Q: Is a multi-vitamin necessary for vegetarian toddlers / kids?
A: In general, I am not a big advocate of vitamin supplementation. There’s very little scientific evidence that consuming an individual micronutrient actually benefits the health. Instead, I recommend that you get your nutrients from eating a well-rounded diet.
For vegetarian children, the most likely deficiencies would be Vitamin B12 and Iron.
There are two types of iron: heme, which is the type found in meat; and non-heme, which is the type found in non-meat items such as eggs, cereals, vegetables, peas, beans and lentils. Non-heme iron is not as well absorbed by the body as heme iron, but the absorption can be enhanced by vitamin C, which is a good reason for giving vegetables and fruit at the same time. Most vegetarians get enough Vit C in their diet.
Vegetarians normally get enough B12 from dairy produce. If you or your children practice a vegan diet try to eat foods enriched with B12 (such as breakfast cereals) or regularly include fortified yeast extract in the diet. Vegans may need to take a Vit B12 supplement.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.