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Do Kids Really Need Vitamins?

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Do kids need to take a daily multivitamin? The answer is not necessarily.

Our bodies need minerals and vitamins to function normally. In most cases, a well-balanced diet can meet our nutritional needs. Children that have a regular and well-balanced diet probably do not need vitamin supplementation. However, there are some situations in which your pediatrician may encourage a daily supplement. These instances may include if your child is on a restricted diet or is allergic to major sources of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and B12 vitamins. The bottom line is that if your child is simply a picky eater, he or she may still be meeting their baseline daily nutritional needs.

Children should eat a variety of foods from all five food groups. About half of a child’s plate at each mealtime should be fruits and vegetables. One excellent resource for mealtime recommendations is This website has plenty of tips for making healthy choices with your family, including recipes for well-balanced meals. There are also age-appropriate sections of the website that can help your child learn about healthy eating.

What Vitamins Do My Kids Need in Their Diets?

Two of the most critical vitamins and minerals for growing bodies are vitamin D and iron. Good sources of Vitamin D include tuna, eggs, cow’s milk, mushrooms and salmon. Red meat, poultry, fatty fish and eggs are good sources of heme iron, a type of iron that is most commonly found in animal products. Other sources of iron include beans, lentils, tofu and dark green and leafy vegetables, which should be paired with foods high in vitamin C to help aid absorption.

When Do My Kids Need a Multivitamin?

There are some instances in which your pediatrician may recommend a daily vitamin. Exclusively breastfed babies should take a vitamin D supplement through 12 months of age to ensure they are getting 400 international units of vitamin D a day. Liquid vitamin D formulations for infants are available over the counter in the baby section of most grocery stores.

Once breastfed babies start on solid foods (around six months of age) they will need iron-fortified meals at least twice a day. Good choices are iron-fortified cereals, high-iron pureed vegetables or meats. Vitamin D and iron are added to infant formula which means that formula-fed babies do not need vitamin D or iron supplementation. Whether breast or formula-fed, premature babies have more extensive nutritional requirements and often need vitamins added to their diets.

Speak with your pediatrician about the need for a daily vitamin if your child has limited vegetable and fruit intake, is on a special or restricted diet or has a chronic illness. Children who are lactose intolerant may need to supplement their diets with extra calcium and vitamin D. Children who eat a vegan diet (no meat, eggs, or dairy) might require additional B12 and vitamin D. There are several different forms of vitamins available for children who are not able to swallow pills, including liquid and chewable forms.

It is essential to remember that vitamins are medicine. If taken in large quantities vitamins can cause side effects, including life-threatening illnesses. Overdoses of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can be particularly dangerous. Gummy and chewable vitamins can easily be confused with candy, leading to accidental vitamin overdoses. Be sure to keep any vitamins and all other medications out of reach of children and stored in a bottle with a child safety cap. If an overdose occurs or is suspected, call poison control and seek medical treatment right away.

Editors note: This article was originally published on March 24, 2015. 

Helping Kids Be Their Healthiest Selves. Find an Ochsner pediatrician near you.

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