodies continue to grow and develop, requiring key nutrients for them to be healthy
Certain circumstances might make it difficult for babies, kids, and teens to get all the nutrients they need from breast milk and food
Health problems, poor diet, and lifestyle issues might affect their nutrient intake
Talk to your children’s pediatrician about their specific health concerns, diet and nutritional needs, lifestyle choices and ask if supplements for kids may be helpful with their journey to optimal health
In an ideal world, your kids would get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet. But the reality is, life is messy. Busy families eat on the go, picking up fast food on the way to sports practice. Working parents, tired from a long day on the job, sometimes opt for “fast and convenient” at the expense of “balanced and nutritious.” And, much to everyone’s dismay, at least one picky-eater exists in almost every family.
Can you relate?
All this might make you wonder if your growing children get the daily nutrients they need for normal, healthy development. Should you consider vitamins for kids?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “dietary supplement use is fairly prevalent among U.S. children and adolescents and contributes to overall total nutrient intake,” with roughly one-third of kids and teens taking supplements.1 You yourself might even be considering supplements for kids.
Should I Give My Child Vitamins?
The official stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that “healthy children receiving a normal, well-balanced diet do not need vitamin supplementation over and above the recommended dietary allowances.”2
However, what if children aren’t healthy or don’t eat a well-balanced diet? Supplements including vitamins for kids might be a good idea in certain circumstances. For instance, children with celiac disease may have trouble absorbing some essential nutrients, such as Vitamin D. Children who eat a vegan diet (one that includes no animal products), might be missing key nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, some B vitamins (B2, B12), calcium, iron, and zinc.3 Children who follow a typical American diet might not eat enough of certain foods (such as inadequate amount of meat, seafood, dairy, fruits, or vegetables), as research shows diets of U.S. children remain poor for most kids.4 Supplements for kids can help fill in nutritional gaps that may exist in their diet.
So, what vitamins do kids need? It’s important to consider the essential vitamins and minerals, from A to Zinc!
What Age Should Kids Start Taking Vitamins?
Do one-year-olds need vitamins? Should my seven-year-old take vitamins? How about teens? It’s always best to get nutrients from food. However, as mentioned above, certain circumstance might warrant the need for supplements. The best vitamins for toddlers are those specifically designed for toddlers. Why? Because children’s nutrient needs vary, depending on a variety of factors such as age, sex, size, growth, and activity level. Here’s an overview of specific vitamins that children of all ages may not get enough of.
Vitamins for Infants and Children
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, aids in supporting healthy teeth and bones, and plays an important role in immune and muscle health. Although the body obtains Vitamin D by absorbing sunlight, babies and children need to be protected when they’re outside. They should either be kept out of direct sun or wear sunscreen to decrease the risk of developing skin cancer. While wearing sunscreen protects their skin, it impedes their ability to get Vitamin D from the sun. The AAP recommends a daily minimum intake of 400 IU of Vitamin D starting soon after birth.3 Formula-fed infants may likely get what they need; but babies who are breastfeed most likely need supplemental Vitamin D drops. 5, 6 Toddlers and older children may get some vitamin D from foods that contain vitamin D or are fortified, however, a supplement may need to continue through these years to ensure they are getting enough. Research estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are vitamin D deficient and that 60 percent of children may have suboptimal levels of vitamin D. 7
Food sources of Vitamin D: Fatty fish (think mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna) and fish liver oils, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, plus Vitamin D-fortified foods (such as cereal, milk and orange juice)6
Vitamin D Requirements (National Institutes of Health) 8
Recommended Amount of Vitamin D
Birth to 12 months
10 mcg (400 IU)
Children 1–13 years
15 mcg (600 IU)
Teens 14–18 years
15 mcg (600 IU)
Iron plays an important role in the body’s growth and development and helps transport oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. During the third trimester, babies receive enough iron from mom to last for the first four months of life. The AAP recommends giving breastfed infants 1 mg/day of a liquid iron supplement until you introduce iron-rich solid foods into their diet at about six months old. For formula-fed babies, make sure you choose formula that contains 4-12 mg of iron.3
Food sources of Iron: lean meat, seafood, poultry, beans (white, kidney), lentils, spinach, peas, nuts, some dried fruits (raisins) and iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and bread 11
Iron Requirements (National Institutes of Health)9
In industrialized nations like the U.S., teens are increasingly consuming nutrient-poor diets filled with fast food, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Studies show that many teens don’t come close to meeting daily requirements for fruits, vegetables, and milk, increasing their risk for nutrient deficiencies.12 In fact, many adolescents are low in key nutrients (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber), causing concern by the USDA.13
Vitamin D continues to play an important role in your still-developing teen’s body. For that reason, the AAP recommends a daily dose of 600 IU of iron for older children, adolescents, and teens.14
Calcium is essential to bone health and strong teeth.
Fiber helps support a healthy gut.
Iron supports muscle-building (especially during a teen’s growth and development), and adolescents require a bit more iron during puberty than younger children (11-15 mg/day for teens ages 14-18 vs 8-10mg/day for children ages 4-13)12, 15
Magnesium assists in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body—from supporting nerve function to regulating muscle function to maintaining bone density.
Potassium supports your body’s heart, muscle, and nerve functions.
Due to the varying quantities of different nutrient needs at different ages, kids multivitamins make sense, as do supplements designed specifically for teens.
Do infants and toddlers get enough vitamins? What vitamins do children need? And what kind of vitamins should a teenager take? While there are general recommendations (breastfed babies might need supplemental Vitamin D, teens need more iron during puberty), it often comes down to your children’s specific health goals, diet, and lifestyle. Our selection of vitamins for kids can help make it easier for your child to get their daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Your best bet is to talk about their diet and nutritional needs/requirements, health and lifestyle goals with a Registered Dietitian and/or their pediatrician.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.