Q: Does my child need vitamins if she eats a balanced diet?
A: The short answer is no. Even kids who seem to be picky eaters or who don't eat a varied diet usually do a pretty good job of consuming all the important vitamins and minerals they need. So for most children who are otherwise healthy and have no dietary restrictions, a daily multivitamin is probably not necessary.
That said, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends vitamin D supplementation in all infants, whether breast- or bottle-fed, from birth to possibly even adolescence. This is different from the old recommendation to give vitamin D only to breastfed infants. Studies show that toddlers, older kids, and even some adults are vitamin D—deficient and could benefit from supplements. Vitamin D keeps bones strong and healthy, and plays a role in keeping the immune system strong as well.
There are also certain groups of kids, such as vegetarians and those with food sensitivities who require a strictly controlled diet, who might benefit from a daily multivitamin. It's a good idea to discuss your child's vitamin D intake, as well as other important nutrients such as calcium and iron, with your pediatrician.
One more important point to make about vitamins: They can be toxic when taken in excess. Many are designed to look and taste like candy, and a child who takes more than the recommended daily dose could wind up in the emergency room. So be sure to treat vitamins like any other medication: Always keep them locked up and out of reach.
Lara Zibners, M.D., penned If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.