3 Steps to Choose a Kids' Multi-Vitamin

As a parent, I worry about my kids.  It's my job.  Are they going to the right school?  Making the right friends?  Eating the right foods?  Getting the right nutrients?

I spend a lot of time and energy coaxing my kids into eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  I sneak pureed veggies, chia and flax into their food whenever I can.  But I still don't think it's enough.  Why?

Well, there's the processed foods  that despite my best efforts, sneak into our busy schedules from time to time.  But even the whole grains and fresh fruits & vegetables that are produced today lack the nutrients they once carried in previous generations.

So what's a Vitamin Mom to do?

To find the answers, I started with a childhood friend, who is now a prominent pediatrician in  San Francisco.

"Giving your child a daily multivitamin is important to ensure they are getting enough of the essential nutrients needed for healthy development." answered Dr. Joseph Kim.  "It does not replace eating a healthy, balanced diet.  But it is an easy way to give kids' bodies the essential tools they need to develop, grow, prevent disease and build immunity."

He added, "Avoid products loaded with artificial colors and preservatives."

Okay - got it.  A good daily multi-vitamin is an essential.  And with no junk.  But sorting through the different products on the market can be confusing and overwhelming.  How do I choose?

Step 1: Choosing a form

Vitamins come in a variety of forms: Chewable tablet, Powder, Capsule (meant to be swallowed), Gummy and Liquid.

Well, I need to be practical about this.  I need something that my kids will take every day.  Honestly, I do enough coaxing with my kids every day (get dressed, wash your hands, eat your veggies, do your homework, stop torturing your brother...).  I need something easy, or it's just not to happen on a consistent basis.

So after some experimenting, I've concluded that my kids will take gummy vitamins.  In fact, they remind me about getting their vitamins on the days I forget.  Yes - they look and taste like candy and they have sugar.  You can argue that I'm encouraging bad habits by giving them gummies every day.   I would argue back that it's encouraging a good habit of taking a daily multi-vitamin.

But let's not argue.  Life is about balance and  trade-offs.  They don't get very many sweets outside of the vitamins, so I'm okay with it.

Okay so I've narrowed it down to gummy vitamins for my kids.  On to Step 2.

Step 2:  Check for junk

I checked out the "Other Ingredients" listed on the label of a major brand kids' vitamin.  One with a famous cartoon character.  It can be found in all major supermarkets and drugstores.  I'm not going to name any names, but it's a brand/cartoon that we all grew up with.  Here is a list of the "other ingredients" of the cartoon brand, compared with 3 other specialty natural products.

Hero products are made with all natural quality ingredients.

Cartoon Brand Glucose Syrup, Sucrose, Gelatin, Water; Less Than 2% Of: Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Bees Wax, Carnauba Wax, Citric Acid, D-Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Red #40, FD&C Yellow #6, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vegetable Oil (coconut or palm), Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin E Acetate, Zinc Sulfate.
Contains: Wheat, tree nuts (coconut).
 Yummi Bears Glucose syrup, natural cane sugar, gelatin, citric acid, lactic acid, natural flavors (strawberry, pineapple, orange, grape), natural colors (annatto, black carrot juice concentrate, purple berry juice concentrate, turmeric), fractionated coconut oil and carnauba wax to prevent sticking. 
Alive! Gummies Dried cane syrup, organic tapioca syrup, pectin, citric acid, sodium citrate, colors (maqui berry, black carrot, beta carotene), natural cherry flavor with other natural flavors, natural grape flavor with other natural flavors, fractionated coconut oil (non-hydrogenated), beeswax, natural orange flavor with other natural flavors.

 I've highlighted the ingredients below that should concern us. Here's why:

"Artificial Flavors" means they're using something that isn't natural, but they won't tell us exactly what it is. I have no idea what they use, but if it's meant to taste like fruit, why not use fruit to flavor it?

FD&C Red #40 has been linked to several health issues (migraines, ADHD, Tourette's, DNA damage, cancer), particularly in children. In fact, it's been banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Sweden. Google it if you want to really get alarmed.

FD&C Yellow #6. According to the Center for Science for the Public Interest, this artificial coloring has been show in tests to causes tumors and contain several carcinogens. "Yellow 6 may cause occasional, but sometimes-severe, hypersensitivity reactions." Um, no thank you.

Okay. So I head to the natural selection of kids' multi-vitamin gummies. Now what?

Step 3:  Assess Nutritional Needs.

I'll save you the time and effort of going to multiple stores and staring back and forth between labels. Here's a chart that compares the nutritional facts listed on the labels of three natural vitamins made by brand names that I trust.

The Cartoon Brand I referenced above (with artificial flavors and colors) falls short in Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc.

These 3 natural products are pretty much a tie to me nutritionally, with each brand having its own advantages.

**Always consult your professional health care providers for advice and guidance on your nutritional needs and concerns.**

The Last Word:  What the KIDS think

So the last word comes down to my kids.  Which do they like best?

I had them try all three brands.  We finished an entire bottle of each product and discussed.  Here's what they had to say:

Note: actual product packaging may differ from images below

#1 Rated:  Yummi Bears

Rated highest on taste and texture

IMG_1892

"They taste the best"

"They feel smooth on the inside"

"They taste juicy"

"They don't get stuck in my teeth like the other ones"

#2 Rated:  Alive!

Rated best on appearance and flavor

Alive Kids Vitamin

"I like the shape and flavors"

"They taste fruity"

I also like that they have a fruit/veggie blend in their vitamin.  This is great if you're concerned your kids aren't getting enough fruits and vegetables.

Rated #3:  Animal Parade

Rated best on shapes and "fun"

Animal Parade Kids Vitamin

"I liked seeing what animal I got"

"The animal shapes are fun"

 We have a wide selection of natural and organic kids multivitamins on sale for the month of March at Vitamin Mom.  Check out the savings of 30-70% off suggested retail prices - plus get an EXTRA 10% off with coupon code VITAKID.

Or click here to view our entire selection of kids' multi-vitamins.  And as always, we offer free standard shipping on all orders.

Wishing you a happy and healthy week!

Sources:
http://www.drgreene.com/choosing-vitamin-supplement-children/
http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#dyes
http://chrisneillmd.blogspot.com/2011/02/is-red-dye-40-bad-for-you.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/445428-is-red-40-food-coloring-dangerous-to-your-health/