8 Top Sources of Vitamin A for Children
  /   Dr. John Snow

8 Top Sources of Vitamin A for Children

Although there are some very fortunate parents whose children are happy to eat a wide variety of foods, many parents have a tough time with picky eaters. A lot of kids have a natural aversion to nutritious whole foods like fruits and vegetables. These foods are the primary source of vitamins in a standard diet and are necessary for overall health, but they can be a tough sell for picky eaters who aren’t yet familiar with the taste and feel.

Vitamin A, a necessary nutrient, is even more important for growing children. Here’s what parents need to know about helping children meet their recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. From fun and tasty food sources to vitamin A supplements, helping your child get enough of this fat-soluble vitamin will be a breeze.

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a necessary nutrient that naturally occurs in many foods. The body can’t make vitamin A on its own, but it can use similar naturally occurring compounds or nutrients to form vitamin A. You can only get vitamin A through food or dietary supplements — but it is pretty easy to find in kid-friendly foods!

Vitamin A is also called retinol, retinoic acid, or retinyl acetate. Beta-carotene is a form of provitamin A, which means your body converts it into vitamin A during digestion. Retinyl palmitate is called preformed vitamin A because your body can use it immediately.

Some vitamins are fat soluble. Excess vitamin A can be stored in body fat and accessed by the body when needed. If you don’t meet your vitamin A requirements every single day, it’s usually not a problem. Your body makes a backup stash it can pull from if you’re getting sufficient vitamin A most of the time.

What Does Vitamin A Do?

Vitamin A is crucially important for everyone, but it plays a special role in early childhood growth and development. Here’s a closer look at why getting enough vitamin A is so important.

Supports Eye Health

Vitamin A is necessary for the function of the human eye. The body makes pigments that help the eye see the full spectrum of color, and without vitamin A, you could experience night blindness.

Supports Healthy Cells

Beta carotene is very versatile in the human body — if it isn’t converted into vitamin A, it remains in the body as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help keep your healthy cells in tip-top shape by working to support them during exposure to free radicals and oxidative stress.

Supports Skin Health

Vitamin A is one of the vitamins necessary for maintaining skin health. Many topical skin preparations contain retinol, a form of vitamin A that works to support skin’s elasticity and combat blemishes. 

Supports Immune Function

Your immune system must constantly create cells to stay strong. Some cells die in the fight against harmful cells, and if new cells don’t come in to replace them quickly enough, your immune system weakens. Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining the proper development of new cells. Your immune system needs vitamin A to keep its army of protective cells strong and healthy.

Supports Reproductive Health

Your child’s reproductive system is still developing, and vitamin A helps the body create the cells it needs to advance the development of the reproductive system. This becomes even more crucial as your child nears puberty. 

Supports Healthy Growth and Development

One of the most important things vitamin A does is help to create the cells that the human body needs to maintain organs and systems. The body creates a tremendous amount of cells during growth and development.

Your child’s body will continue to grow and develop until the ages of 16 to 18. During this time, a vitamin A deficiency can be especially risky. A growing child’s body is a cell factory that runs on nutrition to reach its full potential, and the body needs to be able to manufacture an astronomical amount of cells. 

How Much Vitamin A Does My Child Need?

Vitamin A can be measured in two ways. The first way is through international units (IU), which is the unit of measurement that organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) use to measure active retinol. The second way to measure vitamin A is in micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE). Micrograms refer to the amount of vitamin A someone consumes.

Retinol activity equivalents refer to the amount of a substance similar to vitamin A (like beta carotene) a food or supplement contains:

  • Children one to three years old generally need 1,000 IU (or 300 mcg RAE) of vitamin A per day
  • Children four years old and older typically need 1,333 IU (or 400 mcg RAE) of vitamin A per day

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency is very rare in the United States, and most children get enough vitamin A through their regular diet, including fortified foods like bread, milk, and cereal. This means that if your kids are eating plenty of bread and cheese, they’re probably in the clear — but it’s still best to rely on your pediatrician’s advice.

Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries is also on the decline due to modified and fortified crops like golden rice. 

Most symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are more likely to manifest later in life, like night blindness, progressive blindness (xerophthalmia), macular degeneration, and infertility. 

Children with vitamin A deficiency may experience dry skin or delayed growth and development. Delayed growth and development is a severe and dangerous symptom, but most healthcare providers are able to catch the signs early on. 

What Are the Top Sources of Vitamin A for Children?

Good sources of vitamin A aren’t very hard to come by. Any naturally orange food contains vitamin A. Beta carotene, the naturally occurring antioxidant pigment that gives fruits and vegetables an orange color, is converted into vitamin A by the body. It’s time to add more color to your child’s plate. 

1. Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are good sources of vitamin A. Kale is especially high in vitamin A, with one-fourth of a cup of cooked kale clocking in at 5,000 IU of vitamin A. With such high levels of vitamin A, your child could meet their daily requirements with just a tablespoon of cooked kale. 

2. Sweet Potatoes

If your child likes fries or tots, swapping from white potatoes to sweet potatoes is a very easy solution. A small one-fourth cup serving of cooked sweet potato contains nearly 13,000 IU of vitamin A, which is 13 times your child’s daily intake. 

It’s easy to incorporate a serving of sweet potatoes into at least one meal every day. Sweet potato hash browns, air fryer fries or tots, baked sweet potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes are all easy side dishes that pair perfectly with almost any meal.

3. Carrots

A single baby carrot contains enough vitamin A to meet your child’s daily needs. If your child won’t eat carrots, try adding a splash of carrot juice to a fruit smoothie. Carrots have a very neutral flavor that’s easily overtaken by other tastes, like banana or strawberry, meaning your picky eater won’t even notice something is different. 

4. Eggs

Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse. The yolk of an egg is designed by nature to support life, growth, and development. It’s rich in a laundry list of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A. Scrambled eggs are an easy, light, wholesome breakfast that can meet a wide variety of nutritional needs. 

5. Fortified Dairy Products

Most dairy milk in the United States is fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A. Dairy milk has been fortified for decades, since experts recommended that vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin D) be added to stave off childhood deficiencies. If your household uses dairy milk and your child ingests at least one serving per day, it’s unlikely that your child will develop significant vitamin deficiencies.

Plant-based milk alternatives are very nutritionally different from milk. Many of them don’t contain protein or meaningful amounts of vitamins and minerals. If your household uses milk alternatives, check the nutrition label to get a better understanding of what you may need to supplement in your child’s diet.

6. Fortified Cereals

Almost all fortified cereals, including fortified oatmeal, contain a substantial amount of vitamin A. It’s usually fairly easy to get children to eat cereal. They may even ask for cereal on a regular basis. Just be careful about the types of cereal you keep around the house.

Cereal often bills itself as healthy, drawing attention to the fact that it’s fortified and made with whole grain. It seems like a no-brainer to toss that cereal into your grocery cart, but you don’t really know the full story. Most cereals are loaded with refined sugar. Check the ingredients list before you make your way to the checkout. 

7. Orange Fruit

Oranges are the most obvious orange fruit, but mangoes, cantaloupe, apricots, papaya, and peaches also contain valuable amounts of vitamin A. If your picky eater won’t touch a whole fruit, try incorporating orange fruits into yogurt parfaits or homemade smoothies. You can also get ice pops made entirely from fruit.

Frozen yogurt with fruit is very similar to ice cream, but with added probiotic benefits. Swapping from ice cream to frozen yogurt with fruit at dessert time makes balanced nutrition a lot easier — kids rarely turn down dessert. 

Be wary of prepared juices, which are often juice cocktail products loaded with sugar. If you choose to help your child get enough fruit via fruit juices, always opt for 100% juice with no added sugar when you can.

8. Vegetable Soup

When in doubt, vegetable soup is the way to go to help with your child’s vitamin A intake. After all, what kid would say no to a bowl of alphabet soup? 

Vegetable soup packs a lot of necessary nutrients into a single cup. If you can get your child to eat a serving of vegetable soup a few times a week, your life is going to be a lot easier. Combine a variety of seasonal vegetables and cook the soup in bone broth for a protein boost that makes the vegetable soup even more of a well-rounded meal. 

Chicken noodle soup is usually a big hit with children, so if your child will eat chicken noodle soup, incorporate a few more veggies into the mix. Carrots, celery, and spinach are great additions to chicken noodle soup. However, if your child has allergies or doesn’t like animal products, veggie alternatives work just fine. 

If you don’t have time to prepare soup from scratch, check your local grocery store’s deli or prepared food section for a soup bar. Soup bars are increasingly popular in grocery stores. There’s also the option of picking up some canned soup to stock your pantry. Just be on the lookout for lower sodium varieties. 

Vitamin A Is Important and Easy To Find

Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and development of the human body. It’s relatively easy to obtain through diet, especially since the body needs such a small amount of vitamin A. There are so many vitamin A-rich foods that can easily be plugged into your family’s diet. 

A few ingredient swaps or switching to fortified foods makes it easy to help your child meet their daily vitamin A requirements. You can also use multivitamin supplements to help picky eaters while they’re still learning to appreciate whole foods. 


Vitamin A in Reproduction and Development | PMC | National Institutes of Health

Vitamin A Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic

Vitamin Fortification of Fluid Milk | Journal of Food Science

Vitamins in Cereals: A Critical Review of Content, Health Effects, Processing Losses, Bioaccessibility, Fortification, and Biofortification Strategies for Their Improvement | Frontiers In Nutrition