This article originally appeared on Jackie Silver Nutrition and has been published here with permission — “The Ultimate Guide to Vitamins for Picky Eaters” was written by Bailey Gibbs and edited/reviewed by Rivah Goldstein, MScFN, RD and Jackie Silver, MHSc, RD.
Have you wondered if your picky eater should be taking vitamin or mineral supplements? Or if they can get all their micronutrients from food? There is a lot of conflicting information online so let’s get started on this ultimate guide to vitamins for picky eaters!
First things first: What is a Vitamin?
Vitamins are micronutrients that our body needs in small amounts to function and grow optimally. However, some vitamins can’t be made by our bodies and others are made in tiny amounts. This is why it’s important to get our vitamins from the foods we eat or take a supplement if we’re not getting all our vitamins from food.
There are two types of vitamins: Fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed with fat from our diet and include vitamins A, D, E, and K. They dissolve in oil (liquid-fat).
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve and move through the body in water and include vitamin C and the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12).
Minerals come from the earth and are important for the body to stay healthy and function properly. Minerals are divided into two categories based on the amount that we need.
Some examples of macrominerals include calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and sulfur.
Some examples of trace minerals include iron, zinc, copper, fluoride, and iodine
How much do I need?
There is a set of reference values called the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) that help guide healthy eating. The DRI includes a recommended intake for each nutrient that will meet the needs of 97–98% of healthy people.
These guidelines are based on studies of people who didn’t get enough or got too much of certain nutrients. So, if we stay within the recommended DRI guidelines, we should be getting enough to stay healthy.
Eating a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and whole grains should provide enough vitamins and minerals for good health.
What is a nutrient deficiency?
A nutrient deficiency is when our body doesn’t get enough of a certain vitamin or mineral to stay healthy and function properly.
We can develop a vitamin / nutrient deficiency by not eating a wide enough variety of foods or by excluding food groups, which can be the case with picky eaters. When we don’t eat a wide variety or exclude food groups, we are at higher risk for a vitamin deficiency. Even being deficient in a single vitamin can have a negative impact on our health.
Signs of a vitamin deficiency
There are some signs that can indicate a vitamin deficiency in kids, including:
- Brittle hair and hair loss
- Slow wound healing
- Frequent infections or sickness
- Weakness and fatigue
- Mouth sores
- Bleeding gums
- Poor night vision
- Rashes and lesions on the skin
- Bone pain and muscle weakness
- Slow growth and development
Testing for a vitamin deficiency
There are several ways to test for a vitamin deficiency but the most common method is a blood test to look at individual levels of micronutrients. A physician may also physically examine a person to look for visible signs of vitamin deficiency such as rashes or lesions on the skin.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters: Deficiencies
Did you know that picky eaters are more likely than non-picky eaters to be below the recommended intake of carotene, zinc, and iron? This is because they are less likely to consume fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish (all of which are rich in a variety of micronutrients), which likely contribute to their vitamin deficiencies.
Picky eaters also tend to consume more refined carbohydrates, processed foods, sugary foods and drinks than non-picky eaters which are all lower in vitamins compared to whole foods.
Other studies have also seen zinc and iron deficiencies in picky eaters in comparison to non-picky eaters which could be from low intake of fresh meat (such as steaks, roasts, or chops). Picky eaters also often consume less fiber because of their decreased fruit and vegetable intake.
Furthermore, studies show that autistic children are more likely than their neurotypical peers to be low in calcium because of their limited food preferences. Other studies show autistic children may be lower in vitamins B1, B6, B12, A, D, and iron compared to neurotypical children.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters: Toxicities
Although vitamins are designed to keep the body healthy, it is possible to have too much of a good thing!
Consuming too much of a vitamin can lead to vitamin toxicity, which is when there is a buildup of that vitamin in the body. Vitamin toxicity can have serious consequences.
Common signs of a vitamin overdose include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain (overdose of iron), muscle weakness (vitamin D), clumsiness and vision problems (vitamin A), and more.
If you suspect that your child may have overdosed on a vitamin, please call 911 or your local poison control center right away.
Important minerals and vitamins for picky eaters (and all kids!):
We need iron to make red blood cells, which helps us maintain a healthy immune system, proper mental function, helps with growth and develeopment, and maintain our energy levels. Iron also helps us make hemoglobin which carries the oxygen in our blood to all the cells in our body so they can function properly.
Iron deficiency is quite common in young children. Symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling tired, poor memory, poor performance in school, and behavior problems.
Food sources of iron include nuts, beans, lean meat, and seafood. You can also find breakfast cereals that are fortified with iron to help add some extra iron into your little one’s diet!
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is needed to maintain healthy bones! It also plays a role in the immune and nervous systems. We can get vitamin D from a few food sources, from a supplement and from the sun.
People with a vitamin D deficiency might feel weakness in their bones or muscles.
The best food sources of vitamin D are fish liver oils and fatty fish such as trout and salmon. Although there are not many foods naturally high in vitamin D, there are a variety of products such as milk and breakfast cereal that are fortified with vitamin D to help make sure we get enough in our diet!
Calcium is also super important for bone health! Calcium helps our muscles and nerves function. Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium.
When we don’t get enough calcium, our body will remove calcium from our bones, making them weaker. Calcium intake is especially important in childhood for bone growth and development.
Food sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yogurt. Green leafy veggies such as spinach and kale are also good sources of calcium.
Risk disclaimer: Calcium supplementation carries the risk of calcification, which happens when too much calcium builds up in our tissues and blood vessels. Please speak with a healthcare professional before starting supplementation. Individual responses may vary, and regular monitoring is advised.
Additionally, vitamin B12 is essential for brain development in babies and children, which is why it is an important vitamin for picky eaters and little ones!
Our bodies cannot produce this vitamin on their own, which is why we need to get it from foods or supplements. Some foods that contain this vitamin include meat, fish, eggs, some dairy products, fortified cereals, and fortified nutritional yeast.
Unfortunately, picky eaters that don’t eat much meat, dairy, and/or follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may be at higher risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency.
6 Tips to Get Your Picky Eater to Eat More Vitamins
Keep reading for our best tips to help your picky eater get more vitamins from food.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #1: Give your picky eater variety and choice
Present your child with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods to try. Most importantly, let your picky eater be involved in some of the decision making! For example, let them choose which vegetable to have with dinner each night.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #2: Make food fun
Create fun shapes or make a silly face out of vegetables on your picky eater’s plate. Food art is a great way to make healthy food fun. By making food fun your picky eater may be more excited to try it!
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #3: Don’t give up
If your picky eater does not like the food you offer, wait a few days and present the food again. It can take more than 15 interactions with a food before your child may like it. Stay consistent and do not give up if your child rejects a food on the first try!
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #4: Make your picky eater your sous chef
Make your little one a sous chef and involve them in meal preparation and planning. Let your picky eater decide which vegetables to include with dinner and get them to help with some of the cooking. You can even buy them a plastic toy knife and have them pretend to chop ingredients. Getting the little ones involved in the kitchen will increase excitement about the meal and make them more willing to try new foods.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #5: Set the example
A great way to get your picky eater to try a new food is to set an example. Be a good role model and eat a variety of foods. Seeing adults eating a variety of fruits and veggies will make the little ones more likely to want to do the same.
Vitamins for Picky Eaters Tip #6: Mix and Match
Try mixing a new food with a food that you know your picky eater likes. If you combine a new food that’s rich in vitamins with something your child already enjoys, they will be more likely to try it. For example, if your picky eater likes french fries, try combining regular french fries with these amazing parmesan zucchini fries!
Vitamins for Picky Eaters: Supplements
A balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and variety is important to prevent mineral and vitamin deficiencies and is the best way to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
If you are concerned that your child may have a vitamin deficiency, it is a great idea to reach out to a registered dietitian. A dietitian will likely take a “foods first” approach, which means that before trying supplements they will try to work with you by changing the diet.
A registered dietitian can help recommend strategies to introduce more vitamins through food. If needed, they can recommend the best vitamin supplements for your child.
In some cases vitamin supplementation can be a helpful tool. Supplements for kids come in a variety of forms including chewable, liquid, pill, and gummy.
Check out some of our favorite vitamins for picky eaters below!
Vitamins for Picky Eaters: Multivitamins
Multivitamins are supplements that have small amounts of many different vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins are a great way to add multiple nutrients into your little one’s diet! In my private practice, I often recommend multivitamins for my neurodivergent clients with selective diets to fill in any potential gaps for nutrients they’re missing from their diet.
This gummy multivitamin is a great choice for picky eaters. With natural cherry, grape, and orange flavors, it provides a taste that your little one will love.This multivitamin is also gluten free and dairy free.
These gummy multivitamins are made up of Vitamins A, C, D, E, Bs and Zinc PLUS probiotics, so they’re great for improving gut health and immune system. Best of all, these are more natural, and many of my clients absolutely love these!
These delicious gummies are packed with 15 essential nutrients, from Vitamin D3 for bone & immune health to Vitamin B12 for energy, and much more. They also super natural with no artificial sweeteners or flavors, and they’re non-GMO, free of milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nut allergens, fish allergens, shellfish, soy, gluten, and wheat!
These chewable tablets are easy to digest and made with no artificial colors or flavors. As an added bonus these multivitamins contain iron to help prevent an iron deficiency. Jamieson chewables are also made into fun animal shapes to make taking a daily multivitamin fun!
This is a one a day chewable vitamin and mineral supplement for your little one. It’s a high quality supplement that can help maintain your child’s overall health. As an added bonus it has no artificial colors or flavors!
This Kinderval liquid multivitamin is a great alternative to gummy and chewable multivitamins. It is sweetened using natural flavors and fruit juices and contains no additives or preservatives. Add this vitamin to a drink for your picky eater or serve it to your picky eater on its own!
Vitamins for Picky Eaters: Single Nutrient Vitamins
These vitamin D gummies come in delicious flavors including orange and strawberry. They are also gluten and dairy free and contain no artificial colors or flavors making them a great choice for your little one.
Add a drop of Super Daily D3 into your little one’s food or drink to help increase their overall vitamin D intake. This liquid vitamin D3 supplement is unflavored and provides 400 IU of vitamin D3 per drop. Plus, it is vegetarian, non-GMO, and dairy free!
These chewable vitamin D tablets provide 400 IU of vitamin D3. They come in a delicious strawberry flavor and have no artificial colors or flavors!
These vitamin D liquid drops are made with just 2 naturally sourced ingredients, meaning they’re free from preservatives, additives, artificial flavors, colours, and common allergens!
This powder iron supplement is gentle on the stomach and a great way to get some extra iron into your picky eater’s diet. This supplement comes in a delicious grape raspberry flavor and is also lactose free and gluten free.
It can be dissolved in liquid or sprinkled on food, making it easy to add to a food that your picky eater enjoys.
These chewable tablets are formulated with 15 mg of iron per tablet and feature a delightful strawberry flavor. With these chewables, you can ensure that your picky eater receives the necessary iron intake while enjoying a tasty treat!
Enfamil Fer-In-Sol Syrup provides iron in the ferrous sulfate form which is gentler on the stomach and easier to absorb. This syrup is fruit-flavored, as well as lactose-free and gluten-free. Simply add the syrup to water or fruit juice!
If you suspect your picky eater might be deficient in vitamin B12, multivitamins for kids contain the right amount of B12 for them. Refer to our list of multivitamins above if your child needs a B12 boost!
We hope you found this guide to vitamins for picky eaters helpful and that it gave you some new tips and tricks that you can introduce into your routine! Let us know in the comments below your favorite new tip you learned and some tips you use with your picky eater to increase vitamin intake!
If you found this article helpful and are looking for more tips to help your picky eater with their nutrition, check out our article on healthy smoothies for picky eaters!
If you are looking to work with a registered dietitian, please check out our pediatric services here.
CDC. (2020, December 17). Picky Eaters and What to do. Infant and Toddler Nutrition. Picky Eaters and What to Do | Nutrition | CDC.
Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 4). Malnutrition. Malnutrition: Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org).
Harvard School of Public Health. (2023, March). Vitamins and Minerals. Nutrition Source. Vitamins and Minerals | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Taylor, C.M., & Emmett, P.M. (2018). Picky eating in children: causes and consequences. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 78(2), 161–169. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665118002586.
Taylor, C.M., Northstone, K., Wernimont, S.M., & Emmett, P.M. (2016). Macro — and micronutrient intakes in picky eaters: a cause for concern? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(6), 1647–1656. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.137356.
Hi there, my name is Bailey, and I’m excited to be a part of the Jackie Silver Nutrition Team creating educational blog content. I am currently working towards a Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Western Ontario, graduating in the fall of 2024. I previously studied at the University of Waterloo where I obtained a BSc. (Hons.) in Psychology. At my core, I want to help people by combining my knowledge of nutrition with mental health and I aim to work as a clinical dietitian. In my spare time, I enjoy long nature walks and spending time with my cats!
Jackie is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian whose mission is to empower and support the neurodivergent and physically disabled communities through nutrition. Jackie runs a virtual private practice and blog which has simple recipes and health information tailored to these communities. She loves cooking, exercising, traveling, journaling, and spending time with family and friends. Home — Jackie Silver Nutrition