What are Multivitamins for Children?
Children are notoriously picky eaters and making sure they get all the nutrients their growing bodies need can be a challenge—especially if they insist on a diet of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. A multivitamin can help fill nutritional gaps and provide reassurance to worried parents. The sheer number of children’s multivitamins available and their varying ingredient lists can be overwhelming. To identify the best children’s multivitamins for 2022, the Forbes Health editorial team consulted a panel of experts who shared their top picks and why they recommend them. Star ratings were determined solely by the editorial team, based on user satisfaction and cost.
Which Kids Need Vitamin Supplements?
Given the reality of time-crunched parents, those well-rounded, home-cooked meals aren’t always possible. That’s why pediatricians may recommend a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement for:
- Kids who aren’t eating regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods
- Finicky eaters who simply aren’t eating enough
- Kids with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems, especially if they’re taking medications. (Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor before starting a supplement if your child is on medication.)
- Kids eating a lot of fast food, convenience food, and processed food
- Kids on a vegetarian or a vegan diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need a calcium supplement), or other restricted diet
- Kids who drink a lot of carbonated sodas, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies
Top Six Vitamins and Minerals for Kids
In the alphabet soup of vitamins and minerals, a few stand out as critical for growing kids.
- Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development; tissue and bone repair; and healthy skin, eyes, and immune responses. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow-to-orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.
- Vitamin B. The family of B vitamins — B2, B3, B6, and B12 — aid metabolism, energy production, and healthy circulatory and nervous systems. Good sources include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and soybeans.
- promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin. Good sources include citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli.
- promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Good sources include milk and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight.
- Calcium helps build strong bones as a child grows. Good sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
- Iron builds muscle and is essential to healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency is a risk in adolescence, especially for girls once they begin to menstruate. Good sources include beef and other red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.
Megavitamins — large doses of vitamins — aren’t a good idea for children. The fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) can be toxic if kids get too much of them. Ditto with iron. Your kids can get too much of a good thing.
Look to Fresh Foods for the Best Vitamins
Healthy kids get their best start from what you put in your grocery cart. Good nutrition starts by serving a wide variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible. That’s far better than serving up fast food or convenience food — and hoping that taking a kids’ vitamin will undo any nutritional no-no’s. You’ll find the most vitamins and minerals in foods high in carbohydrates and proteins (rather than fats). By far, the most high-vitamin foods of all are fresh fruits and vegetables. To give kids more vitamins, aim for more variety — not simply more food. Twice as many kids today are overweight than just 2 decades ago, so use kid-sized food portions, which are one-quarter to one-third the size of adult portions.
Vitamins and Healthy Kids: Five Tips
If you do give vitamins to your kids, follow these tips:
- Put vitamins away, well out of reach of children, so they don’t treat them like candy.
- Try not to battle over foods with your kids or use desserts as a bribe to “clean your plate.” Instead, give your child a chewable vitamin after the meal. Fat-soluble vitamins can only be absorbed with food.
- If child is taking any medication, be sure to ask child’s doctor about any drug interactions with certain vitamins or minerals. Then the supplement won’t boost or lower the medication dose.
- Try a chewable vitamin if your child won’t take a pill or liquid supplement.
- Consider waiting until a child reaches age 4 to start giving a multivitamin supplement unless child’s doctor suggests otherwise.
Sound nutrition plays a role in child’s learning and development. So, rather than relying on cartoon characters selling supplements, commit to feeding a range of healthy foods for kids.