Nutritional Deficiencies
  /   Dr. John Snow

Nutritional Deficiencies in Kids: What Vitamins Are Missing?

As a parent, it’s common to worry about different aspects of your child’s growth and development. You may ask yourself questions like: Is my child on track with important developmental milestones? Are their height and weight percentiles normal? Are they eating and sleeping enough? However, even if you answered “yes” to all of those questions, there could still be vitamins lacking in your kid’s diet that could potentially negatively affect their growth and development. While it is definitely possible for your child to obtain the right amounts of vitamins and minerals from diet alone, it’s often easier said than done. Being a parent is stressful enough, and the last thing you need is to be constantly worried about planning and tracking every single thing your child eats to make sure that they get the right amounts of various essential vitamins. Even  though every child is different, children generally have the same nutritional needs, and can struggle to meet these needs for the same reasons. The good news is that there are things you can do to catch and address vitamin deficiencies in order to ensure that your child grows up happy and healthy! 

The Importance of Vitamins for Kids

While there’s no doubt that vitamins are important for everyone young and old, they are especially important for young children because children are growing and developing every single day! Vitamins are important for healthy bones, brain development, metabolism, immunity, and more. Every parent wants their child to grow up healthy, happy, and strong, and vitamins are the most important factor in this. 

 The Vitamins Kids Need

We know that kids obviously need vitamins, but there are so many different ones out there, it can be hard to know which ones they actually need and at which amounts. After all, you’re not a pediatrician or dietitian! The good news is that kids need many of the same vitamins that you are probably already familiar with as an adult, albeit at different amounts. Here are some of the vitamins that your child needs and why they need them:

  • Vitamin A: Has been shown to boost immunity, improve eyesight, and help with cell growth throughout the body
  • Vitamin C: May promote a healthy immune system by reducing illnesses and promoting growth
  • Vitamin D: Has been shown to help strengthen bones and reduce frequency of sickness
  • Vitamin E: May improve eyesight, benefit heart health, and boost immunity
  • Vitamin B12: May help with sleep, strength, and overall development
  • Calcium: Has been shown to build strong bones and help kids grow big and tall

 The Vitamins Kids Struggle to Get

In an ideal world, your child would easily be able to naturally get all the vitamins and minerals that they need from their diet and environment, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, there are certain vitamins that many kids end up lacking for a variety of different reasons. Here are some of the most common vitamins lacking in kids’ diets:

  • Vitamin D: Many children are deficient in Vitamin D. In fact, recent studies have indicated that more than 40% of children don’t get enough Vitamin D. While it might be easy for a lot of children to get enough Vitamin D, others can really struggle due to diet or lifestyle. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin,” and you can get a good dose of it by being in the sunshine for 10-15 minutes a day several times a week. However, for people who live in cold climates, experiencing very short days and extreme temperatures during the winter, it can be very challenging to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D from the sun. Even though you can also get Vitamin D from whole food sources like fish oil, mushrooms, and oranges, picky eaters and overweight children can also struggle to get enough Vitamin D from diet and environment alone.
  • Calcium: A lot of kids also struggle to get enough calcium from their diets alone. According to a study from the National Institute of Health, 80% to 90% of girls and 60% to 80% of boys aren’t getting enough calcium. Human  bodies don’t naturally produce calcium, so it has to come from food alone. For children who are vegan or are lactose intolerant, it can be particularly challenging to get enough calcium in their diets. A calcium deficiency can have negative effects on a child’s bones and teeth, as their bodies will start to borrow calcium from these areas to make up for deficiencies, potentially leading to bone and teeth issues in the future. 
  • Vitamin A: While a lot of children can get enough Vitamin A from their diet alone, children from resource-limited settings and children with strict dietary restrictions are more likely to have a Vitamin A deficiency. In fact, the World Health Organization has classified Vitamin A deficiency as a public health problem affecting about one-third of children ranging from infants through 5 year-olds. Vitamin A deficiencies have been shown to cause detrimental health issues like blindness and other eye problems. It may also lead to a weakened immune system and growth issues. 

 How to Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Vitamins

Everyone knows that you can get vitamins and minerals from a balanced and healthy diet,but what does that actually mean? If you aren’t a dietician, you might be unfamiliar with the different components of a healthy diet-- turns out it’s more than just fruits and vegetables! Here’s a quick refresher on what makes up a balanced diet:

  • Fruits: While it might be tempting to just give your child a glass of fruit juice and count that as a fruit for the day, that’s not necessarily the best method. The best way to obtain the nutritional benefits from fruits is to eat fruits of all different colors!  While you might assume that you’re limited to only fresh fruit, you can switch it up by offering canned fruits, dried fruits, and frozen fruits in addition to fresh fruits. In these cases, make sure that the fruit products don’t contain added amounts of sugar that can actually counteract the nutritional benefits of the fruit itself. 
  • Vegetables: It’s been drilled in our heads ever since we can remember, “You have to eat your vegetables in order to grow big and strong!” Turns out, our parents were right, and you should  set the same guidelines for your children as well. However, this can be challenging since kids aren’t always the biggest fans of vegetables – especially green ones! In these cases, it’s always a good idea to offer a wide variety of vegetables of different colors and forms. That way, you are bound to find options that your child will actually eat without protest at the dinner table. At the same time, make sure to take note of added amounts of sodium in canned fruits as well as avoid using things like French fries and other potato products as “vegetables.” 
  • Protein: Protein is extremely important for a balanced diet and the main way that you can get protein is through meat. However, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of red meat in your child’s diet as well as other processed meats. Also, if your child doesn’t eat meat, it’s still extremely important for them to get protein from other sources. Besides meat, things like beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, eggs, and peas contain protein that can help  build a strong and healthy body. 
  • Grains: Whole grains are a staple of a healthy diet, but that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with pastas, rice, and white bread. Instead, try to incorporate healthy whole grains into your child’s diet like whole wheat bread, quinoa, oatmeal, popcorn, and brown rice. These whole grain products should be minimally processed to ensure that they are truly healthy. 
  • Dairy: Dairy is a good source of calcium and Vitamin D but you don’t need it in large amounts. Fat-free or low-fat dairy products are the best things to give your child, including milk, yogurts, and cheeses. If your child is unable to consume dairy, make sure that they get these vitamins from other sources – like a vitamin or mineral supplement. 

Things to Look for in a Children’s Vitamin Supplement

Vitamins, minerals, diets, and healthy food are a lot for a busy parent to worry about every single day.  Vitamin supplements are a great way to make sure that your child is getting all of the nutrients they need without the hassle of micromanaging their daily diets.However, not all kids’  multivitamins are created equally,  so here are some things to remember when shopping for a vitamin supplement for your child:

  • Find  a complete vitamin that contains as much of the essential vitamins and minerals that children need every day. That way, it’s just one and done! 
  • Find  a vitamin that is made from real food like organic fruits and vegetables so that it’s natural and healthy with no preservatives. 
  • Find  a vitamin that doesn’t have any added sugar, preferable being naturally sweetened. 
  • That being said, gummy vitamins might not be the best option since they often contain sugar, chemicals, and fillers that can cause cavities! Chewable vitamins from a reputable company like Hiya are a better option.
  • Finally, find  a vitamin that has been developed and is backed by health care providers and scientists, based on up-to-date studies and research on children’s nutrition. That way, your child is getting everything that they need and nothing that they don’t.

*The FDA plays a specific role in regulating nutraceuticals and for all companies requires the following disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.