Parents are often concerned about the types or quantities of food that their child is eating. A common solution is to give the child a multivitamin to compensate for what they are not getting through diet. However, is this the best solution?

Vitamins are needed for proper growth and development. They are made by plants and animals. In general, food is the best place to get the vitamins and minerals that a child needs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, important

vitamins and their food sources are:

  • Vitamin A: yellow veggies, dairy products, liver

  • B Vitamins: meats (liver, poultry, fish), soy beans, milk, eggs, whole grains, enriched breads and cereals

  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli

  • Vitamin D: fortified dairy, fish oils, fortified margarine, egg yolks, sunlight (which triggers the body to produce its own vitamin D)

  • Vitamin E: spinach, greens, almonds, papaya, kiwi fruit, red bell peppers, broccoli, olive oil, wheat

  • Vitamin K: greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green onions, cabbage, asparagus, peas, okra, plums

Parents often do not realize how many nutrients their children receive from fortified foods. There are some conditions and diets for which a doctor will prescribe a multivitamin. Often, exclusively breastfed babies are given vitamin D supplements because they are not getting it through formula or milk.

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association finds that older children who take a multivitamin have a higher intake of most food groups but eat lower saturated fats. These children are more likely to be physically active, and they are less likely to be overweight. They also are less likely to smoke and less likely to watch more than one hour of television a day.

Vitamins in a child's diet are important for overall health. However, what are the benefits of each individual vitamin? Understanding how the vitamins affect the body will help parents make educated decisions about supplementing their child's diet or about altering the diet to boost vitamin intake. Kidshealth suggests these vitamins as being some of the most important.

  • Vitamin A: eye health, immune system, cell growth, healthy skin

  • Vitamin B: nerve cell function, making red blood cells, brain function, converting carbohydrates to energy, heart, vision, muscle function and making DNA

  • Vitamin C: healthy bones, teeth, gums, blood vessels, brain function, wound healing

  • Vitamin D: strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium

  • Vitamin E: healthy red blood cells, protects cells from damage

  • Vitamin K: helps blood to clot

Even though vitamins help the body to grow and to function and help the cells and organs to do their jobs, vitamin supplements should not take the place of a healthy diet. Vitamins are usually safe to use but they are a drug. When they are given in too large a quantity, they can be toxic. As a parent, educate yourself about health needs and requirements, dietary needs and supplements. Armed with your new knowledge you can make a decision that you feel is best for you and your child.

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