In this blog post, I share which vitamins vegan kids should supplement with and how much do they need
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Vegan children can thrive and meet their nutrient needs from plant foods; however, there are certain key nutrients that must be supplemented to ensure their diet is appropriately planned. An appropriately planned vegan diet includes a wide variety of plant foods, fortified foods, and supplements.
The number one question I get asked by parents is “What supplements does my child need?”. This is a question that often leaves parents feeling overwhelmed about not knowing how much of each nutrient their child needs and which supplement should they provide.
I recommend speaking with your healthcare care provider or Registered Dietitian for specific supplements and dose. This blog post simply highlights a few vegan-friendly supplements for inspiration. Please note that it’s important to discuss any change of plan to your child’s supplements with his/her pediatrician or healthcare provider. Every child is different and their unique nutritional status should be discussed with a Registered Dietitian or pediatrician for proper supplementation.
The 4 supplements all vegan infants and children need
Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient that is not widely found in the plant kingdom and must be obtained through fortified foods and supplements. The most reliable way to obtain Vitamin B12 is through a children’s multivitamin.
All vegan children need a Vitamin B12 supplement. It is recommended that once infants begin eating solid foods (usually around 6 months of age) they should begin a Vitamin B12 supplement (1). There isn’t a stand alone Vitamin B12 supplement for children like there is for adults, so it must be given through a children’s multivitamin or adjust dosage of an adult version. A single dose of 5mcg per day is considered safe and meets the requirements for infants (1).
Majority of adult supplements provide more than the requirements for children but there is no evidence of adverse effects for providing larger doses (3). This means that there’s no evidence showing that it’s dangerous to consume more than what it’s needed. There is an upper limit guidance level for children that has been established at 530 mcg for ages 1-3 years old and 730 mcg per day for ages 4-6 (3). Speak with a Registered Dietitian to help you determine specific dosage for your vegan infant, toddler, and children.
For Toddlers and Children
Simply You Liquid Vitamin B12
When choosing a Vitamin B12, I recommend finding a cyanocobalamin vs methylcobalamin. This isn’t because one is better than the other but more because cyanocobalamin has been studied more.
NATURELO Chewable Multivitamin
Naturelo Chewable Multivitamin is made from whole, plant foods as opposed to synthetic vitamins and minerals. Another advantage is that it only requires 2 gummies to meet the proposed nutrients versus most other kids’ multivitamin gummies require about 3-4 gummies per day. This one provides 2mcg of Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) which is sufficient to meet the needs of 4 - 8 year olds (2).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed babies supplement with 400IU per day (1). Soy-based formulas do provide Vitamin D but some may provide insufficient amounts if your vegan baby consumes less than 1 liter per day (or about 34oz). Speak with your healthcare provider to see if a Vitamin D supplement is necessary.
There are limited number of vegan-friendly Vitamin D supplements for infants. The origin of Vitamin D can either be from sheep's wool (considered vegetarian) or lichen (a plant and vegan-friendly).
There are two types of Vitamin D
Vitamin D2 which is also known as ergocalciferol and is suitable for vegans
Vitamin D3 known as cholecalciferol and can be either vegan or vegetarian. Some dietary supplements clearly label whether it’s from lichen (vegan) or they won’t disclose it (which would be difficult to know whether it’s vegan or not). Majority of brands do not disclose its origin, it simply states D3 as cholecalciferol, so this makes it difficult to know whether it’s vegan-friendly or not simply by looking at the package.
Vitamin D supplements for infants typically come in dropper form where you can add a drop into your baby’s bottle, food, or directly on breast right before nursing. It’s best to provide this supplement when baby is nursing or taking a bottle since Vitamin D requires fat for absorption.
This is the only pediatric supplement to date that I have found to be vegan. I have personally contacted the company and the owner was kind enough to response to request. The company is transparent and also stated “There are no animal derived ingredients in our Baby D3+K2”. Their Vitamin D3 is from lichen and Vitamin K2 is derived from fermented chickpeas.
Vegan infants can meet their omega-3s through breastmilk, formula and plant foods. Omega-3s are so important for children since it’s a source of fatty acids. Children need fat for both growth and brain development. During the first two years, their brain is rapidly growing so children need fat from their diet to support brain development. It’s recommended for all children between the ages of 6 months - 3 years, regardless of diet, to consume 100gm/day of DHA in addition to omega-3 rich plant foods (1).
This particular supplement is vegan-friendly as it’s 100% made from marine algea oil. I reached out to the company to ensure that it is vegan-friendly since it’s certified by the American Vegetarian Association. I asked whether anything about their ingredients would not make it suitable for a vegan baby and they confirmed that this is safe for vegan babies.
Iron is such an important nutrient for all children as it supports growth and development. Iron deficiency anemia is a very common deficiency in children and including iron-rich plant sources in their diet is so important.
Infants are born with iron reserves up until around 4 months. For exclusively breastfed babies, this is typically around the time that iron supplement is recommended because breastmilk provides insufficient amounts. Here is a vegan BLW iron-fortified muffin recipe that you can include in your baby’s meal plan. My daughter really enjoys them as a breakfast item.
Novaferrum Liquid Iron Pediatric Drops
This supplement only provides iron
Other Nutrient Supplementation to Consider
A child’s vegan diet also requires several other key nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iodine, and choline. Many multivitamin supplements do not provide all of these key nutrients and some provide very little amounts. It’s good practice to include fortified foods in a vegan child’s diet to ensure that they meet their nutrient and calorie needs for proper growth and development.
Here are a few vegan-friendly children vitamins that you may also want to consider looking into:
Renzo’s Picky Eater Multivitamin
Pros: Contains Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Iodine, and Choline. This comes in a tablet that gets dissolved in a child’s mouth vs a gummy. It also does not have added sugars as it is made from monk fruit extract.
Cons: Provides only 50% of Vitamin D requirements for children. You want to consider adding an additional Vitamin D supplement if children are not regularly exposed to sunlight or consuming adequate amounts from fortified foods.
Garden of Life Children’s Multivitamin
Pros: This vegan gummy multivitamin is made from organic whole, plant foods. Provides adequate amounts to meet Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D needs of children under the age of 8years old.
Cons: It requires 4 gummies to meet the dosage amounts and does not contain iodine or choline. Vegan children should have an additional iodine supplement or consume iodized salt in home cooked meals (children 1 - 8 years old need 90mcg/day of iodine) (2).
Iodine is important as it helps maintain a healthy thyroid. Plant foods are not reliable sources of iodine and as vegans we must either supplement or obtain it from iodized salt. Breatsmilk/formula contain iodine for infants but once they are weaned if a multivitamin does not contain iodine, then a supplement should be considered.
Recommended Dietary Allowances for Infants and Children
Luciana, B., Goggi, S., & Battino, M. (2018). Planning Well-Balanced Vegetarian Diets in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: The VegPlate Junior. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 1-8. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.06.008
National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Nutrient recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx
Rasmussen et al. (2006). A safe strategy for addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. European Journal of Nutrition, 45 (3): 123 -135. DOI 10.1007/s00394-005-0580-9