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How to Increase Vitamin D in Your Preschooler's Diet

New guidelines doubles the amount recommended for children

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is doubling the amount of vitamin D it recommends for infants, children and adolescents. The new clinical report, Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents, says that all children should receive 400 international units (IU), of Vitamin D, or the equivalent of drinking four 8-ounce glasses of fortified milk every day.

"We are doubling the recommended amount of vitamin D children need each day because evidence has shown this could have life-long health benefits," said Frank Greer, MD, FAAP, 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.”

New evidence shows that vitamin D not only helps build strong bones, but it also may prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer. When children don't get enough vitamin D, they are at risk for developing rickets, a bone disease that can lead to growth problems and fractures as well as developing osteoporosis as they get older.

How to Get More Vitamin D

Our bodies cannot produce vitamin D on its own, so we need to get it from other sources like diet or sunlight (your body makes vitamin D when sunlight touches your skin). But because direct sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, this is no longer a good option for increasing a body's intake of vitamin D.

You can get help your child get the recommended amount of vitamin D through what they eat everyday. Oily fish such as tuna and salmon, eggs and fortified milk offer good amounts of vitamin D, but it is unlikely kids will be able to get the recommended amount through diet alone. Discuss your child’s diet with your pediatrician to determine whether a supplement, such as an over-the-counter vitamin with 100 to 400 IUs, is necessary.

Eventually, these new guidelines may spur an increase of vitamin D-fortified foods in the grocery store, but until then, get your pediatrician's thoughts. And don't give a supplement without asking, because if your child takes a multivitamin, it is possible they are getting the vitamin D they need already.

Even with picky eaters at home, here are some ways to increase they amount of vitamin D your preschooler gets through his daily diet:

  • Give him cereal with fortified milk for breakfast or a snack.
  • Serve creamed-based soups or use fortified milk instead of water in soup or hot cereal.
  • Try fortified yogurt instead of ice cream for a treat -- freeze it in ice pop trays.
  • Make smoothies with fortified milk, yogurt and fruit.
  • For dessert serve pudding make with fortified milk.
  • Make sandwiches in fun shapes using egg salad or cheese.
  • Some cereal bars and cereals are fortified. Read labels carefully.
  • Many brands of orange juice are fortified with vitamin D. Check out the different varieties.

Source: AAP's report on the Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents.

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