The best vitamins for little kids
As your child learns her ABCs, she needs her vitamin A, B, C and more. Pediatricians and nutritionists chime in on the best way for kids to get those all-important vitamins necessary for growth, development and good health.
Do all children need to take a multivitamin? The experts are divided.
Yes, kids should take vitamins
"A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement will provide good insurance for a child," says holistic nutritionist Gail Michalski. "These years are so important and young growing bodies can stand to benefit from this added protection."
Adults can get all they need from eating a good-quality, wholesome diet, but "most kids don't eat this perfect diet," Michalski explains. "Many children eat sugar-laden and nutrient-void foods, and a daily multivitamin will provide a safety net."
"It is possible to get everything you need from whole foods, but we live in a society that doesn't place a strong emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods," says vegan mom and nutrition specialist Rea Frey. "Kids usually don't get all the vitamins they need, and many children spend more time indoors, which requires a vitamin D supplement."
Professional fitness trainer Scott White agrees and says, "Every child should take a multivitamin to help provide additional nutrients. Much of the food we buy now is low-quality, our soil is depleted and we need to provide our children with much better nutrition."
No, kids don't need supplements
"In terms of child nutrition, I always echo those wise words — let food be thy medicine," says nutritionist Erika Herman, author of Eat Like a Fatass, Look Like a Goddess. "Ideally, children should be eating nutrient-dense foods that nourish their bodies in ways that isolated vitamins never could."
Herman explains that food offers a "holistic delivery" that pills cannot. "It takes things like fat from food to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and it takes fat-soluble vitamins to help absorb minerals like calcium and magnesium," explains Herman. "We run into problems and risk decreased effectiveness when we separate food into parts."
"Multivitamins aren't necessary for children who are growing normally," adds fitness expert Kristen James. "Regular meals and snacks can provide all of the nutrients kids need." There are exceptions, James cautions, such as a child who:
- is on a strict vegan diet
- needs to be gluten-free
- suffers from a chronic disease
- has food allergies
- is failing to thrive
Unless your child falls into one of the above categories, "skip the vitamins and focus on well-balanced meals instead," says James.
Dr. Lala Show agrees with James and Herman. "It is not necessary to implement vitamins and supplements to help a child grow," she shares. "On the other hand, if there is a developmental delay, decreased calorie intake or other underlying medical condition, multivitamins may help the child to promote growth and better health."
What makes a multivitamin good?
If you and your child's health care provider agree that a multivitamin is appropriate, you'll want a high-quality product for your child. Michalski offers some very specific criteria for choosing a good multivitamin:
- Look for multivitamins that use whole foods
- Multivitamins should use the correct forms of vitamins and minerals (safe beta carotene instead of vitamin A, for example)
- Iron should be included
- Artificial sugars, flavors, food colorings and preservatives should be excluded
- They should be kid-friendly (i.e. tasty and chewable)
"Our bodies know the difference between a supplement and the real thing," says Frey, "and sometimes our bodies will not process vitamins as well as whole foods, so know what you need to ensure proper absorption of nutrients."
Expert multivitamin recommendations
The pro-vitamin experts have very specific picks from the wealth of multivitamin options out there:
- Nordic Berries by Nordic Naturals (NordicNaturals.com, $24/120-count)
- Kids Vits by Now Foods (Amazon, $12/120-count)
- Kids One Multistars by Rainbow Light (Vitacost.com, $17/90-count)
- Alive! Children's Multi-Vitamin by Nature's Way (VitamineShoppe.com, $13/120-count)
- Source of Life Animal Parade Gold by Nature's Plus (VitaminLife.com, $21/30-ounce liquid)
- Perfect Kids Multi-Vitamin by Super Nutrition (LuckyVitamin.com, $23/240-count)
- alternaVites Kids Powder Packets (alternaVites.com, $16/30-count)