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Help your kids get more Vitamin D (and why they need it!)

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Protect your kids' bones

You've probably heard of Vitamin D, a nutrient that the body naturally makes with sun exposure. But since people have taken to covering up to avoid the sun's not-so-fun side effects of skin cancer, people are getting less of it. Here's why you need to make sure that your kids get enough and where to get it from.

Boy drinking milk

The body is an amazing thing. It takes in a variety of nutrients and turns them into the building blocks of a healthy, happy body. Among the important vitamins for the body is Vitamin D, which works in concert with other nutrients to ensure that the body runs properly and is strong. Isn't that what everyone wants for their kids?

Vitamin D isn't a nutrient that the body can make itself. Nor is it something that is easily gotten in a variety of natural sources. Here's what you need to know about this important vitamin, how to get it and why your kids need it.

Why Vitamin D?

Everyone - young and old - needs Vitamin D for their bones. However, for children it's also really important since they are growing. "Vitamin D and calcium are important for proper bone development and growth. Without Vitamin D, bone diseases such as Ricketts can develop. Calcium also aids in the body's cellular function. Vitamin D allows for proper absorption and function of the calcium," says Board Certified Pediatrician Dr. Joseph Skoloff of Nova Medical & Urgent Care Center, Inc. in Asburn, Va.

Ricketts is the most common problem with not getting enough Vitamin D, says Nutritionist Jennifer Haas of Nova Medical & Urgent Care Center. "[Ricketts is] poor bone development, so the bone doesn't develop properly [and as a result] kids don't walk properly," says Haas

How much?

So, how much do kids need? The amount of Vitamin D that kids need to consume has risen in recent years thanks to new research. Skoloff says that the current recommendation is that children should get 400 IU of Vitamin D everyday--the equivalent of drinking one quart of milk per day.

Vitamin D in food

Since the body can't just make Vitamin D, your need to get it elsewhere ... but from where?

Milk is fortified with Vitamin D, making it a great source. Some yogurts and orange juice formulas are also fortified with Vitamin D. Other foods like some cereals are also fortified with Vitamin D. Fish like salmon and tuna naturally contain Vitamin D, as do egg yolks.

Get more information here on the new Vitamin D requirements for kids and ways to incorporate it into their diet.

What about vitamins?

If you choose supplements, it's important that you get the right form of Vitamin D, says Haas. People need the active form of Vitamin D, which is Vitamin D3, she said. Vitamin D2 is an inactive form that the body cannot absorb, says Haas.

The problem? Supplements often don't specify which form of Vitamin D they contain. For kids, she says that Poly Vi Sol and Tri Vi Sol are good options, as is the vitamin drop made by Gerber.

What about getting Vitamin D from the sun?

But what about the sun? Skoloff says that while the sun is a good source of Vitamin D, it's not necessarily the best choice. "Because of the connection between exposure to the sun and skin cancer, it is best to limit exposure during the hot summer months to before 10 a.m. and after 2-3 p.m. Sun block should be worn at all times during the summer months, as casual sun exposure can also be harmful down the road. However, you should not apply sun block on infants before the age of 6 months," says Skoloff.

Get tips here on finding the right kind of sunblock for babies, toddlers and kids.

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