No one can argue that a healthy diet is essential for proper development in babies and children. Unfortunately, due to changing lifestyles and other factors, children today aren’t always getting all the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need. That’s creating nutrient gaps and putting children at greater risk of nutrient deficiencies.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that kids were deficient in several critical vitamins and minerals, with vitamin D top of the list. In fact, researchers found that more than 80% of children, ages 2-8, and 98% of girls 14-18 were getting insufficient amounts of vitamin D.
Here’s what’s causing nutrient gaps, and what you can do to address them:
Changes to the American Diet
In today’s fast-paced world, many families are simply not getting the nutritious meals they once were. Time is limited, so there’s more reliance on processed foods that can be thrown in the microwave and put on the table quickly. Sometimes, there’s not even enough time to eat at home, so dinner is grabbed at the drive-thru between soccer practice and dance class. Oftentimes, these meals are devoid of vegetables and fruits, and as a result, are missing the vitamins, minerals and nutrients kids need to support healthy growth.
Fruits and Vegetables are Less Nutritious
Today’s carrot isn’t your grandmother’s carrot. As the result of soil depletion, changing farming practices, and use of pesticides, fruits, and vegetables today don’t carry the same nutritional value as they did 50 years ago. One landmark study compared USDA nutrient content data published in 1950 and 1999 for 13 nutrients in 43 garden crops, mostly vegetables. Researchers discovered statistically significant declines for 6 nutrients: protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Vitamin D is Not Abundantly Present in Foods
While many vitamins can be consumed in your diet, vitamin D is naturally occurring in very few foods. You’ll find some vitamin D in cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. But, the level of vitamin D in these foods isn’t sufficient to maintain adequate levels of the vitamin. And while you can get vitamin D through sun exposure, you need to be exposed to sunlight without sunblock, and that comes with its own risks.
Research has shown that vitamin D is linked to nearly every health system in the body, from brain and bone health o blood sugar levels and joint comfort. Keeping levels adequate is the key to good health.
Critical Nutrients are Missing Their Absorption Partners
Some vitamins and nutrients are interconnected, meaning your body needs one to absorb the other. Everyone knows that calcium is essential for building strong, healthy bones. So, you make your kids drink milk, and feed them yogurt thinking you’re doing everything right. But, here’s the thing. Your body cannot properly absorb calcium without vitamin D. And, if you’re low on vitamin D, all that milk and yogurt could be wasted.
And, did you know that you need adequate amounts of vitamin C to properly absorb iron? So, if you don’t get enough vitamin C daily, you’re putting yourself at risk for an iron deficiency.
Water-Soluble Vitamins Aren’t Consumed Daily
Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, which your body can retain and store, water-soluble vitamins must be consumed daily. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), Vitamin B12. Vitamin A in its beta-carotene form is also water-soluble. If those vitamins are missing from your child’s daily diet, they may become deficient.
Adjusting your child’s diet to ensure proper nutrition can go a long way in closing nutrient gaps. Fill his plate with vegetables. Offer his favorite fruits for snacks. And, limit foods that are heavy in fat and sugar. In addition, providing your child with a wholesome, food-based vitamin can give you peace of mind in knowing you’re supplementing your child’s diet with critical vitamins, minerals and other nutrients he needs for optimal growth.
A quality multivitamin will include both fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, so you’re able to replenish those vitamins that are lost daily. It can also provide your child with those vitamins that are not naturally present in foods, like vitamin D.
No vitamin will replace the need for a healthy diet. There’s no magic pill you can give your child to make him grow stronger. Consider vitamin supplementation as added protection for your child’s overall health and well-being.
 Berner LA, Keast DR, Bailey RL, and Dwyer JT. Fortified foods are major contributors to nutrient intakes in diets of US children and adolescents. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Jul;114(7):1009-1022.
 Davis DR, Epp MD, and Riordan HD. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-82.