So you’re looking for the right multivitamin for your child. Maybe you’ve received some conflicting nutrition advice and the voice inside your head sounds a bit like this:
Should I choose no sugar supplements, or maybe I should choose one with sugar but no additives? Is that possible? Maybe I should just choose the one with the most vitamins?
Look no further mama! I am a Registered Dietitian with, a mom of 2, and apparently, I’m a “scrunchy mom.” This means that I have thoroughly thought through and reviewed my choice of multivitamins for my children – from a scientific perspective – and I want to let you in on that process. I also care about things like whether or not my children will eat the vitamin, can my family afford it without paying an arm and a leg, and is it accessible. It might be organic or it might be sugar-coated. These factors don’t dictate my final decision.
I hope that this is encouraging and enlightening for you to read as you contemplate which multivitamin is right for your kiddos!
I compiled my top 5 Multivitamin Choices for 2023 in this blog post, Top 5 Kids Multivitamins in 2023 by a Registered Dietitian.
Read on to discover my secret!
When searching for a kid’s multivitamin I check for all of the following factors:
I check the dosage amount to make sure it is appropriate for toddlers and children. Infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, and teens each have different nutrient needs. Although children will excrete excess water-soluble vitamins in the urine, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals are not excreted as easily and may result in toxicity in the body.
In addition to age-appropriate dosage, I look at dosage per serving. Micronutrient-containing supplements are best absorbed when consumed in a pattern that represents natural meals. Our bodies can only absorb so many nutrients, especially synthetic nutrients, at one time. Therefore, it’s always best to look for low-dose, multiple-times-a-day supplements. That’s not always the case, and that’s okay!
Vitamin A, vitamin D3 (in the form of cholecalciferol), vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin K, biotin, magnesium (in the form of glycinate), zinc. I recommend avoiding supplements with calcium and iron unless your child is deficient in these minerals. Too much supplemental iron can lead to constipation and too much calcium may lead to hypercalcemia.
Third-party testing is important because it essentially validates the company’s products. It verifies the ingredients, traceability, quality, and purity of the product. This is especially important for nutrition supplements as they are not regulated by the FDA.
When Looking for a Kid’s Multivitamin I Always Check the Label for Other Ingredients.
Is it Okay to Have Sugar in a Kid’s Multivitamin?
I prefer to choose supplements with added sugar. The dosage for most multivitamins is 1-2 gummies per day, with an average of 2 grams of sugar per gummy. Most toddlers should be consuming 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. The 2 grams of sugar in the gummies make up about 0.013% of the total amount of carbohydrates your child should consume (considering the fact that table sugar is converted into glucose and utilized for energy). If you’re worried about dental carries, I recommend brushing your child’s teeth after vitamins! It can help establish a smooth routine. I
What About Artificial Sweeteners?
I typically prefer table sugar over artificial sweeteners. There is more research on artificial sweeteners causing unwanted health conditions. In addition, artificial sweeteners are typically sweeter than table sugar, thus increasing your palate for sweetness (this usually leads to an increased sugar craving).
Sugar alcohols are typically safe to consume, however, are more likely to cause GI distress, especially in little ones. I recommend that you monitor your child for symptoms if choosing multivitamin brands with sugar alcohols. Anything that ends in -ol is usually a sugar alcohol (ex: sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, etc.).
What Are Other Additives and Are They Safe in Kids Multivitamins?
Some folks get confused about the function and definition of additives. For example, Magnesium stearate is a flow agent and is used to help with the consistency of a product. Fillers are used in manufacturing to fill the space in a mold or capsule. Preservatives keep the ingredients safe by preventing harmful microbial growth, for example, citric acid and ascorbic acid. Many additives provide necessary functions for supplements to work (as in stay preserved without bacterial growth, prevent melting and molding, etc.) and do not lead to adverse health effects – especially in the low dose that they are begin served in. It’s helpful to know the function of each ingredient and to choose a product accordingly.
Should I Avoid Artificial Colors in a Kid’s Multivitamin?
There are many claims that artificial colors will cause a host of adverse health effects in children and to avoid them at all costs. There is limited research on this topic and not enough evidence to prove any of these claims true. However, if you are unsure or skeptical, keep in mind that, once again, the serving size of a multivitamin is 1-2 gummies or capsules per day. The amount of food coloring (if you choose this route) in each capsule is minimal.
Are your children actually going to consume these things? Pills are a no-go, the taste must be acceptable (and probably exciting), and for many the texture is important too. The taste and texture of a multivitamin can determine whether or not your child will consume it, which is an important factor to consider!
This may not matter to most people, but for me, I specifically choose to not support brands that feed into diet culture. For example, if a company is promoting its multivitamin as the best choice because it is sugar-free, this feeds into the misconception that sugar is bad and you are healthier, or superior because you choose the sugar-free route. Now, if a company is selling a multivitamin and it happens to also be sugar-free, that’s one thing. But if the selling point is sugar-free, I avoid it! Other examples include “free of junk,” “free of additives,” and “free of toxins.” Using this type of verbiage is a cue to me, that the company is a part of the diet industry and is making money off of your fear. This is a personal preference, no scientific reason behind this choice.
I hope this is enlightening and possibly empowering for you as you search for a multivitamin for your child. My hope is that you are not filled with fear but rather evidence-based knowledge and are able to pair that with your family’s personal preferences when choosing a kids multivitamin!
Now if you’re ready, check out my Top 5 Kids Multivitamins (2023)!
Written by Sheridan Glaske, MS, RDN, LD