Vitamins: To give or not to give?
Vitamins for toddlers: Yes? No? What to look out? I answer all these pressing questions and more with Darren Litt (DL), founder of Hiya vitamins for kids and Dr. Breanne Pacheco (BP), pediatrician.
Q: Do kids need vitamins? Or can they get what they need through diet? BP: The official pediatrician answer to this is that children who are receiving a normal, well-balanced diet do not need vitamin supplementation. Many of the common foods that we give our children are fortified to help supplement common vitamins like B, D, calcium and iron (for e.g.: milk, orange juice and cereal).
The hard answer is that every child is different, every child eats differently, and there are going to be some children who would benefit from supplementation.
My doctor-mom feeling is that if you are ever concerned that your child isn’t getting enough: 1) talk to your pediatrician, 2) a multivitamin used as directed certainly doesn’t hurt, and 3) strive to offer your children a healthy selection of food and generally, they should get what they need.
DL: As Dr. Pacheco states, a child can get the nutrition they need with a balanced diet, yet unfortunately, we all know kids can be picky eaters. And as modern parents with lots of stress, we can't always expect this nutritional focus to be a reality.
Fortunately, vitamins, especially the right vitamins, help fill in the gaps and provide peace of mind, especially at an age when kids are rapidly developing.
Q: What are some things to avoid in vitamins for kids? What are some things to look out for? DL: Number one to avoid is sugar. The average children's vitamin has two teaspoons of sugar, which is the equivalent of handful of Skittles - given by choice each and every day. Stay away from any vitamin with added sugar.
Next to avoid are gummies themselves. Gummies are often filled with synthetic junk and ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. Always gravitate towards chewables, not gummies.
Next look at the daily percentages. Generally speaking, the percentages should be above 25% yet less than 100% of the daily value of vitamins and minerals.
Last, I always suggest reading the ingredients. If the ingredients come from real food and names you can pronounce, then it's likely a solid option where the vitamin company is on your end.
BP: If your child’s doctor recommends a multivitamin, choose one that is specifically made for your child’s age group.
The ER physician in me has to add the following: as with any medication, keep vitamins out of reach of children, make sure they are in childproof containers, and talk to your kids so that they know vitamins aren’t candy. Multivitamins are not without risks - overdoses/megadoses can be toxic.
Q: Are there certain preferred brands that create a better product? DL: Frankly most brands are created by massive vitamin companies that have one goal - selling the most vitamins. They are happy pushing candy in disguise that they think will help them sell more vitamins.
At Hiya, we are reimagining children's health offering a better experience by collaborating with leading pediatricians and nutritionists to create a smarter children's vitamin with no sugar and no gummy junk.
Q: Which vitamins are kids particularly lacking? BP: Vitamin D may be the one caveat to the idea that most kids get what they need in their diet. Infants under 12 months require 400 International Units (IU) per day and older children and adolescents require 600 IU per day. Breastfed babies definitely need supplementation, and formula fed infants who get less than 32 ounces of formula a day also need supplementation. Studies also show that most older children do not get enough vitamin D from just the milk that they drink.
A multivitamin might also be helpful if your child has a delay in physical or developmental growth, has a chronic disease, has food allergies, or has a restrictive diet such as vegetarian or vegan.
Q: Anything else to bear in mind when shopping for vitamins for kids? BP: The American Academy of Pediatrics has a website - healthychildren.org - which has evidence-based information about common pediatric issues and can be a great resource. When it comes to vitamins specifically, I love Stanford Children’s Health website “Kids Need Their Nutrients.” It has great information and provides more information about specific vitamins/minerals to help parents target what might be missing in a child’s diet.