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Why you need vitamin D especially during the coldest winters

A cold is coming through this week where highs are expected to be in the 60s here in sunny South Florida! And while the Florida natives will stay warm in winter sweaters and boots, the beaches will be packed with snowbirds and visitors, craving just a little bit of sunlight and warmth. And… vitamin D?

When most people think of vitamin D, sunlight and vitamin D fortified milk comes to mind. But in the midst of the polar vortex or whatever the newest meteorological term is this week, how can your children possibly get enough vitamin D to meet their daily needs when they have been cooped up in the house with snow drifts as tall as your rooftop?

Besides, did you know for most children, these sources simply do not provide enough vitamin D to meet the daily requirements? Even Florida kids need a boost when it comes to vitamin D, as sunlight alone just doesn’t meet their needs. And a child would have to consume 4 cups (32 ounces) of fortified milk per day to take in the 400IU of vitamin D, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recent studies even suggest that adequate vitamin D intake not only helps build a growing child’s bones, but can also ward off chronic diseases later in life, including those involving the immune and cardiovascular systems.

The good news is there are easy ways for your child to meet the daily vitamin D requirement without baking them in the sun and filling them up with milk.

Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, and other foods are a natural source. Here are a few of my kids’ favorites:

  • Oily fish such as salon, tuna, and trout are a great natural source of vitamin D. A 3.5 ounce serving of salmon meets nearly 90 percent of your child’s daily requirement.
  • Egg yolks and cheese also contain vitamin D naturally, but only meet 4-6 percent of a child’s daily needs.
  • Fortified orange juice, cereals, and yogurt can provide up to 25 percent of the recommended requirements.

For picky eaters, those who simply refuse to drink milk, and exclusively breastfed infants, a vitamin D supplement may be the best option to meet the recommended amounts. Any chewable vitamin that contains 400IU of vitamin D will do. For infants, a liquid preparation works best. I love the idea of the liquid drops, which provide the entire 400IU in one drop that can easily be put on your finger and placed in your baby’s mouth. So as the snow continues to fall and sunny days are a distant memory, remember that your child’s vitamin D level doesn’t have to suffer. A few smart dietary choices and/or a vitamin supplement will keep them healthy and strong no matter the weather outside.

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About Dr. Kristie Rivers, Bundoo Pediatrician

Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She cares for hospitalized children and also teaches pediatric residents and medical students.

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