It’s hard to avoid seeing the ads or reading about the supposed benefits: boosting the immune system, providing extra energy, making bones stronger. But are multivitamins really that necessary?
It’s a topic that has been debated back and forth by nutrition experts for years, and the back-and-forth debate confuses a lot of parents, especially the ones who have picky eaters at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics stand firm on their position about multivitamins, though: most kids do not need vitamin supplements.
But to be clear, all children need vitamins and minerals. Children use these nutrients to keep their growing bodies healthy, and specifically for the regulation of body processes and the building of new cells. But an extra boost that comes in the form of cartoon character-shaped capsules or chewy candies are not always necessary.
If the child eats a variety of foods from the essential food groups every day, they will get the vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that they need, without adding a supplement to the mix.
Essential vitamins and minerals for toddlers
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take huge amounts of superfoods to get kids the vitamins and minerals they need every day – in fact, fairly limited amounts of healthy-but-ordinary foods can usually get toddlers and young children all the nutrients they need. For example, a 100 gram (3/4 cup) serving of chopped raw carrots contains more than 16,000 IU of Vitamin A. A healthy toddler only needs 1,000 IU per day!
Below is a list of the most important vitamins and minerals a growing child needs, as well as the recommended daily dose, and foods that are great sources of those nutrients.
Vitamin A (1,000 IU) – broccoli, sweet potato, carrots
Vitamin D (400 IU) – egg yolk, fortified cereals, fortified milk
Vitamin E (9 IU) – peanuts, spinach
Vitamin K (30 mcg) – green leafy vegetables
Vitamin B Complex
- Thiamine (0.5 mg) – Pork, egg yolk
- Riboflavin (0.6 mg) – yogurt, milk
- Niacin (9 mg) – peanuts, chicken breast
- B6 (0.3 mg) – pork, eggs, chicken
- B12 (3 mcg) – egg yolk, beef
- Folic Acid (100 mcg) – asparagus, broccoli
Vitamin C (15 mg) – mango, strawberries, pineapple
Calcium (700 mg) – milk, cheese
Phosphorus (460 mg) – milk, meats
Magnesium (80 mg) – nuts, green leafy vegetables
Iron (7 mg) – nuts, fortified cereals, fish, meats
Potassium (3 g) – meats, sweet potato, yogurt
Zinc (5 mg) – red meat, eggs, seafood
When are multivitamin supplements necessary?
Multivitamin supplements may be convenient, but they cannot replace a well-balanced diet. The name says it all: it’s a vitamin supplement – which means it’s designed to enhance what is already in place. They can’t be used instead of a healthy, balanced diet.
That said, there are certain cases when multivitamin supplements are needed, or very helpful. If a pediatrician has diagnosed a child with a vitamin or mineral deficiency, the doctor may prescribe a vitamin or mineral supplement in order to fulfill the daily dosage needed.
In any case, it’s important to check in with your child’s pediatrician first before giving them multivitamins.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Niacin.”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/niacin–niacinamide/dosing/hrb-20059838.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Thiamine.”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/thiamine/dosing/hrb-20060129.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin A (retinol).”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-a/dosing/hrb-20060201 .
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-b6/dosing/hrb-20058788.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin B12.”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-b12/dosing/hrb-20060243.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-c/dosing/hrb-20060322.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin D.”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-d/dosing/hrb-20060400.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin E.”Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 1 2013. Retrieved July 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-e/dosing/hrb-20060476.
- “A Vitamin a Day.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 28 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/nutrition-fitness/Pages/A-Vitamin-a-Day.aspx.
- “Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheets.” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. USA.gov. Retrieved July 28 2017. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-VitaminsMinerals/.
“Where We Stand: Vitamins.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 28 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Vitamins.aspx.