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What to Look for in a Kids Multivitamin

What to Look for in a Kids Multivitamin

Let’s answer the first question most parents have about multivitamins and minerals. Does my child really need a nutritional supplement containing vitamins and minerals?

The answer is YES.

According to the clinical research that has evaluated what our kids are eating, it is very difficult to ensure your child is getting the daily requirement of nutrients necessary for optimal growth and development from our North American diet. The most common nutritional deficiencies in Canadian children are iron, vitamin D, calcium, and fiber.

Nutritional supplements are designed to supplement the diet. Think of them as an insurance policy for the days when your child is not eating the foods you know they should. Providing a quality multivitamin with mineral supplements for your child is important to help fill in the nutritional gaps.

Reasons why your child can’t get enough nutrients from food:

  • Foods are grown in soil that lacks nutrients due to over-farming.
  • Fruits and vegetables are harvested under-ripe and shipped long distances which causes lower nutrient content.
  • You have a picky eater who is eating an inadequate intake of vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Consuming too many processed foods.
  • Eating sugary or salty foods, which cause the depletion of potassium and other important nutrients.
  • Your child has digestion issues which can cause poor absorption.
  • Kids just don’t eat enough when they are small to get adequate nutrients even if you are eating a healthy diet.

Look for the following  key items when choosing a multivitamin with mineral supplement for children:

A Multivitamin Formulated Specifically for Children

It might seem obvious, but first and foremost, look for a multivitamin and mineral supplement formulated specifically for kids. The dose of each nutrient should take a child’s weight into consideration.
Adult multivitamins with minerals are designed for someone who is over 100 pounds.  Too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to children.
Too many kids’ nutritional supplements are providing only a tiny dose of a nutrient when your child should be getting the appropriate amount for their age. It is not enough to have a long list of nutrients in the formula. A good quality nutritional supplement will provide the optimal dose of each ingredient.
To make it harder to know what an optimal dose is, Health Canada allows a very wide range of dosages for kids.  Look at the following chart for the optimal dosage of the key nutrients that should be found in a children’s multivitamin with minerals.

Look at the Form of the Nutrient

The form or type of nutrient is also important. For example, you will see a mineral on the label listed with its name like magnesium, but the label should also list what form of magnesium. And there are several forms of magnesium, i.e., magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate. There is a big difference in the action and absorption between different forms of the nutrient. The best form of magnesium would be magnesium glycinate as it is gentle on the digestive system (does not cause diarrhea like the other forms do) and it is better absorbed. Your supplement should always state the form of the nutrient.  The best forms of some nutrients include calcium as an ascorbate, vitamin K2 in the MK7 form, selenium in the form of selenomethionine.
The chart below lists the dosages recommended for children aged 2 to 12 years or children under 100 lbs (45 kg). At 100 pounds or above, children can move to a multivitamin with minerals designed for adults.
Nutrient Forms Helps Support Optimal Dosage
Vitamin A Beta Carotene
Provitamin A
Infection fighting, vision, immune function, respiratory health, blood sugar and insulin 1000 IU (600 mcg)
Vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol Calcium absorption, builds strong bones and immune health, prevents colon cancer, reduces muscle cramps 400 IU – 1000 IU
Vitamin E natural d-alpha in the form of tocopheryl succinate For heart health, blood sugar regulation, immune health 25 IU
Vitamin C in the form of calcium ascorbate Cardiovascular and immune health, antiviral, antibacterial, optimal blood sugar regulation 200 mg
Vitamin B1 in the form of thiamine Needed for energy production, essential for a healthy nervous system, heart, and brain 5 mg
Vitamin B2 in the form of riboflavin Needed for healthy eyes, skin, hair, and nails 5 mg
Vitamin B3 as niacin Needed by the body to break down and use fats, carbohydrates, and proteins 5 mg
Vitamin B6 in the form of pyridoxal hydrochloride Immune and cardiovascular health, helps to produce red blood cells 5 mg
Vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin Prevents anemia, supports mental health 15 mcg
Folic acid (folate), 5-methylfolate (5-MTFH) or folinic acid Prevents anemia, needed for digestion, serotonin, and cellular repair 100 mcg
Vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 (menaquinone-7) Healthy heart and bones 5 mcg
Vitamin B5 in the form of calcium D-pantothenate Helps the body deal with stress. Supports skin, nerves, and adrenal glands 10 mg
Calcium in the form of citrate Healthy bones, nervous system, and energy 130 mg
Biotin Involved in tissue formation, involved in fat production 10 mcg
Iron pyrophosphate Prevents and treats iron deficiency anemia. Brain and emotional development. 5 mg
Magnesium in the form of bisglycinate Aids muscle function, nervous system, sleep, bone loss, blood sugar control 65 mg
Inositol Helps protect against free radical damage 5 mg
Zinc in the form of citrate Prevents colds and flu, reduces acne, for a strong immune system 3 mg


Non-Medicinal Ingredients

Some non-medicinal ingredients are good for our kids like fruits and vegetable blends as they add fiber and additional nutrients.  But other non-medicinal ingredients are not. Take note of the non-medicinal ingredients when looking at the label. Many non-medicinal ingredients should not be in your child’s nutritional supplements including artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, and sugar.

Other potentially dangerous non-medicinal ingredients are the fillers, binders, and flowing agents used to make tablets hard or to fill up capsules or make liquids thick or stable. This includes but is not limited to sodium benzoate which is a preservative; glues and gums to keep ingredients together to make a tablet.

AVOID: Artificial Colours and Flavours

Sadly, most commercially produced children’s multivitamins and minerals are often loaded with artificial flavours, colours, and sweeteners. Put the nutritional supplement back on the shelf if it contains 'artificial colour or ‘colours’. Canada does not currently require the specific type of artificial food colouring to be listed on the label, i.e., FD&C Red No. 40 number. We will have to wait until December 14, 2021, when companies will be required to list the type of artificial colour included in your child’s supplements.

Artificial flavours have been shown to cause behaviour and mood disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and tantrums in some children. As well, these artificial flavours have been linked to genetic damage and have potential cancer-causing actions.

LOOK FOR:  Natural Colours and Flavours

There is no reason to use artificial sweeteners, colours, or flavours in a child’s nutritional supplement because there are great natural ingredients derived from fruit, vegetables, and plants that are safe to use and may add nutritional benefit.

Natural food colourings come from fruits, vegetables, and herbs such as beetroot, turmeric, or spirulina.

AVOID: Added Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

Dental decay and mood disorders are known side effects of consuming sugar. It seems counterproductive to give your child something containing sugar.  Consuming sugar can inhibit or block the absorption of vitamin C, vitamin D3, and magnesium.

Sugar cam come in many forms, so look for the following on labels: sugar, fructose, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cane syrup/juice, or tapioca syrup. Some supplements include multiple forms of sugar in the same product. Avoid vitamin and mineral supplements containing sugar.

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that ignite the taste buds on your tongue sending signals to your brain that you are eating sweet foods. Sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium are a few to avoid in your child’s nutritional supplements. Artificial sweeteners can disrupt healthy gut bacteria and are not recommended for children.  Some artificial sweeteners available in North America are not approved for consumption in other countries.

LOOK FOR: Natural Sweeteners

Xylitol for Strong Healthy Teeth

A good natural alternative to sugar is xylitol, a sugar alcohol made from birch trees or non-GMO corn cobs. Xylitol is also naturally found in varying amounts in some fruits and vegetables like strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms, and cauliflower. Our body can also naturally make xylitol during the metabolism of the carbohydrates we eat. It tastes sweet like sugar, but studies have found it helps prevent tooth decay and remineralizes dental cavities. Xylitol has minimal effects on blood sugar or insulin levels making it safe for diabetics or those with prediabetes.

Stevia Super Sweet

Stevia, a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant, is another excellent natural sugar alternative to look for. Stevia extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar but contains zero calories. A tiny amount provides a strong sugar taste, so you do not need much! The better the quality of the stevia the more it tastes like sugar without any aftertaste.  Stevia has been found to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. This plant is being studied for its ability to protect our arteries from plaque build-up and normalize high blood pressure too.

AVOID: Allergens

Soy, gluten, eggs, lactose, nuts, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and wheat are very common allergens for many children. These foods cause digestive upsets, hives, rashes, respiratory problems, and even anaphylactic shock. So, avoid these.

LOOK FOR: Allergen-Free

Companies that manufacture nutritional supplements, so they are free of common allergens, including genetically modified ingredients, care about your child’s health. 

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