In a perfect world, your children would get all of the nutrients they need for health and growth from healthy foods in their diets. But child food preferences, busy schedules and fluctuating appetites make it very difficult for children to consistently eat a diet that satisfies all their nutritional needs. A multivitamin cannot replace a healthy diet, but it can fill in nutritional gaps. Not all vitamins are created equal, so it's important to know what you are getting when selecting a vitamin.
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The first thing to look for when purchasing a children's multivitamin is the nutritional composition. The best multivitamins include all of the 13 essential vitamins and 14 essential minerals that the body needs. Vitamins A, C and D, calcium and iron are especially important for growing children.
Avoid products that contain more than 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowances set forth by the Institute of Medicine, however. Consuming more than the recommended amount of nutrients does not provide additional benefits, and an excess of certain vitamins and mineral can be harmful.
Beware of multivitamins that include artificial flavors or colors, artificial sweeteners and fillers. Avoid gummy vitamins, which are most likely made with sugary corn syrup. Not only is the sugar unnecessary and bad for your child's teeth, but it also sends a confusing message to your child: that vitamins are candy. Look for multivitamins that have been derived from whole foods instead of synthetic ingredients.
Vitamins exist in nature in different forms, and the human body digests the different forms in different ways. Certain forms are much more potent and digestible than others. The level that a nutrient is actually able to be digested and absorbed is called the bioavailability. This is an important factor to consider when selecting a children's multivitamin. Consult with an objective resource, such as MultivitaminGuide.org, to evaluate the bioavailability of nutrients contained in particular brands of multivitamins.
Top Brands to Consider
MultivitaminGuide.org has developed a scale to rate multivitamins based on safety, nutritional composition, bioavailability and overall effectiveness. According to the website's effectiveness rating, the top brands to consider are Xtend-Life's Total Balance Children, Mercola Children's Multivitamins and Vitamin Code Kids by Garden of Life. Talk to your child's pediatrician before starting any supplements, and always keep supplements out of reach of your children.
- MultivitaminGuide: Comparison of 88 Multivitamins Designed for Kids
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- She Knows: Best Vitamins for Little Kids
- BabyCenter: The Lowdown on Children's Vitamins
- HealthyChildren.org: Vitamin Supplements and Children
- Natural News: How to Properly Choose Your Child's Vitamins