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Nutrients for Vegan Kids: What Vitamins You NEED To Supplement
This article is a continuation of Dietary Guidelines For Kids: How Vegan Kids Get The Nutrients They Need! If you find yourself wanting to continue reading this guide for Raising Vegan Kids but don’t have the time now, you can sign up to receive the PDF version in your inbox HERE, or at the bottom of any page in this guide!
Vitamins and supplements; this is the part about raising vegan kids that may take the most research and makes you doubt yourself the most.
Which is why I’m including this section in the guide for raising vegan kids.
So you don’t have to stress anymore about which vitamins you absolutely need to supplement with.
Because if you’ve ever even thought about raising your kids vegan, and ran the idea past someone who is not vegan, then you may think that getting vegan kids the nutrients they need is going to be almost impossible.
But it’s really not that hard!
Raising a vegan child and ensuring they get proper nutrition is so much easier than everyone says it is, especially if you’re feeding them mostly whole plant based foods.
And honestly, you are already ahead of all other parents who aren’t raising vegan kids.
Because they think that the Standard American Diet that they are feeding their kids is sufficient at providing them everything they need, they don’t even pay attention to which vitamins or minerals that their kids need for their development and to thrive.
You’re already a few steps ahead of them with simply thinking about your child’s nutrition!
However, there are a few vitamins that you do need to ensure your child gets enough of on a vegan diet.
If you’re vegan, the vitamins your kids need are the same ones you need, just in a different amount.
These vitamins are Vitamin D and B12.
*Please note that I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and am not liable for what you do with the information I provide. The following is for informational purposes only. If you or you child has a medical condition or you have concerns about raising vegan kids, please consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian familiar with a vegan diet.
Vitamin D naturally comes from the sun.
Almost NO ONE gets enough Vitamin D naturally (there may be some locations where people do- but not where I live, which is in northern U.S.).
This is especially true if you live in an area that gets long winters.
Even kids on the SAD (Standard American Diet) most likely do not get enough vitamin D.
Our pediatricians in this country tell us to give our breastfed babies Vitamin D drops to supplement the vitamin from the day they are born!
That right there should make it clear that we lack in this vitamin and just how important it is, especially for growing kids!
We shouldn’t stop giving our kids Vitamin D once they’re no longer babies.
Luckily there are plenty of vegan options for Vitamin D supplements.
- Liquid (these are what I get for my kids)
- Gummies (I’ve heard great things about this brand)
- Sprays (same brand as gummies)
Many foods are also fortified with vitamin D, such as non-dairy milk, cereals, and more.
Simply take a look at the nutrition facts on the label; the vitamins and minerals are generally shown at the bottom as a % Daily Value and with the amount of each vitamin or mineral per serving.
Why do we (and our vegan kids) need vitamin D?
Short answer: to prevent rickets, a skeletal disorder that results from a deficiency in vitamin D.
Longer answer: Vitamin D is a key component in calcium absorption. Helping us and our kids have strong bones.
This vitamin does more than just help with calcium absorption and help form strong bones.
If you’re a bit of a nerd like me, then you can find more information on Vitamin D here (from the National Institute of Health): Vitamin D
How much Vitamin D do our kids need?
According to the book Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition (Comprehensive Edition), which was written by two Registered Dieticians (Branda Davis, RD & Vesanto Melina, MS, RD)¹
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for kids (age 1 through adulthood) is 15mcg.
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Infants (under 1) is 10mcg.
You’ll also want to make note that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can be stored in the body, so you’ll want to be careful not to give your child too much more than they need. If you think your child may need more or less vitamin D than the RDI, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about it.
The next Vitamin you will need to supplement for is Vitamin B12.
Unlike vitamin D, Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that specifically vegans need to supplement for, as it’s only found in animal products (and also soil, but you shouldn’t eat soil!).
So, maybe this is where your disapproving friends or family may think your kids won’t get the nutrients they need.
Luckily, this vitamin is easy to supplement for and there’s actually a few ways you can do so!
- Taking a daily supplement of B12 of 10-250mcg, depending on age ¹
- Taking a twice a week supplement of B12 of 375-2,500, depending on age¹
- Eating B12 fortified foods 3 times per day, such as nutritional yeast²
My personal preference for my own kids is the twice a week supplement, in liquid form!
I buy vitamin B12 for my kids from the same company I buy vitamin D (find it here).
I can’t guarantee that my kids will always eat enough foods fortified in B12, which is why we supplement, even though we have nutritional yeast quite often in our diet.
If you’re not sure what nutritional yeast is, you’re not alone! I never even heard of it until about 4 years ago while looking up vegan mac and ‘cheese’ recipes, and now we use it almost everyday. You can buy it in stores, or online. The best price per oz that I’ve found so far, which I just bought, I found here.
The B12 liquid vitamins are delicious in smoothies and my girls try to keep track of when they last had it and remind me to add it into theirs!
You can also get Vitamin B12 in,
- a liquid B complex
- a liquid B12
- a B12 + D3 gummy vitamin (knock both needed supplements out in one!)
- A B12 spray
Honestly, if I didn’t have to worry about my oldest daughters tooth enamel, I’d be getting the B12 + D3 gummy vitamin for my 4 and 7 year olds, so I would only have to give them one vitamin. Though, I would still give my 13 month old the liquid vitamin.
Why do we need B12?
Short Answer: to prevent nerve damage.
Longer Answer: many reasons, as nerves are located all over our bodies and a deficiency in B12 can lead to some pretty big problems, such as:
- Irreversible brain damage in infants
- Failure to thrive
- Megaloblastic Anemia
- Nerve damage (which could result in confusion, depression, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, unable to concentrate, tingling or numbness in arms, fingers, legs, trouble balancing, loss of feeling, and eventual paralysis)
- Gastrointestinal disturbances (sore tongue, reduced appetite, indigestion, diarrhea)
- Risk of heart disease and stroke (due to elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid)
So, it’s quite important to supplement this vitamin!
The RDI for infants 6-12 months is 0.5mcg.³
The RDI for kids 1-3 years is 0.9mcg.³
The RDI for kids 4-8 years is 1.2mcg.³
The RDI for kids 9-13 is 1.8mcg.³
The RDI for kids 14-18 is 2.4mcg.³
Infants under 6 months generally get their B12 from breast milk or fortified infant formula.
Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor if you’re unsure if you’re getting enough B12 in your diet if you are breastfeeding, or if you have additional concerns. If worried about yours/your child’s B12 levels, don’t be afraid to ask your/your child’s doctor to test B12 levels!
Wondering why there’s a HUGE difference between the amount to supplement vitamin B12 and the RDI’s?
It’s because our bodies can’t absorb all of the B12 we consume.
Thank goodness vitamin B12 is water soluble (unlike vitamin D), which means if your child accidentally has too much, they’ll just pee it out!
Some notes about the different forms of vitamin supplements
As you saw above, there are different forms that vitamins come in, one form is not better than another; it simply comes down to preference and what your child will take.
I personally like to give my kids liquid vitamins, for two reasons.
First, liquid vitamins can easily be squirted in their mouth with a dropper, added to a smoothie, non-dairy yogurt, nice cream, and many other things. So it’s easy to get them to take it!
This is the type that they start off with as babies and sometimes it’s just best to keep things how they are!
Second, my oldest daughter has soft tooth enamel and can not have gummy vitamins (or any gummies of any kind). Unfortunately, we didn’t find this out til she had four cavities by the time she was four and needed to have minor surgery to have crowns put on (she can’t wait for those baby teeth to fall out!).
Other parents have found that the vitamin sprays work best and that their children even enjoy taking them and remind their parents to give them them each morning.
And, of course most kids don’t have any issues with eating gummy vitamins.
My 7 and 4 year old would love to have gummy vitamins, but because of the soft tooth enamel my 7 year old has, we have to stay away.
So if your child doesn’t have soft tooth enamel, then it truly is only dependent on yours or your child’s preference.
Vitamin D and B12 are the only vitamins that we can’t get from a vegan diet without supplementing, which is why they are included in The ULTIMATE GUIDE for Raising Vegan Kids.
*Please be aware that there may be other nutrients your vegan child may need, depending on their diet, such as omega-3’s (DHA & EPA) and more.
Didn’t start from the beginning? Start Here!
*If you’re not taking a Vitamin D or B12 supplement and you’re vegan, you really should be! This information isn’t just for kids, even though it’s geared that way.
I just ran out of my B12 vitamin for myself and this time around I’m upping my supplement game and I’ll be taking a B12 and D3 that’s combined. You can see what I ordered here.
Need some inspiration for being or raising vegan? Check out the vegan quotes in Vegan Quotes: For Health, the Planet, & the Animals!
¹Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition (Comprehensive Edition), by Branda Davis, RD & Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
² How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD, FACLM