The signs your kid lacks essential vitamins can easily be overlooked, as they might be really subtle. But, it is crucial to notice them, as they can cause some serious long-term health issues.
Keep reading and find out what are the signs of a vitamin deficiency in children and how to recognise if your child needs vitamins.
Nutrient deficiency in children
First and foremost, let’s talk generally about nutrient deficiency. A developing child requires a well-balanced diet with all the nutrients in order to grow optimally and prevent diseases.
A child's body does not produce all the nutrients it needs, so it is crucial to intake them from food and, if the child is a picky eater, from supplements.
A nutrient deficiency happens when the child’s diet is inadequate, or the body doesn’t absorb some nutrients properly. Micronutrient malnutrition can lead to serious health problems and negatively affect the child’s growth.
Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in children are iron, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12, fibre, potassium and zinc.
First, let’s talk about all the vitamins your child might lack in their diet, why they are important and what are the most common symptoms of vitamin deficiency in children.
Vitamin D deficiency might cause some serious issues like bone disease, inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease.
Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption of iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate.
Also, it is extremely important for heart health and your child’s immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: muscle cramping, bone pain, an increase of bone fractures.
Vitamin D sources: fatty fish, fish oil, fortified milk, egg yolk, and having fun in the sunshine.
An important nutrient when it comes to healthy blood cells, immunity, and cognitive development.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: canker sores inside the mouth, brittle hair and nails, muscle pain, fatigue, and cramps. Sometimes it can also be accompanied by a rash.
Also, keep in mind that vitamin B12 deficiency is common in children that are fed a plant-based diet if they don’t supplement it.
Vitamin B12 sources: meat, dairy, eggs, spinach, broccoli, bananas, fortified breakfast cereals, etc.
Vitamin C is probably the most known vitamin there is. It is used to treat colds and we usually use it when our immune system is weakened. But, its deficiency can lead to serious issues, and one of them is called scurvy.
Scurvy is quite rare but serious. It can present itself with small, brown spots, rough skin, thickening of the gums, weakness, discomfort, and in late stages with nerve involvement and convulsions.
Vitamin C deficiency symptoms: bleeding gums, weakened muscles, bruising, poor immune system.
Vitamin C sources: Fruits and vegetables, especially kiwi, citruses, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more.
Vitamin A supports eye health, it stimulates the production of white blood cells, regulates cell growth, and much more. There are two main forms of Vitamin A: preformed vitamin A, and provitamin A carotenoids.
Deficiency of vitamin A usually presents itself as vision difficulty, especially in low light, and sometimes with dry eyes, skin, irregular patches on the white of the eyes, and poor immune system that comes with frequent illnesses.
Vitamin A sources: dairy products, eggs, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, and vitamin supplements.
Vitamin E’s main role is to act as an antioxidant and get rid of the free radicals that can damage cells. It also strengthens the immune system and prevents clots from forming in the arteries.
The deficiency of vitamin E is quite rare in children, and most often if a child has this deficiency, it is generally malnourished.
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms: Problems with vision, muscle weakness, trouble walking, and shaking.
Vitamin E sources: Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin, mango, avocado, etc.
What if your child is a picky eater?
Toddlers, in general, have much more sensitive taste buds, resulting in some foods being too intense. It is common for children to be picky with their food, but it can lead to malnourishment.
Not only toddlers are picky, but kids of every age can also develop aversions to certain foods or textures.
Let’s talk about what you can do to help your child eat more versatile foods, and help them intake all the vitamins they need.
1. Variety and creativity
It is important to introduce different foods and textures to your child from an early age. Creating a rainbow fruit plate can be a fun way to show them foods can be different colours.
Also, have fun with different shapes and introduce a food they usually don’t like in the shape of a teddy bear or a fish.
If your child doesn’t want to eat anything green, as many don’t, you can sneak spinach or other leafy greens in their favourite chocolate milkshake (they won’t even notice it).
2. Be a good example
You can’t expect your kid to eat something you obviously hate. If you don’t eat it, they won’t either. So, be a good example by eating a healthy diet.
Your kid already thinks you’re the coolest person in the whole world, and probably wants to be just like you - so they might copy your behaviour and start eating some foods you’d never expect them to.
3. Try organic multivitamins
For really stubborn kids, there is no other way than to supplement vitamins with gummies.
But, be careful, as not every multivitamin is good for your child so you need to pick wisely.
Search for organic multivitamins with no additives or harmful food colourings, and also pay attention if the vitamins contain sugar. Always choose supplements with no refined sugar, as natural sweeteners like honey are a much better option.