If you read this blog, you know I can't seem to decide whether to give my kids vitamins. There is so much information on both sides of the argument. Here's the latest version from About.com to help you make an informed decision.
Most children do not need supplemental vitamins or minerals. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a diet based on the Food Guide Pyramid provides adequate amounts of all the vitamins a child needs. Still, there are situations where children's vitamins are necessary, especially if your child is a very picky eater or has a poor diet, that doesn't include a lot of iron rich foods. Some vegetarians may also need vitamins to meet all of their nutritional needs.(My son hates veggies, so I am confident he is missing some nutrients, but then again he eats a ton of fruit. I just don't know. I think I need a vitamin test or something.)
According to new AAP recommendations, exclusively breastfed infants should receive 200 IU of Vitamin D each day. Older children who don't drink at least 500ml (about 17 ounces) of Vitamin D fortified milk will also need Vitamin D supplements if they don't get regular sunlight exposure.
Children and adolescents need the mineral iron to prevent anemia. Those most at risk of iron deficiency are infants who are not given extra iron after six months of age (usually in the form of an iron fortified infant cereal), and babies who drink low-iron formula, cow's milk or goats milk. Good sources or iron include meats, fish, legumes, and fortified foods, such as breads and cereals. Adolescent girls are also at risk of anemia once they begin having their periods.
Calcium is another important mineral, and it is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Children who drink milk and eat dairy products, such as yogurt, ice cream and cheese, usually get enough calcium from their diet. Children with milk allergies or who just don't like milk are a little more of a challenge to meet these requirements, but it is still easy if you find other foods high in calcium, such as calcium fortified orange juice. Vitamins, even those with extra calcium, generally only have about 200mg, or 20% of daily requirements, so you usually also need to supplement these vitamins with foods labeled 'High in Calcium'.
Most children get enough fluoride to build healthy teeth if they are drinking fluoridated water, either from tap water in a city that adds fluoride to the water, or bottled water that also has added fluoride. Since too much fluoride can cause staining of your child's teeth, talk with your Pediatrician or Dentist before giving your child fluoride supplements.
Multivitamins for infants are available as drops and usually contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. They may also have added iron and other vitamins and minerals, such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin E.
Multivitamins for older children are usually given as a chewable tablet. Finding your child's favorite character may make taking vitamins easy and fun.
Keep in mind that many 'complete' multivitamins do not have all of the recommended amounts of the vitamins and minerals that your child needs each day and most don't have enough calcium.
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