Essential vitamins and minerals for your child

The body needs essential vitamins and minerals to work properly. Most children and adults will get all the nutrients their body needs by following a healthy and balanced diet.

However, it's not always that easy, particularly when your children start school and you have less control over what they're eating during the day. If you are worried your child isn't getting all the essential vitamins and minerals they require, supplementing their diet may be a good idea.

If you are worried about your child's health or nutrition then ask your GP for advice and a referral to an appropriately trained dietician.

Below we outline why vitamins and minerals are important, as well as how much your child should be consuming daily for optimum health.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential because it aids the absorption of minerals like calcium. It also works to build strong teeth and bones in children. Vitamin D functions as a hormone and is vital for immune health, insulin production and cell growth.

The Department of Health recommends that young children aged between six months and 5 years old take a daily supplement of vitamin D. If you live in the UK then it's unlikely that your child will be getting enough sunlight for their vitamin D requirements. It's therefore worth considering giving children over the age of one a 10 microgram (mcg) supplement per day.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is crucial for vision and bone growth in children. It also promotes the health and growth of cells and tissues within the body, as well as playing an important role in protecting the body from infections. This is especially important when you child first starts going to school.

From the age of four, children should aim to be getting 400mcg of vitamin A per day.

Vitamin C

This vitamin works to keep your child's gums healthy, as well as to form and repair red blood cells, bone and tissue. Importantly, vitamin C also supports the immune system, helping to keep your child cold and infection-free.

Children aged four to eight years should aim to consume an average of 25mg of vitamin C per day.

Calcium

Calcium works to build strong bones and teeth, aids blood clotting and promotes nerve and muscle function. Children whose parents are lactose intolerant, or who believe their child to be, often don't consume the milk and dairy products that provide the calcium that is vital for growing children. This makes it especially important for these children to increase their calcium consumption, or take a daily supplement.

Children aged five and over should aim to consume an average of 700mg of calcium per day.

Iron

Children who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet are often iron deficient. Iron is important in helping the body make hemoglobin. A lack of it can lead to anaemia, potentially resulting in tiredness and irritability in your child.

However, it's important to note that high doses of iron can be fatal when taken by children. So if you do decide to supplement your child's diet, keep the supplements out of their reach and limit the dosage to 10mg per day.

Zinc

Zinc is a very important mineral for the body as it is essential for growth and aids digestion and metabolism.

Children aged four to eight should aim to be consuming around 5 mg per day of zinc.