Vitamin D For Kids: How Much Vitamin D Do Kids Really Need?
  /   Dr. John Snow

Vitamin D For Kids: How Much Vitamin D Do Kids Really Need?

Vitamin D is crucially important for the health of people of all ages. It’s especially important for growing bodies. Children have significant vitamin D needs beginning at birth. 

Children who aren’t very picky eaters are likely to meet their daily vitamin and mineral requirements through diet alone, but vitamin D is a little different. Its naturally occurring sources are limited and the need for the vitamin is great.

Understanding the importance of vitamin D and the recommended amount of vitamin D will help you assure that your child receives a sufficient amount of this micronutrient.

What Does Vitamin D Do?

Vitamin D works to balance and manage levels of calcium and phosphate. The body needs the trio of Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate to preserve the health of bones and teeth, as well as muscle tissue. 

Many circulating theories suggest that vitamin D intake may reduce the long term risk for the development of certain diseases, but evidence is anecdotal at best. The studies many publications reference were not designed to specifically explore the relationship between vitamin D and these diseases.

While it’s always advisable to ingest a sufficient amount of vitamin D, it’s best to maintain realistic expectations about what this vitamin can do. Bones and muscles will remain strong and healthy. Any benefits outside of that haven’t been clinically established.

Here’s Why Vitamin D is Important for Kids

Vitamin D deficiency can cause significant issues that may have lifelong consequences. Children who do not receive an adequate amount of vitamin D are prone to developing rickets, a condition that leaves bones weak and soft as they attempt to grow. 

Bones will continue to grow until your child becomes an adult. Some components of bone may continue to grow until the age of 25. Even when bones are done growing, they aren’t completely finished. Bone contains living tissue that needs to be fortified. Its growth and repair is lifelong.

If your child doesn’t receive an adequate amount of vitamin D in childhood, there is a significant chance that they will grow to have serious bone health issues throughout the duration of their lives. If the bone can’t form properly, it will never reach its full potential. 

How Much Vitamin D Do Children Need?

Babies and young children need about 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Older children and adolescents need at least 600 international units of vitamin D daily.

Excessive vitamin D status can cause conditions like kidney stones when ingested in abnormally high amounts. Infants shouldn’t exceed 1,000 IU per day. Children up to 8 years should adhere to a limit of 2,500 IU. People 9 years and older shouldn’t ingest more than 4,000 IU daily.

Foods with Vitamin D

Vitamin D naturally occurs in liver, red meat, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or tuna, cod liver oil, and egg yolks. Children aren’t often eager to eat these foods. Babies 6 months and under cannot have these foods, and toddlers can only have them in small amounts. 

It’s difficult for small tummies to meet their daily requirements from their diet alone. While there are plenty of foods that contain vitamin D, many of these foods are things that children aren’t particularly interested in eating. That’s why so many foods are fortified with vitamin D.

Dairy products, yogurt, cereals, orange juice, and products like bread and pasta made with fortified flour usually contain added vitamin D. This can be a double-edged sword. While things like fortified whole-grain bread can play a role in a healthy diet, fortified cereals may be doing more harm than good. 

They often contain massive amounts of added sugars, and many parents don’t feel comfortable serving something they perceive as “junk” to their kids. While a fed child is always better than a hungry child, many parents would prefer to save added sugars for special treats rather than serving them up at breakfast time.

Low Fat dairy milk is very helpful for providing valuable nutrition and sufficient vitamin D to children, but not all children can have milk. Dairy is a major food allergen, and lactose intolerance is a very common condition. 

Children on plant based diets can’t have the most valuable sources of vitamin D. Their diets will require careful planning to promote optimal nutritional balance.

That’s why vitamin D supplementation is so common. Vitamin D supplements are suited to a wide variety of children, including those with allergies or intolerances. They also add vitamin D to a child’s diet without added sugars or empty calories.

Vitamin D Supplementation is Commonly Recommended

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplementation for all children, including breastfed infants. Infant formulas are fortified with vitamin D, meaning that formula-fed babies may need less supplementation to reach adequate vitamin D levels. 

Although it is a very nutritious and high-quality source of nutrition for infants, breast milk may not contain enough vitamin D, placing them at an increased risk of deficiency. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests specially formulated vitamin D supplement drops for breastfed babies. 

Doesn’t Vitamin D Come From Sunlight?

Just half an hour of sun exposure can dramatically exceed your child’s vitamin D needs. This doesn’t mean your child should go without sun protection, as excessive time in the sun may lead to sunburn and harmful skin conditions. 

Sunscreen will limit the skin’s ability to create vitamin D. Sunscreen rated at SPF 15 or higher can throttle vitamin D production by almost 99%. 

It’s better not to rely on the sun to help your child’s body produce vitamin D, especially if it means sacrificing your child’s protection against harmful UVA and UVB rays. 

There’s no reason to put your child’s safety in jeopardy just to produce a vitamin they could easily obtain from fortified foods or supplements.

Helping Your Children Meet Their Daily Vitamin Requirements

In a perfect world, everyone would get every vitamin and mineral they needed from three square meals and a few healthy snacks a day. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as clear cut. While there are adults who would consider themselves to be picky eaters, picky eating behavior is most commonly seen in children.

Tastes and preferences become more sophisticated with age. Babies and toddlers like simple foods that taste good, and that’s all they understand. You cannot easily explain the merits of broccoli or kale to someone who is still a while away from learning the alphabet. 

You should always provide a large selection of nutritious fruits and vegetables for your toddlers and children to sample at their leisure. They may not take an immediate liking to many of them, but that’s okay. Keep track of what they do like and continue to provide those foods.

Although you may experience some degree of stress when your child refuses to eat nutritionally beneficial foods, it’s important not to show your frustration. The last thing you want is for your child to develop a negative association with healthy food. Instead, remain patient and emphasize how much you personally enjoy tasty fruits and vegetables. 

Modelling healthy behavior will go a long way. Children learn by example and positive reinforcement. Making a big deal about how much you love your grilled salad might be all it takes to get your youngster to take an interest in eating vitamin D rich fish and leafy greens packed with calcium. 

Filling the Gaps in Your Child’s Diet

It might take your child a while to come around on a balanced diet. Some teenagers are not much better. When there are gaps in your child’s diet, consider filling them in with a multivitamin supplement.

Speak to your child’s pediatrician about their eating habits. If necessary, your pediatrician may run tests to check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies. These are rare in the developed world, even in picky eaters. There’s usually no cause for concern. Your pediatrician can give you advice about multivitamin supplementation. 

Low-dose multivitamins are usually safe for most children. They’re especially important for children with food allergies, significant food aversions, intolerances, and dietary restrictions.

Hiya is Made for Your Children

Hiya’s multivitamins are designed for kids ages two and up. Hiya contains slightly more than the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for children. It also contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals that pediatricians often report children lack in their diets. 

After you talk to your children, pick up a bottle of Hiya

Our chewable multivitamin is vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and sugar-free. It’s naturally sweetened with monk fruit. There’s no artificial flavors, or gummy junk.

It’s just the vitamins and minerals your child needs for a well-rounded diet, plus an organic fruit and vegetable blend to make the tablets tastier to chew. 

Sources:

Vitamin D for Good Bone Health | American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Rickets: What It Is and How It's Treated | American Academy of Family Physicians

Recommendations released on prevention, management of rickets | American Academy of Pediatrics

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