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Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.Dina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of VeganRD.com, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.
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My son is 11 yrs old and I would like to know what vegan multi is best for his age. -April
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It certainly is a good idea for all of us, children included, to take a multivitamin-mineral supplement. As the name suggests, it is designed to "supplement" a good diet-not replace it; nothing can take the place of the beneficial nutrients we get from a wide variety of wholesome plant foods provided by a well-planned vegan diet. Supplements give us extra vitamins and minerals-sort of like an insurance policy on our diets-but not the thousands of protective plant compounds (called "phytochemicals") found naturally in plants. For caretakers that choose not to give their children a multi, I still recommend that the vegan diet is supplemented with a reliable source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, from foods and/or supplements.
That said, there certainly are many options out there. First, determine whether your child will accept a liquid, chewable, or swallowable product. Then, look for a supplement labeled "vegan" (fortunately, this is becoming more common). If you're not sure if a product is vegan, you can call the manufacturer. Finally, look for a supplement designed for specific age groups; these are based on the Recommended Dietary Allowances, which are different for different ages. Sometimes supplements won't have 100 percent of all vitamins and minerals (for example, calcium is tough to get into a small tab), so unless there's a health issue, having less than 100% of some nutrients is not a concern; however, do look for supplements supplying 100% of each of the B vitamins.
You will find that many supplement labels recommend one "serving" for kids under four years, and two "servings" for kids four and older. This is fine. By adolescence, girls have slightly different needs than boys (more iron, for example, to replace the iron loss via menstrual blood loss). But unless a blood test shows low iron stores or other issues, it is not necessary to look for separate supplements for girls and boys.
Here are some brands that fit the above criteria. You can usually buy direct from the manufacturer, or buy them at a discount online, by doing a search on Froogle.com for the best deal. In my experience, it's easier to shop for supplements online than at the store, but you might have luck finding a suitable product at the store. Since manufacturers change formulations from time to time, check the label to make sure that the product is still acceptable.
My personal recommendation is Freeda Vitamins, a company that's been around for a long time and is dedicated to quality. Their line is vegan, gluten-free and allergen-free. Look for chewable Vitalets, which come unflavored and in orange, raspberry, and carob.
I also recommend Country Life, which has Dolphin Pals (a "gummy" candy-like supplement) for boys and for girls. The Rhino line of gummy bear and jellybean multis, which you may see in your local store, offers one vegan multi called Rhino Gummy Bear Vitaminstm Vegetarian.
If your child prefers swallowing a (small) pill, try Nutricology's Children's Multi.
The Vegan Society recommends:
Remember, the chewables taste like candy! KEEP ALL SUPPLEMENTS, DRUGS, AND MEDICINES COMPLETELY OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.