Double D's. Nope, we're not talking the bra-cup size you might have enjoyed while breastfeeding. It's extra vitamin D for your babies. Find out why vitamin D is important for kids' nutrition.
Attention parents and parents-to-be: Starting in October 2008, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) doubled the recommended dose of vitamin D for all children, from newborns to adolescents—up from 200 individual units (IU) to 400 IU a day.
See, bodies need vitamin D in order to absorb calcium (you know, the stuff your bones and teeth are made of), so your kids don't get rickets, which can cause long-bone deformities and impede growth, or cause osteoporosis as an adult. What's more, researchers think that increased vitamin D consumption can boost a child's immune system, and may reduce the risk of some cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
So, how do you get "the D"? Well, the only natural way to get vitamin D is by soaking up some sunlight. But as the days grow shorter and colder, catching some rays might be a little tough to accomplish.
Fortunately, you can get vitamin D from everyday foods like milk, soy milk, and some orange juices and cereals, most of which have added vitamin D (check the labels!).
Here are some other ways to work some D into their lives:
Drink milk! For the lactose intolerant or vegans, soy milk fortified with vitamin D can get the job done. Still, in order to get the full dosage, your kids would have to drink four to five glasses a day. And that's a whole lotta cow—which isn't necessarily healthy (it can cause constipation, weight gain and even iron deficiency), not to mention it can cost you some serious moo-la.
Play outside! Americans are estimated to be spending 93 percent of their time indoors. Are we in Iceland, people? Just because the weather's chilly doesn't mean you have to be a shut-in. Tell your kids to put down the Xbox, bundle up and get some exercise! All it takes is 5 to 30 minutes between 10 AM and 3 PM twice a week to get a boost of vitamin D; plus, it gets those bodies moving, which is always a good thing.
Eat fish! Highly doubtful that your kid will be open to a can of sardines or a tablespoon of cod liver oil, but fish in general contains vitamin D (thanks to swimming in algae). Fortunately, tuna, salmon, herring, catfish and other fatty fish are also good sources of vitamin D to benefit kids' nutrition.
Supplement! Vitamin D supplements can be taken in pill, capsule or liquid form. If your kid takes a multivitamin, make sure it has at least 400 IU of vitamin D (most do). For newborns, both breastfed and formula-fed, your pediatrician may prescribe a liquid vitamin D supplement.
And memo to pregnant or nursing moms (the ones with DD's for real!): Talk to your doctor to see if you need to take a vitamin D supplement along with your prenatal vitamin. Formula is fortified with vitamin D, but again, given this new AAP recommendation, it may not be enough.
Still got questions? Give your doc a call for advice that's tailor-made for you and your family. To read the full report, visit AAP.org