Health, Fitness & Lifestyle Nigeria

Best vitamins for kids: Diet, considerations, and more.

A well-balanced diet provides nutrients essential for children’s growth and development. However, children who eat a limited diet or are less able to absorb or make certain nutrients may need supplements.

This article outlines the vitamins and minerals children need for healthy growth and development and offers advice on how children can acquire these from their diet. It also provides information on when children may need supplements and general tips on nutrition for parents and caregivers.

Essential vitamins and minerals for children 

Two children prepare a salad together which contains some of the best vitamins for kids.
Vitamins and nutrients are important for a child’s growth and development.

Children benefit from a diet that contains all the essential food groups in order to grow strong and healthy. Planning a child’s meal to include all the necessary macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals can give them a healthful start.

Below are some of the essential vitamins and minerals that children need.

Calcium

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adolescents reach 90% of their peak bone mass by age 18 for females and age 20 for males. As such, a child’s diet must contain all the essential nutrients for bone health.

The following micronutrients work with calcium to build healthy bones:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides the following daily calcium requirements for children of different ages:

  • Children aged 1-3: 700 milligrams (mg) per day
  • Children aged 4-8: 1,000 mg per day
  • Children aged 9-18: 1,300 mg per day

Sources

Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good sources of calcium. An 8-ounce glass of milk provides 300 mg of calcium.

Other good sources of calcium include:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to build strong bones and prevents the childhood condition rickets. This condition causes a softening and weakening of the bones.

Children younger than 12 months of age need 400 international units (IU) or 10 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin D each day. Children aged 1–18 years need 600 IU or 15 mcg each day.

Sources

Exposure to sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D3 in the skin. A person then stores the vitamin in their liver and fat cells.

It is not clear how much sun exposure a person requires to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Some researchers suggest that 5–30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week without sunscreen can trigger sufficient vitamin D synthesis.

However, sun exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer. Children should always wear sunscreen to reduce this risk even though it may inhibit vitamin D absorption.

Very few foods contain vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet, with one cup of milk containing 100 IU.

Some food sources of vitamin D include:

  • fortified plant milks, such as almond milksoy milk, and oat milk
  • fortified breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and margarines
  • fatty fish, such as salmontuna, and mackerel
  • fish liver oils

The following foods also contain small amounts of vitamin D:

  • beef liver
  • egg yolks
  • cheese

B vitamins

There are many different types of B vitamins. According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, most B vitamins help the body to release energy from food. As such, they are vital to supporting a child’s energy requirements.

Children also require B vitamins for the following:

  • healthy blood
  • healthy metabolism
  • healthy neurological development
  • healthy skin and eyes

Sources

Children can obtain B vitamins from the following food sources:

  • meat, poultry, and fish
  • milk
  • eggs
  • soy
  • whole grains
  • foods fortified with B vitamins

Iron

Iron helps red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body.

Iron is important throughout all stages of a child’s development. Children between 1–18 years of age need between 7–15 mg of iron per day, depending on their age and sex.

There are two forms of iron: heme and non-heme.

Heme iron

Heme iron is present in animal products, such as:

  • red meats, including beef, pork, and lamb
  • fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • poultry, such as turkey and chicken
  • eggs

Non-heme iron

Plants and fortified food products contain non-heme iron. A person can aid their absorption of non-heme iron by pairing it with foods that are rich in vitamin C.

Sources of non- heme iron include:

  • iron-fortified infant cereals
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • beans and lentils
  • tofu

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the primary nutrients that children need for healthy immune system function and development. It also helps to maintain healthy skin, bones, and blood vessels.

Children require between 15–75 mcg vitamin C per day, depending on their age and sex.

Sources

Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C. Cooking can destroy vitamin C content, so providing a child with a selection of raw foods is beneficial.

Good sources of vitamin C include:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for growth and tissue repair. It also helps support healthy skin and vision.

Children need between 300–900 mcg vitamin A per day, depending on their age and sex.

Sources

Dietary sources of vitamin A include:

  • vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach
  • dairy products
  • liver

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