The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now recommending that infants, children and adolescents get double the amount of vitamin D that was previously advised. This new clinical report, called Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children and Adolescents, indicates that all children should get 400 international units (IU) of Vitamin D, the same as drinking four eight ounce glasses of fortified mile each day.
Frank Greer, MD, FAAP, who is chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and co-author of the report, “Supplementation is important because most children will not get enough vitamin D through diet alone” says “we are doubling the recommended amount of vitamin D children need each day because evidence has shown this could have life-long health benefits.”
There are new indicators revealing that vitamin D, along with building strong bones, could prevent diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Children who don’t get enough vitamin D are vulnerable to getting rickets, which is a bone disease that can cause growth problems and fractures and lead to developing osteoporosis as they age.
So how does one get more vitamin D? Well, first we need to understand that our bodies don’t make their own vitamin D, so we have to get it from other sources such as diet or sunlight. The body creates vitamin D when sunlight reaches our skin. Unfortunately direct sun exposure raises the risk for skin cancer, so it is important to limit your exposure to no more than about 20 minutes.
A safer way to help your child the suggested amount of vitamin D is through the food they eat each day. Some vitamin D rich foods are tuna, salmon, eggs and fortified milk, but it is hard for kids to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. Your pediatrician can help you decide if a supplement, like an over-the counter vitamin D with 100 to 400 IUs, is what your individual child needs.
In the future, new guidelines may induce a surge of vitamin D-fortified foods in the grocery store. Until then, your pediatrician is probably your best source for information. It is not a good idea to give a supplement without a recommendation, because they may already be getting the amount of vitamin D that they need.
Here are some ways to get more vitamin D into your child’s daily diet:
- Cereal with fortified milk for breakfast or a snack
- Cream-based soups or use fortified milk instead of water in soup or hot cereal
- Fortified yogurt instead of ice cream as a treat – freeze in ice pop trays
- Serve pudding made with fortified milk for dessert
- Buy orange juice that is fortified with vitamin D
- Make smoothies with fortified milk, yogurt and fruit
- Get cereal bars and cereals that are fortified
- Make sandwiches with egg salad or cheese ( cut into fun shapes )