Vegan Supplements for children

Vegan Supplements

Multivitamins for babies and children

The UK Department of Health recommends that all children from 6 months to 5 years take a daily multivitamin that provides vitamins A, C and D.

This is because some young children may not eat enough fruit and vegetables (which are the main source of vitamin A and C), and because sun exposure (which is the main source of vitamin D) may not be reliable or enough for a high number of children.

It is unlikely that a vegan child needs extra vitamin C, however, many children might be short of vitamin A if they do not eat enough green and orange vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, kale, spinach…).

If your child is on a varied vegan diet, he or she only needs vitamins D3 and B12. However, it is perfectly fine to follow government’s advice and give them these other two vitamins (A and C). There is this vegan version available:

Nature & Nurture Baby & Child Vitamins:
Provides vitamins A, C and D3 in the amounts recommended by the UK Department of Health for babies 6 months-5 years. No additives, only water + glycerine.

There is no evidence that giving other vitamins to healthy children improves their growth or development. However, there are some circumstances when you would consider giving them a multivitamin that provides more vitamins and minerals than just vitamins A, C and D. For example, many toddlers go through a phase (usually between 1-3 years) when they become very fussy about food and reject many of the foods that they were happily eating a few weeks before.

Although most of these toddlers still have a good and varied diet, a few of them might not be getting some micronutrients in optimal amounts. Many parents worry when they see their child eating very little day after day – this can be quite stressful. A multivitamin for 2-3 months can give you some reassurance and it is ok to use it in these cases.

If your child is not gaining weight well or not growing according to their growth chart, or does not show the same level of activity and energy as before, please ask your health visitor, GP or paediatrician as soon as possible: there might be an underlying condition, and giving your child vitamins is only going to delay the diagnosis.

Some older children and teenagers may go through stressful periods of time (exams, sport competitions, recovery from illness or surgery) when they could benefit from taking a multivitamin for a few weeks. Again, if the child is very tired, has no or little energy, looks sad or worried, or complains about any physical pain, it is advisable to ask your GP or paediatrician to review him or her first.

There are many brands of supplements and each one provides a different combination of vitamins and minerals that will suit different needs. These are some examples of vegan multivitamins for children, if you don’t know which one to choose, please ask your doctor or dietitian:

Baby Multi-Vitamin Drops from Avacare:
Provides 10 mcg of vegan D3, plus vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, B12, C and zinc.
Suitable for babies from 3-4 months.

Child Multi-Vitamin & Minerals with Omega 3, from Avacare:
Provides vitamin A, C, D3, B including B12, zinc and iron; plus 150 mg DHA + EPA. Suitable for children from 1 year.
It does not contain iodine.

VEG-1 The Vegan Society:
Per tablet: Vit B2 1.6mg; Vit B6 2mg; Vit B12 25mcg; Vit D3 20µg (800IU); Folic Acid 200mcg; Iodine 150mcg; Selenium 60mcg.
Suitable for children > 2 years. Daily dose: 2-12 years: half a tablet (crush it well for children under 5 years)

Better You Vegan Health Daily Oral Spray:
Per spray provides: Vit D3 750IU; vit B12 1.5mcg; iron 1.25mg; iodine 37.5mcg.
Recommended daily dose: 1-3 years: 1 spray; 3-6 years: 2 sprays; 6-12 years: 3 sprays.
Good and convenient way of providing B12, D3 and iodine together.
Brand is not fully vegan

Naturelo Chewable Multivitamin and Mineral for Children, with no sugar:
Variable amounts of all vitamins and minerals. One chewable tablet provides 60mcg of iodine, 8mcg of vitamin D3, 20mcg of selenium, 4mg of zinc, 30mg of choline and 1mcg of vitamin B12. It does not contain iron. Suitable for children > 4years.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is not found in plant foods, apart from some fortified plant-based milks and yogurts. Our body can make vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but for many children, and especially during winter months, this might not be enough. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and deficiency can lead to rickets. That is why the UK Department of Health recommends that all children from birth to 5 years (unless they are taking 500ml of more of formula) take 400IU (10mcg) of vitamin D3. It is advisable that older children and teenagers also take supplements, either throughout the year or only in winter, depending on their skin type and the amount of time they spend outdoors.

Vitamin D3 has traditionally been obtained from wool (lanolin) and therefore was unsuitable for vegans, but it is now possible to obtain it from lichens. These are some plant-based D3 supplements that are easy and convenient for babies – but they can be used at any age:

Vitashine (Vegetology):
Provides 200IU (5mcg) of vitamin D3 per spray. Babies 0-12 months: 2 sprays a day; > 12 months: 3-5 sprays a day. Suitable from birth.

Nature & Nurture Baby D3 Drops:
Provides 5 mcg (200IU) per drop. Daily dose: 2 drops. Suitable from birth.

Iron

Most children do not need iron supplements and they should not take them routinely. Excessive iron can have adverse effects.

When is an iron supplement useful? There are two circumstances when giving iron to a baby or young child is beneficial:

  1.  babies 6-12 months who are eating very few amounts of solid foods rich in iron. Some babies are happy and thrive well on almost exclusive breastmilk beyond the 6th and show very little interest in solid foods. They could end up with very low iron stores, so giving them 1mg of iron per kg of body weight until they are on a more varied diet can be of help
  2.  toddlers going through the stage of very fussy eating (10mg a day).

Some female teenagers can also benefit from an iron supplement (15mg a day) when they begin menstruating, until their body adapts to this new situation and starts absorbing more iron from food.

The amounts suggested here are only for guidance, please check with your doctor or dietitian. An iron overdose can be fatal, please always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children and pets.

Natures Aid Iron Mini Drops for Infants and Children – Natures Aid:
1 ml provides 10mg iron, 15mg vitamin C, 100mcg folic acid + 1mcg vitamin B12.
Suitable for babies from 6 months.
Brand is not fully vegan

Iodine

Land plant foods are very low in iodine and many vegan diets are short on this micronutrient. Babies younger than one year can obtain the iodine they need from breastmilk or formula milk. From one year onwards, iodine-fortified plant milks can be a good source of iodine (see our article on Iodine for babies and children how much do they need). Otherwise it is important to include an iodine supplement. For example:

Nutrisorb Iodine 15ml – BioCare:
One drop provides 150mcg of iodine. Daily dose for children 1-6 years: 1 drop three times per week
Brand (company) is not fully vegan

Omega 3

Long chain omega-3 fatty acids (mainly DHA) are essential during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in babies and young children up to the age of two years, as they play an important role in the growth and development of the brain and the visual system. There is no clear evidence that they are necessary in healthy adults and children older than 2 years, but many people choose to take them regularly because of their potential benefits for the brain and the heart.

Humans can make a small amount of DHA from the omega-3 fatty acid ALA that can be found in some seeds, walnuts and soya products, but in the perinatal period it is advisable to provide the active form DHA. This can be obtained from micro-algae oil (the original source), or from fish oil. The following are some brands that offer plant-based DHA or DHA + EPA.

Child Omega-3 Super Plant Strength – Avacare:
Daily dose: 2 ml in children younger than 2 years; 5 ml in > 2 years. 

Vivo Life Plant Based Omega 3:
Provides 300mg DHA & 150mg EPA per ml. Suitable for all ages. Recommended daily dose: Babies 0-2 y: 0.3 ml; Children > 2 years and adults: 0.8-1 ml; pregnant and breastfeeding women: 1.5-2 ml

Opti 3 Liquid – Vegetology:
Provides 100 mg of DHA & 60 mg of EPA per ml. Recommended daily dose: Babies 0-2 y: 1 ml; Children > 2 years and adults: 2.5 ml; pregnant and breastfeeding women: 5 ml

B12

All vegan diets must be supplemented with vitamin B12. There are many tablets available for older children, teenagers and adults, but babies and young children need a liquid form. There are two vegan B12 supplements that are appropriate for babies:

Violife Vegan B12 Liquid Complex:
1ml provides 500mcg of Methylcobalamin,Hydroxocobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin.
Recommended dose for babies 6 months-2 years: 0.5ml once or twice a week.

Nutrisorb Methyl B12 – BioCare:
6 drops provide 500mcg of Methylcobalamin & Adenosylcobalamin.
Recommended dose for babies 6 months-2 years: 3 drops once or twice a week.
Brand is not fully vegan

Multivitamins for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Pregnavie – Vegetology:
One capsule provides ≥100% RDI of folate, B12, D3, K2, iodine & selenium, plus 5mg of zinc, 14mg of iron and 400mg of calcium.
Good option for women who need to increase calcium intakes.
It does not include omega 3.

However it does not provide vitamin A. If vitamin A is an issue, consider replacing Pregnavie with:

VegVit:
This multivitamin is not specifically designed for pregnancy, but includes the same amounts of folate, iron and iodine and adequate amounts of B12 and D3, although less calcium (120 mg); and 100% the RDI of vitamin A (as 50% beta carotene + 50% retinol).
It does not include omega 3.

Together Health Pregnancy Multi:
Two capsules provide 400IU of vitamin D3, 400mcg of folate; 5 mcg of B12; 4mg of zinc; 5mg of iron, 65mg of calcium, 60mcg of selenium; 75mcg of iodine (50% of RDI) and 1000mcg of beta carotene.
It does not include omega 3.

Naturelo Whole Food Prenatal Multivitamin with natural folate, calcium and iron:
Three capsules provide 20mcg of vitamin D3, 4.8mcg of B12, 27mg of iron, 255mg of calcium, 70mcg of selenium, 100mcg of choline and 800mch of folate (in the form of methylfolate).
Good option for women who need methylfolate instead of normal folic acid pre-conception or during pregnancy, for those with high iron and zinc requirements and for those who want to supplement with choline.
Vitamin A is provided in the form of beta carotene.
It does not include omega 3.

Naturelo Whole Food Postnatal Multivitamin:
Similar to the prenatal supplement, but with less iron, folate, choline, B12  and iron, and with more vitamin A (all as beta carotene).
It does not include omega 3.