the missing vitamin
Can you guess which vitamin over 50 million children in the United States have low levels of?
If you guessed Vitamin D then you are correct! Vitamin D helps to build a healthy skeleton and immune system, but many children are not getting enough of it! Protect your child from vitamin D deficiency with these quick and easy dos and don’ts:
DO know where to find vitamin D.
The following foods are rich in vitamin D:
- Fatty fish and fish oils such as cod, mackerel, and salmon
The body also makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, sun in the northern United States is usually not strong enough to make much vitamin D, and people with dark skin typically don’t make enough vitamin D even when the sunlight is strong.
DON’T over-expose your child to the sun.
While the UV rays in sunlight may help your child to make vitamin D, they also cause sunburns and skin cancer. Make sure your child always wears a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with SPF of 30 or above and encourage him or her to get vitamin D from food instead of the sun.
DO know whether your child is at risk.
There are many risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Consuming less than three glasses of milk per day
- Dark skin
- Living far north of the equator, like in Dayton
- Exclusive breastfeeding
If your child has one or more of these risk factors, ask your doctor about a simple blood test which can test for vitamin D deficiency.
DON’T switch to an unhealthy type of milk.
Some parents will switch their child from healthy 2 percent, 1 percent, or skim milk to unhealthy “vitamin D” whole milk, believing that it will provide their child with more vitamin D. ALL milk in the United States has the same amount of vitamin D, so keep providing your child with heart-healthy 1 percent or skim milk.
Don’t forget: children aged 12 to 24 months should remain on “vitamin D” whole milk because the extra fat helps with brain development.
DO consider supplements.
If you are concerned about your child’s vitamin D status, ask your pediatrician if your child would benefit from a vitamin D supplement.
Leah Sabato, MPH, RD, LD has been a dietitian at Dayton Children’s for three years. She has a passion for working with kids and their families and believes that good nutrition should be easy, tasty, and fun!