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The best sources of vitamin D for kids may be sunlight and fortified foods or drinks. Many different types of fish also contain vitamin D, including salmon, sardines, and tuna. Most people believe that milk is a good natural source of vitamin D for kids, but vitamin D doesn't typically occur naturally in the milk people purchase in stores. Milk that comes directly from pastured cows might occasionally contain small amounts of natural vitamin D, but only fortified milk is typically considered a good source of this vitamin. The vast majority of store-bought milk has been previously fortified with vitamin D, as well as some yogurts and cheeses.
Sunlight may be the best source of vitamin D for kids, because the ultraviolet rays from sunlight can help the body to produce vitamin D naturally. Children typically need just less than an hour of direct sunlight each week to get a healthy dose of vitamin D. There are some parents who may not be able to depend on sunlight as a source of vitamin D for their children. Certain circumstances might occasionally prevent a child from being able to get vitamin D from the sun, such as rarely going outside, living in a shady location, or regularly using sunscreen. In situations such as these, it is very important that parents do what they can to make sure their children are getting vitamin D from things they eat and drink.
In addition to fish, some other good sources of vitamin D for kids are eggs and mushrooms. There are many children who may not have an interest in eating eggs, mushrooms, or fish, and if this is the case, they may benefit from eating and drinking things that are vitamin-D fortified. Many food manufacturers have begun fortifying popular food items with vitamin D, and breakfast foods such as cereals and instant oatmeal often have vitamin D added to them. Children may not be quite as resistant to eating cereals and other quick-preparation breakfast items, particularly because many of these foods are designed to appeal to children.
Children who do not get at least 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D every day are at risk for developing rickets, which is a problem associated with having weak bones. Prior to the 1980s, rickets was fairly uncommon, but it has been on the rise since that time. Some symptoms of rickets include bowlegs, bone pain, and slow weight gain. Most doctors agree that parents can prevent rickets by making sure their kids get enough vitamin D in their diets. Even though sunlight is thought to be a good source of vitamin D, doctors do not recommend forgoing sunscreen to help with vitamin D absorption because there are too many risks associated with prolonged sun exposure.