The Only Vitamins Kids Really Need To Take

Whether it's because of a doctor's recommendation, the fact that your child again refused to eat anything but chicken nuggets, or because of the guilt that set in when that mom in front of you at the grocery store loaded extra SmartyPants vitamins into her cart, you've probably wondered if you should really be buying vitamin supplements for your child, too. None of us want to be the only parent on the block whose child is vitamin-deficient just because you passed on the orange-flavored gummies at checkout.

Well, rest easy. Chances are, your little sweetie is probably doing fine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, supplemental vitamins are not generally recommended for most children (via Healthline). In most cases, all of the nutrients a child needs to grow healthy and strong can be found in a varied, healthy diet.

Children need all the same nutrients that adults need, but in smaller amounts. Eating a varied diet that includes protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains ensures that, in general, a child will get all the nutrients he or she needs.

There are some exceptions, though. Kids who are on restricted diets, like vegan or vegetarian, may need vitamin B12 supplementation, since that vitamin is only found in animal-sourced foods. Children who have certain chronic conditions, like celiac disease, cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, which inhibit the absorption of, or increase the need for nutrients, may also need supplements.

Healthy food contains all the vitamins most kids need

Another unique circumstance is if a child is an extremely picky eater. But even then, it may be possible to adequately meet nutritional needs through food. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, says "Even picky eaters get all of the nutrients they need from food. So typically kids don't need vitamins, but every kid is different and has different needs, so consult your pediatrician if you are worried" (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Deciding to give your healthy child a vitamin as 'insurance' probably won't do any harm. In that case, be sure that the vitamin is high-quality, low-sugar, and that the dosage is designed for children, not adults. Excessive vitamin consumption can be toxic for children, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and thousands of children are sent to emergency rooms each year after getting into vitamin bottles unsupervised (via theĀ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

Just remember, though vitamin supplements may be helpful in some circumstances, they should never take the place of a well-balanced, healthy diet.