Home Family Early Childhood The Number One Vitamin Deficiency in American Children. Dietitian’s Advice

The Number One Vitamin Deficiency in American Children. Dietitian’s Advice


When parents ask me, a certified dietitian, what nutrients their children might be lacking, my answer often surprises them. One of the most glaring deficiencies among children in the United States today is not in exotic, hard-to-find nutrients, but something quite basic: vitamin D.

Why Is Vitamin D Such a Big Deal?

Recent studies show that 50% of children ages 1 to 5 and 70% of those between 6 and 11 are not getting enough vitamin D. This isn’t just a statistic; it’s a health crisis. Why? Because vitamin D is pivotal for strong bones and muscles. Without adequate levels, the body struggles to absorb calcium, another essential nutrient for bone health.

In severe cases, a deficiency can lead to rickets, a condition that weakens bones, leading to deformities and pain. Even if the condition isn’t that extreme, a lack of vitamin D can affect a child’s immune system, leaving them fatigued and prone to illness.

How Much Vitamin D Do Kids Need?

The National Institutes of Health recommend a daily intake of 400 International Units (IU) for infants and 600 IU for kids between the ages of 1 and 13. But sunlight, a natural source of vitamin D, often falls short of providing these amounts, especially during winter or in less sunny climates.

Here’s How to Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough:

1. The Power of Food

The simplest way to boost vitamin D is through diet. Incorporate these foods into your child’s meals:

  • Fatty fish: Think salmon, trout, or sardines.
  • Animal sources: Like beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese.
  • Plant sources: Some mushrooms contain vitamin D.

Additionally, there are fortified foods, where vitamin D is added during processing. Look for it in:

  • Plant-based milks: Such as soy, oat, or pea milk.
  • Dairy milk: Although note that grass-fed and raw milk are often not fortified.
  • Juices and yogurts: Opt for ones that mention added vitamin D.

2. Supplements

If you’re nursing an infant, breastmilk alone won’t provide enough vitamin D. In such cases, health organizations recommend liquid vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D drops are readily available over the counter to help infants reach the recommended 400 IU daily.

For older children, consult with your healthcare provider to determine if supplements would be beneficial. Keep in mind that excessive vitamin D can lead to toxicity and other health problems.

Vitamin D deficiency is a pressing issue, but the good news is that it’s an easily solvable one. Whether through natural food sources or supplements, it’s crucial to ensure that your child receives an adequate amount of this essential nutrient. By taking these steps, you’re not just improving their current well-being but also setting the stage for a healthier, more vibrant future.

Written by
Tara Joshi

Tara is a food blogger and a mom committed to sustainable living. She writes about various facets of family life, including plant-based nutrition, ethical consumerism, and eco-friendly practices for households.