Should Kids Take a Multivitamin?

should-kids-take-a-multivitamin

I heard back from a lot of folks thanking me for my recent blog post about whether adults should take a multivitamin. So I knew that I needed to answer: should kids take a multivitamin.

Just like I said in my adult post, first I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. Each child has different nutrition needs – based on age, health concerns, eating habits, etc. That’s why I always include a nutrition assessment when I start to work with individual picky eaters. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your child’s individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether your child, specifically as an individual, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for kids in general for you to consider.

Should Kids Take a Multivitamin?

I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether kids should take a multivitamin (I’m talking toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids). It’s not likely to hurt. But there isn’t great evidence that it offers a lot of nutritional benefit for kids. Particularly the gummy multivitamins, for them to taste good, many of the nutrients need to be taken out. Also for safety reasons, most kids multivitamins don’t have iron in them. Concern that kids aren’t eating enough iron (e.g. when picky kids don’t eat meat or plant-based high iron foods) is one of the reasons that I may recommend a multivitamin for kids. But you have to go out of your way to find a kids’ multivitamin that contains iron.

There are two exceptions to my recommendation:

  1. Babies receiving a combination of solid foods and breastmilk/ formula don’t need a multivitamin. But I do recommend continuing 400 IU of vitamin D drops for babies receiving breastmilk.
  2. If your daughter has started menstruating, I do recommend a multivitamin made for women. I get into the reasons why in my adult post.

Kids and Multivitamin - Pitfalls to Avoid

An important pitfall that you want to avoid is teaching your kids that their vitamins are candy. That safety reason (that I mentioned above) regarding why most kids multivitamins don’t contain iron is because there is a history of kids climbing up into cabinets and taking the whole bottle of vitamins – because they wanted to eat the “candy”. An overdose of iron by taking too many vitamins can cause serious harm, even kill, a child.

So, keep multivitamins up out of reach of kids. And, teach kids the difference between vitamins and candy.

Other Vitamins for Kids

There are other vitamins that I do recommend for kids:

Vitamin D for Kids

The vitamin D recommendation for kids (12 months – adulthood) is 600 IU per day. The vitamin D recommendation for babies from birth – 12 months is 400 IU per day. There are very few food-based sources of vitamin D. For example, milk and plant-based milk alternatives have about 100 IU per cup. 6 cups of milk a day would certainly crowd out other healthy foods. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. And yes, we do make it through our skin. But only during the months of March - October (fewer months in northern BC). And, windows, clothing, sunscreen, pollution, and darker skin pigment all block the ability to make vitamin D from the sun. So I do recommend giving a vitamin D supplement daily in the range of 400 IU – 600 IU (depending on your child’s vitamin D intake from food sources).

For babies, breastmilk is typically very low in vitamin D. Formula does have ample vitamin D for most babies. Therefore, the recommendation is that all babies who are breastfed or fed a combination of breastmilk and formula, receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

Omega-3 (Fish Oil) For Kids

The evidence isn’t super strong, but I do have a soft recommendation of omega-3s for kids (toddlers – teens). The evidence is mixed regarding its benefit for brain health and general inflammation, so I don’t have a firm recommendation.

If your child eats fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) twice a week, then they may be getting enough of these healthy fats.

Many kids don’t eat fatty fish that often (if at all), so I do recommend a fish oil supplement. You can get liquid supplements in quite lovely flavours. Follow the directions on the bottle for the age of your child.

If you don’t like the idea of your child consuming fish, look for an algae-based omega-3 supplement. There are lots of these on the market now.

I’ve noticed that some of the kids' omega-3 liquid supplements include vitamin D, so you may be able to get both in at the same time.

Eating nuts, seeds, and their butters (e.g. almond butter) daily is also a great way to contribute to a healthy ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats.

Wondering if you should take a multivitamin? Check out this blog post.

Should I Take a Multivitamin?

should-i-take-a-multivitamin

I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.

First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.

Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.

Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.

Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.

Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.

What if I’m not in those two groups?

Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.

Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.

Over 50? Why You Want to be Taking a B12 Supplement

over 50 b12 supplement

Something that I’m noticing in working with clients who are 50 or older is that most don’t know that they should be taking B12 by supplement. This is not a new recommendation, but it is little-known.

B12 is required for our brain’s function. If our B12 is low, we lose cognitive function. The scary thing about B12 is that even if we get our B12 back up to healthy levels, any cognitive function lost is lost forever. It never comes back. Less scary, but still important, low B12 makes us have low energy and feel tired.

The recommendation for B12 is:

  • 2.4 micrograms for men & women 19 years & older
  • 2.6 micrograms for pregnant women
  • 2.8 micrograms for breastfeeding women

B12 is found in dairy foods, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. As such, vegans of all ages are recommended to take a B12 supplement. Either as a vitamin or nutritional yeast.

The first step in absorbing B12 from the food we eat requires our stomach acid. In a significant portion of people over 50 years old, stomach acid weakens. The result is that they can’t absorb the B12 from the food they eat. Currently there isn’t a test to find out who has this lower stomach acid and who’s stomach acid is normal. Because of the scary consequences of low B12, it’s recommended that everyone over 50 years old take a B12 supplement. B12 from supplements doesn’t require the stomach acid step for absorption.

If you take a multivitamin for 50+ you’re likely already getting B12. The B12 is one of the differences that makes vitamins specific for 50+. To be sure, check your vitamin’s label. Don’t take a multivitamin? Look for a B12 vitamin or B complex with approximately 2.4 micrograms of B12. It’s one of the easiest steps for brain health.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Kids Need Vitamin D Supplements Too

kids need vitamin D supplements

I was planning to write about a different topic today. But a conversation that I had last night with a parent was a conversation that I have very frequently with parents. It inspired me to change my plans and make it the topic that I address today. This topic is vitamin D. Particularly, that kids need vitamin D supplements. It’s quite an interesting situation really. Almost every parent I speak to knows that their baby needs vitamin D if they’re breastfed or fed a combination of breast milk and formula. Many of the adults take vitamin D themselves. But somewhere along the way as their little one started to eat more solid foods and stopped breastfeeding, they stopped giving their little one vitamin D. When you step back and look at it from that perspective – that babies and adults both need vitamin D supplements, it’s not surprising that kids need vitamin D too. Yet almost no parents I speak to are giving it to their kids.

Here’s the current recommendations*:

  • Babies 0 – 6 months: 400 IU (safe upper limit 1000 IU)
  • Babies 7 – 12 months 400 IU (safe upper limit 1500 IU)
  • Kids 1 – 3 years 600 IU (safe upper limit 2500 IU)
  • Kids 4 – 8 years 600 IU (safe upper limit 3000 IU)
  • Kids 9 years – adults 70 years 600 IU (safe upper limit 4000 IU)
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 600 IU (safe upper limit 4000 IU)

What about natural sources of vitamin D? Vitamin D is found in very few foods. One serving of salmon has an awesome 600 IU. Other fatty fish are excellent sources too. If you experienced the pleasure (not) of taking cod liver oil, you were getting a rocking 1360 IU in each tablespoon. The problem is that few of us eat fatty fish every day (or expose ourselves to the torture of cod live oil). People often think of milk when I talk about vitamin D but a glass of milk only has 100 IU. If a child is drinking 6 glasses of milk a day to get their vitamin D, they’re drinking so much milk that it’s crowding out other healthy foods (like vegetables and fruits) that provide other important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

The other natural source of vitamin D of course is sunlight. You likely know vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin. The problem is that here in Canada we don’t make vitamin D from October through March, even on sunny days, because the light’s wavelengths aren’t right. In the summer, clothes, sunscreen, shade, smog, and window glass all block our ability to make vitamin D from the sun.

Because vitamin D exists in few foods, and because of our indoor/sun safe lifestyles, supplements play an important role. If you are currently giving your child a multivitamin (such as a gummy), check the label to see how much vitamin D it contains. Some fish oil liquids contain vitamin D. If you give your child fish oil, check the bottle’s label to see if it contains vitamin D. Vitamin D drops are tiny and have no flavour so they’re a super simple way to give your kids (even picky eaters) vitamin D.

In summary, few kids meet their vitamin D needs through natural sources alone. There’s a number of ways to give your child enough vitamin D through supplements. Choose amongst the options of multivitamins/gummies, fish oils and/or vitamin D drops.

* Research is happening into whether the vitamin D recommendations should be higher. Until lots of large studies have been completed, as well as studies of the safety of higher doses, I recommend keeping within the range listed here.

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One Simple Step for Better Nutrition, Digestion, and Enjoyment of Your Food

better-nutrition-digestion

Do you want to get more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food that you eat? Want to reduce bloating and poor digestion? Want to experience more enjoyment from your food? How about feeling more full from eating less food? What if there was one really easy way for better nutrition and digestion?

Well then I’ve got good news for you.

There is one easy way:

Chew your food.

Yes, chew your food.

Okay, I’m being a bit sensationalistic. But I have good reason to be. It seems too obvious. And, too good to be true. But it really isn’t. And yet so many of us don’t do a good job of this.

We wolf down our food without really bothering to chew it.

We mindlessly eat while working at our computers, or scrolling through our iPhones, or while zoning out and watching TV.

Chewing is the first step of digestion. In chewing you break down food into smaller pieces so that your digestive enzymes can have lots of surface area to work on to digest the food, and then absorb it. There’s also digestive enzymes in your saliva that starts breaking food down.

With less chewing there’s less surface area for your enzymes to work on. Which leads to less vitamins, minerals and other nutrients being freed to be absorbed by your body.

With less chewing there’s more undigested food moving through your intestines. The result is that your gut bacteria has more food to ferment, creating gas.

Because we don’t take the time to chew your food, we eat more food before our bodies can register the sensation of being satisfied. As a result we over-eat.

Because we don’t take the time to chew our food we eat an entire bag of potato chips, or an entire tub of ice cream without even noticing. Our “treat” provided us with almost no pleasure.

I encourage you to actually take the time to chew your food. It’s so simple and the benefits are huge.

Vitamin D Kids - Sunshine and Beyond

vitamin D kids

{Guest post on Love Child Organics} All this sunshine that we’ve had lately has me thinking about Vitamin D. Vitamin D’s nickname is ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies make it from exposure to the sun. However, our bodies don’t make it when we wear sunscreen. So if you’re choosing to have your kids be sun safe, you need to rely on vitamin D kids from food and supplements. Our bodies also don’t make it at the latitude of Canada or the northern United States from September through March – even on a sunny day.

Vitamin D’s Role in Our Bodies

Vitamin D is involved in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. You’ve also likely heard about how it’s being investigated by the scientific research community for a wide variety of other roles in our bodies. While there isn’t enough evidence yet of vitamin D’s involvement in all these other roles, the research strengthens the idea that we want to make sure that babies and kids (and us adults too) get the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Here are the current recommendations:

Age

Recommended Intake

Safe Upper Level

Birth to 6 months

400 IU

1000

6 to 12 months

400 IU

1500

1 – 3 years

600 IU

2500

4 – 8 years

600 IU

3000

9 – 70 years

600 IU

4000

Over 70 years

800 IU

4000

Pregnant + Breastfeeding

600 IU

4000

Vitamin D For Babies Less Than 12 months Old

Breastmilk is naturally low in vitamin D (yes, even if you’re taking vitamin D yourself). Therefore, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops every day.

Formula does have vitamin D in it. If your baby takes 1000mL (32ounces) of formula a day then you don’t need to give your baby vitamin D drops. If your baby takes less than 1000mL (32 ounces) of formula a day (for example, if you do both breastfeeding and formula), then it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops per day.

Vitamin D - Kids and Teens

At 12 months, the recommendations increase to 600IU of vitamin D per day. This may be from a combination of food and vitamin supplements (e.g. drops, pills, gummies).

Vitamin D in Food

Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods. I have a number of the best sources of vitamin D listed below. Note that while fluid cows milk has vitamin D in it, most yogurts and cheeses are made with cow’s milk without vitamin D in it so they aren’t sources of vitamin D. However, some yogurts are starting to be made with vitamin D fortified cow’s milk. Read the labels to find out if the yogurt you like is made with vitamin D.

While many kids are happy to drink lots and lots of glasses of milk, this usually crowds out other foods resulting in an unhealthy balance and not enough of other important nutrients (such as iron). Because of this, it’s recommended that kids drink a maximum of 2 glasses of milk a day. Goat’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, and other alternative milks may or may not have vitamin D added to them. Read the labels to find out.

Food

How Much

Vitamin D

Cow’s Milk

1 cup

100 IU

Formula

1 cup (250mL or 4 oz)

100 IU

Fortified Soy Milk

1 cup

80 IU

Fortified Orange Juice

½ cup

45 IU

Egg Yolk

1

25 IU

Salmon, canned or cooked

75grams (2.5 ounces)

608 IU

Tuna, canned

75grams (2.5 ounces)

41 IU

Kids Vitamin D Supplements (Including Drops) 

Since sunshine and foods end up playing a small role in providing vitamin D, most kids need to continue to get vitamin D from a supplement.

The amount (i.e. number of drops) that you need to give your baby, child, or teen is different with the different types and brands of drops. Read the label on your package to find out how many drops you need.

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