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Do Kids Need to Take Vitamins?

June 2, 2021 • Our Blog • General Health
Do Kids Need to Take Vitamins?
Children usually get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet, but sometimes taking a vitamin is necessary. Learn when.  With so many vitamins aimed at kids flooding the market, it’s natural for parents to wonder whether they need to start supplementing their child’s diet. Maybe they don’t need to take specific vitamins, but surely they should be taking some of those fun, colorful multivitamins, right?  Actually, no. While there’s no harm in giving your child vitamins, in the vast majority of cases, they’re not necessary. Read on to learn why kids don’t usually need to take vitamins — and which situations might actually necessitate some vitamin supplements. 

Do Kids Need to Take Vitamins in General?

In general, kids who eat a healthy, balanced diet get all the nutrients they need from their food. That means they have no need for vitamin supplements, which can quickly turn into an expensive waste of money for parents.  That’s not to say that kids don’t need vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. In fact, they need the same nutrients that adults do. They simply need a smaller amount of them, which makes it easier to get all they need from their food.  As kids grow, they need nutrients that help build strong bones, such as calcium and vitamin D. They also need sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, iodine, choline, and vitamins A, B6 (folate), B12, and D for crucial brain development. These can all be easily attained through a healthy diet. Even knowing that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans don’t recommend supplements over and above the recommended dietary allowances for healthy children who eat a balanced diet, some parents still want to give their kids vitamins as an insurance policy. That’s perfectly fine — especially if your pediatrician has okayed it — but if you choose to do so, you need to make sure you’re giving your child a vitamin formulated for their age group and that they never take more than the proper dosage. 

Situations Where Kids May Need Vitamins

While most kids get enough nutrients from their diets, there are some situations where children may need to take supplemental vitamins. Those situations are:   
  • Breastfed babies: Unlike formula, breast milk is not fortified with Vitamin D, which is critically important for bone growth and other body processes. Doctors will likely recommend some form of vitamin to ensure breastfed babies get the Vitamin D they need.
  • Children with plant-based diets: Children following vegan or vegetarian diets may not be getting all the nutrients they need for healthy growth. While it’s possible to get all your necessary nutrients from a plant-based diet, it can be hard to get kids to eat the foods that carry those nutrients in the quantities necessary to keep them healthy. Iron in particular can be hard to come by naturally in these diets.
  • Children with conditions or medications that put them at risk of nutritional deficiencies: Some children have conditions that make absorbing nutrients difficult. Some also take medications that require vitamin supplementation. Children with these conditions or taking these medications will likely need to take vitamins in addition to eating a balanced diet.
  • Children with very restricted diets: Children who are extremely picky eaters, such as those who refuse to eat a fruit or vegetable or who will only eat things like pasta or chicken nuggets, may need to supplement their diet with vitamins. While a vitamin isn’t a replacement for a balanced diet, it can help prevent nutritional deficiencies while you work with a doctor to expand your child’s diet. 
 

Knowing When to Give Your Child Vitamins

If your child falls into one of the cases described above, they may benefit from taking a vitamin. Before you start giving your child any supplements, though, it’s important that you first speak to a doctor.  At Kids’ Health, a leading pediatric clinic in Beverly, Massachusetts, our pediatricians can help parents determine if their children need vitamins — and what vitamins they should be taking if they do. Call us or reach out online to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment to discuss vitamins today....