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Find Nutrients for Children in Food, Not Pills

You want to make sure your child gets the right vitamins and minerals. Although that may seem as simple as choosing a multivitamin off the shelf, it's not always true.

The fact that it's easy to find over-the-counter vitamins doesn't mean you should use them. It's best for kids to get all the nutrients they need from food.

But there are some children who may need a supplement. Ask your doctor if your child is one of them. Children who may need supplements include vegetarians, vegans, those with ailments like cystic fibrosis, and those with poor appetites or fickle eating habits.

Teen girls may also need supplements. For example, if they’re cutting back on calories by avoiding or limiting dairy products, they’re robbing themselves of vitamins and minerals. Because puberty is a critical time for building bone density, drinking low-fat milk and consuming other low-fat dairy products should be a key part of a girl's eating habits. For teen girls who don't or can't drink milk, a calcium supplement may be necessary.

If your doctor suggests a vitamin or mineral supplement, treat it as medication that can be toxic in large doses. Keep supplements in a safe place where your child can't get to them. And teach your child that vitamins and candy aren't the same thing.

Vitamin A

What it does: Helps promote healthy skin, growth and development of cells, and a healthy immune system; helps prevent eye problems

Where to find: Dairy products, eggs, orange and dark green vegetables, and fortified cereals

B vitamins

What they do: All the B vitamins promote healthy nervous system function; B12, B6, and B2 (riboflavin) also help make red blood cells; B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), and B2 also help convert food into energy; B2 also promotes healthy vision

Where to find: Red meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, soybeans, and fortified cereals

Folate

What it does: Helps makes red blood cells, breaks down protein, and promotes heart health

Where to find: Leafy green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, asparagus, poultry, and fortified cereals and breads

Vitamin C

What it does: Helps wounds heal; promotes healthy bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels; and helps body absorb iron and calcium

Where to find: Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, red berries, and bell peppers

Vitamin D

What it does: Strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium; strengthens immune function; and reduces the risk for certain cancers

Where to find: Fortified dairy products, egg yolks and fish oils; it is also created in the skin by exposure to sunlight

Calcium

What it does: Promotes strong bones and teeth; helps regulate muscle contraction

Where to find: Milk and other dairy products; broccoli and dark green leafy vegetables; fortified orange juice; and soy milk

Iron

What it does: Helps red blood cells carry oxygen

Where to find: Red meat, pork, fish, and shellfish; dates and raisins; lentils and other beans; leafy green vegetables; and foods made with fortified flour

Magnesium

What it does: Promotes healthy muscle and nerve cell function, healthy bones, and heart rhythm

Where to find: Whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, potatoes, beans, avocados, bananas, broccoli, and shellfish

Phosphorus

What it does: Promotes healthy bones and teeth, and helps the body make energy

Where to find: Dairy products, meat, and fish

Potassium

What it does: Promotes healthy muscle and nerve cell function, and helps the body maintain correct balance of water in tissues

Where to find: Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, legumes, dried fruits, citrus fruits, and bananas

Zinc

What it does: Promotes healthy growth, sexual development, a strong immune system, and wound healing

Where to find: Red meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, beans, dairy products, whole grains, and fortified cereals

FYH

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