Tag Archive for: child and teen nutrition

Cute baby boy drinking from bottle

Cute baby boy drinking from bottle

Nearly half of all child deaths around the world are due to undernutrition. It’s often overlooked, but infant and child nutrition is crucial to public health. Correct feeding throughout the first two years of development reduces the risk of chronic illness and morbidity for the rest of a person’s life. This one component of public health could improve quality of life markers in any country. Developed countries that have the resources should be especially interested in improving infant and child nutrition. Better nourishment in those early years reduces health costs over time and provides economic gains for both the nation and the individual family.

For years, this conversation was confined to the top infant formula manufactures. But it’s time for more of us to ask, what’s going on in the world of infant and child nutrition?

The best way to nourish infants is of course, breastfeeding. It provides all the right nutrients in the most bioavailable forms for babies’ digestive systems. But about 38% of new mothers choose not to breastfeed or are unable to produce enough milk to feed their babies. For these families, quality baby formula is crucial for the proper nourishment of infants.

Key Nutrients for Infants

Every single infant and child has the right to adequate nutrition. Since babies can’t properly nourish themselves, they depend on their parents, family, and society to support their health and development. Here are a few of the important nutrients that modern science has identified as essential for infants.

  • Protein – Infant growth and development is largely supported by protein synthesis. This process can’t happen optimally without the regular consumption of essential amino acids.
  • Calcium – This mineral is responsible for supporting the formation and growth of infant bones, as well as muscle contraction, heart function and other biological functions.
  • Iron – Brain development depends on iron because it plays a key role in synaptogenesis (formation of synapses), myelination (insulation of the neurons in the brain), energy metabolism, and more.
  • Vitamin A, B, C, and E – These vitamins help with a variety of development needs, such as vision, skin health, immunity, cognition, and more.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for infant development, but DHA has become famous recently as a baby brain food, playing a crucial role in vision and cerebral development.

However, the reality of infant nutrition is much more complex than a list of nutrients. For example, breastmilk has a specific ratio of different proteins, and the nutrient composition of breastmilk changes over time based on the needs of the developing infant. It’s also completely bioavailable for absorption by the baby’s digestive system.

Nature’s “liquid gold” has set the bar high for infant formula. Developing a product that reaches the standard has been a long, complex process that continues to this day.

A History of Infant Formula Development in the U.S.

Before any kind of infant formula existed, there was wet nursing. Women—that belonged to wealthier families—who were unable to breastfeed or chose not to, hired a wet nurse to breastfeed their baby for them. Orphanages and lower-class families would often feed infants donkey’s milk or other animals’ milk when breastfeeding wasn’t an option. But without knowledge about germs and sanitation—let alone regulated formula options—a third of infants who weren’t breastfed died before their first birthday.

Fortunately, the situation changed a lot during the 1800s.

The first commercial infant formula was developed in 1860 by German chemist, Justus von Leibig. It was a powdered formula based on wheat flour prepared with cow’s milk. Shortly after, pasteurization was discovered. The process of using heat to eliminate bacteria would eventually reduce microbe-related infections and diseases. Pasteurization also made it easier for unrefrigerated milk to be transported without spoiling.

By the late 1800s, “Nestle’s Infant Food” was being manufactured from wheat flour, malt flour, sugar, and cow’s milk. But due to the relatively high cost, the company didn’t enjoy widespread sales of their early infant food.

The invention of evaporated milk changed the trajectory of infant formula. It could be transported even more easily without spoiling, which is why it was initially used to feed soldiers during the Civil War. By the 1920s, multiple studies had been published showing that evaporated milk was more digestible for infants and more comparable to breastmilk. Physicians and parents were sold. Evaporated milk became a standard ingredient for infant formula preparation.

After the 1950s, commercial formula exploded in popularity. Similac and Enfamil entered the market and practically replaced the previous homemade evaporated milk formulas. But the widespread acceptance of these new formulas wasn’t completely organic.

To build public trust in their products, manufacturers provided their formulas to hospitals for free or at low-cost. The strategy was quite successful. Many women believed commercial formulas were “medically approved” for optimal nutrition and continued to feed their babies commercial formula after coming home from the hospital. It was also inexpensive and easy to prepare. Modern commercial formula had cemented its place in the market, but without any regulation, some infants experienced adverse health conditions resulting from the consumption of certain formulas.

The Infant Formula Act, passed in 1980, set maximum and minimum standards for some of the common nutrients in infant formula. Around this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring testing and other standards for manufacturing facilities.

In the modern era, iron fortification of infant formula became more standard, and the whey-to-casein protein ratio was modified to resemble human milk. Specialty formulas like lactose-free, and rice starch options were also developed by bigger manufacturers (Ross and Mead Johnson).

Today’s most popular commercial formulas are a night-and-day difference from the first infant food produced in 1860. Infant and child nutrition has undoubtedly come a long way. So, is there a perfect alternative to human breastmilk now? Not quite, but some scientists say the European Union (EU) is on track to achieving that goal sooner than the U.S.

Comparing Modern Infant Formula in the EU and U.S.

In the U.S., the federal nutrition requirements are outlined in the Infant Formula Act, which was last amended in 1986. Some manufacturers choose to exceed the requirements, and parents will likely notice these variations in quality across formula options in the U.S.

Europe has done things a little differently. Physicians and scientist’s opinions are more integrated with EU regulations, and they are updated every few years. Compared to the FDA, the EU Commission is more prescriptive, and there is ultimately little variation between formula options in the EU.

Here are some examples of how the EU has implemented new findings from infant and child nutrition research.

Formula for Each Phase of Development

The EU has different stages of formula. Stage 1 is for 0-6 months, and Stage 2 is for 6-12 months. The difference lies in the balance of milk proteins, and the increased amount of iron that babies need after six months.

Exclusions and Inclusions

There are specific ingredients listed in the EU that infant formulas must not contain, like corn syrup, guar gum, and others. The European Commission has also listed mandatory inclusions, such as the essential fatty acid, DHA. This requirement was adopted in 2020 after a growing body of research showed the benefits of DHA to support brain development. Various amino acids and probiotics are also included in EU formulas, like Lactobacillus, which is a component of breastmilk that has been shown to support a range of infant health benefits.

Since the beginning of commercial formula manufacturing, through today, European formula can’t be legally sold in the U.S. The policy essentially bifurcated the path of research, development, and regulation of commercial infant formula between the two continents. That separation has led to some big differences in infant and child nutrition today.

The Future of Infant and Child Nutrition

Generations of work and scientific discovery have produced amazing achievements. But there’s still a ways to go to provide families with the best alternatives to breastmilk that science can offer. The next phase of progress would likely require collaboration between physicians, scientists, health professionals, and regulatory agencies who could continuously implement new research findings.

As a crucial component to public health, infant and child nutrition deserves more attention, education, and resources. Many of us depend on baby formula as a life-saving alternative to breastmilk. So it’s important to educate ourselves and raise awareness. Start conversations and share resources with others around you. There are people at your workplace, church, and neighborhood that could be participating in this conversation. It’s up to all of us to influence the direction of the future.

Good nutrition is the backbone of any healthy lifestyle. Without satisfying necessary caloric and nutritional needs, your body can’t keep you thriving. This includes everything from basic functions—like breaking down and removing waste and protecting itself against toxins—to growth, development, and maintaining energy levels. But what exactly is “good nutrition”?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. As your body grows, changes, and develops, so do your nutritional needs. Though the basics of nutrition stay the same throughout life, your nutritional needs will vary depending on your physical activity levels, lifestyle habits, and age. This article will focus on that last one: nutrition by age.

As your body changes from infancy to adulthood—and everything in between—it requires slightly different nutrients to optimize growth, development, and function. And some of these nutrients might not be what you’d expect! So take a closer look at some of the surprising nutritional needs for each age group.

Newborn Nutrition: 0-12 Months

Whether you decide to feed your newborn breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two, your baby’s nutritional needs should be a top priority. In their first year of life, most babies more than double their weight. That’s a lot of growth—not to mention the brain development that occurs during this time period. All these changes in babies’ bodies require the proper fuel.

From birth until about six months, it’s recommended to feed your baby exclusively breast milk or newborn formula. This will help them acquire the fats, proteins, and other nutrients they need. If your infant is breastfeeding, their nutrients come from the person feeding them. For this reason, it’s important for that individual to stay on top of their own nutrition and supplement their diet with the nutrients their baby needs. So what exactly are those nutrients?

You’re probably familiar with the more common staples of infant nutrition—calcium to support bone strength and growth, for example—but let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutritional needs of infants.

  • Folate: The less-known vitamins and minerals are an often-overlooked aspect of nutrition. This is the case with folate, aka vitamin B9, which plays a vital role in cell division. And that’s one of the key processes behind infant growth and development.
    To ensure your infant has appropriate amounts of folate in their diet, check their formula for the levels of vitamin B9. Or, if you’re breastfeeding your child, eat plenty of folate-rich foods, such as leafy greens and legumes.
  • Zinc: No single nutrient is more important than the rest. That being said, if you were asked to name a nutrient as MVP of your diet, zinc would be a strong contender. The mineral helps maintain a healthy immune system, supports cellular growth and repair, and helps optimize DNA creation—all of which are important at any stage of life, but are especially vital for infants.
    Babies born prematurely often have zinc deficiencies, which is a problem because they need zinc to catch up on their growth. When breastfeeding, be sure to stock up on zinc rich foods—nuts are a great, calorie-dense option!

Early Childhood: From Toddlers to Preteens

Growth and development don’t stop after infancy. From the terrible twos up through adolescence, the body continues to undergo rapid changes. It’s a formative time, and not just for an individual’s personality. Proper nutrition during these periods of change set the stage for a healthy adulthood. So what are some key nutritional needs for children and preteens?

  • Fats: Pop nutrition has given fats a bad reputation. But not all fats are bad. In fact, some fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. This is especially true when it comes to children’s nutrition.
    When people talk about fat in food, they typically mean: saturated fats or trans fats. Children should eat saturated fats, or fats that come from meat, dairy, and eggs, in moderation. And trans fats, which are created when some foods are processed, should be avoided as much as possible.
    But what about the good fats—the ones that can provide children with energy, support overall health, and help them process other nutrients? These fats are found in foods like olives, nuts, and seafood. And these beneficial forms should make up most of the fat in a child’s diet.
  • Sodium: When it comes to sodium, the problem most children face is not too little of it in their diet, but far too much. Fast food is a frequent meal in many households. And understandably so: it’s quick, affordable, and picky eaters may actually eat it. But these foods also contain lots of sodium.
    The recommended daily value for sodium changes with age. Young children—up until age four—only need about 1,500 mg of sodium per day, while preteens should take in up to 2,200 mg. According to a 2011 survey, 90% of children in the U.S. exceeded the recommended daily value for sodium, with average daily intake coming in at a whopping 3,256 mg per day. That’s more than 1,000 mg higher than the recommended value.
    So what’s the big deal? In moderation, sodium is a vital part of a healthy diet. It helps nerves function, plays a role in muscle function, and helps the body maintain proper fluid balances. Too much sodium, however, can lead to blood pressure issues.

Adolescence: Nutrition During the Teenage Years

Parenting teenagers can be a challenge (to say the least). It’s a period marked by mental, emotional, and physical changes—all of which can be difficult to handle individually. Put these changes together, and you have the perfect storm. If there’s one thing teenagers need, though, it’s the space to exercise and explore their independence. And this might include choosing more of the foods they eat.

That being said, good nutrition should still be a priority. Adolescence is, after all, a period of change. And when the body changes, it requires fuel. Teens are likely familiar with the basics of their nutritional needs but might need some additional guidance when it comes to specific nutrients. The list below outlines a few of the unsung heroes of teen nutrition.

  • Iron: You’ve maybe heard that iron-deficiency can lead to anemia—a condition that can lead to extreme fatigue. But maintaining energy levels isn’t all iron is good for. High iron intake is also crucial during periods of rapid growth—teenage growth spurts, for instance.
    Monitoring your iron intake as a teen is especially important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Meat, poultry, and fish are some of the most common sources of iron—if you don’t eat any of these foods, you’ll need to be extra diligent about eating other high-iron foods, such as beans, broccoli, and spinach.
  • Sleep: This one is, admittedly, not a nutrient. But it is an often overlooked element of teen health. When it comes to adolescent growth and development, a well-balanced diet is only one piece of the puzzle—and sleep is the other. Sleep can help your immune system stay strong, helps support your brain and body to grow and develop, and can optimize mood and emotion regulation. As a teenager, you should sleep 8-10 hours a night. It might seem like a lot, but it’s worth it!
    Getting enough sleep isn’t simply a matter of getting in bed at a reasonable time. A variety of other factors affect sleep including ambient noise, blue light exposure, and even diet. While there is no single nutrient that will solve your sleep problems, a well-balanced diet has been shown to support quality sleep. In this case, well balanced means supplying your body with enough magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. (Not sure where to find these nutrients? Take a look at this vitamin guide and essential mineral overview for a quick crash course!)

Nutrition Later in Life

If there’s one guarantee in life, it’s that you’re not getting any younger. And as you age, you might notice your body experiencing a little wear and tear. To a certain extent, this is inevitable. With the right diet and healthy lifestyle choices, however, you can help keep your body running smoothly well past 60.

They say that prevention is the best medicine—and by paying attention to your nutritional needs as you age, you can help keep yourself feeling good. You’ve probably heard that calcium is crucial for maintaining bone strength later in life, but that’s not all is needed at this stage of life. So let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutrients.

  • Magnesium: Calcium gets all the credit when it comes to supporting bone strength, but magnesium also plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy, strong bones. Additionally, it helps both the heart and immune system continue to function properly.
    As you get older, your body absorbs magnesium less efficiently. This means you need more of this important in your diet to actually get the necessary amount. What’s more, many medications also affect magnesium absorption—so be sure to ask your doctor about any side effects!
  • Water: Everybody needs to drink water. That never changes because healthy hydration is an important aspect of nutrition and a healthy life. However, some studies indicate that your body requires more water as you age. The effects of dehydration can also lead to more serious health consequences for older individuals. Fortunately, the remedy for dehydration is simple: just drink more water.
    To ensure you are staying properly hydrated, look at your urine. It might not be the most pleasant part of your day, but it’s a simple way to check your hydration levels. If your urine is dark and cloudy or bright yellow, you likely aren’t drinking enough water. (There is an exception to remember with urine color. Even well hydrated individuals taking high dosages of vitamin C and B vitamins can have very bright yellow urine.) Typically, your urine should be somewhere between pale yellow to clear.

Nutrition by Age

As you age, your body grows, develops, and changes in countless ways. This probably isn’t news to you. Navigating these changes can be tough but properly satisfying your body’s nutritional needs at each stage of life can help optimize the aging process. And no matter your age, it’s never too late to start caring about nutrition. So, with what your read above as a guide, take charge of your health one nutrient at a time!

Little girl refuse to eat

Little girl refuse to eat

Whether it’s your food preferences, a picky spouse, or a child that will eat anything but a vegetable, you’ve probably had to deal with a picky eater in one form or another. This can range from a minor inconvenience to a major annoyance. But can picky eating also be a health concern?

Nutrition, after all, is a fundamental aspect of health no matter your age. And a key part of nutrition is eating a well-rounded diet. But is it possible to eat a balanced, nutritious diet as a picky eater?

The short answer—it depends. Read on to puzzle out the long answer and find tips for how to deal with picky eaters, and—whether it’s yourself, your child, or your partner—how to provide the nutrients they need.

What is Picky Eating and What Creates Picky Eaters

Picky eating looks a little bit different for everyone. There are a number of eating preferences that can be described as pickiness and each of these can range in intensity. But if you distilled the variety of picky eater experiences into one, single definition, you’d end up with something like this: picky eating is the avoidance of specific foods, textures, flavors, or other elements of food and eating.

When it comes to picky eating, most people have the same question: how can I get my picky eater to be, well, not picky? But before you start thinking about solutions for how to deal with picky eaters, it’s important to understand the underlying causes of picky eating.

Not all picky eaters are the same. Some avoid certain foods simply because they dislike the taste, while others’ aversion is based on texture. Some have a visceral reaction—gagging, spitting, or inability to swallow—to the foods they avoid, while others simply prefer not to eat certain items. The severity of an individual’s aversion to specific foods—as well as their reaction to those foods—can help you identify the underlying cause of their pickiness.

In some cases, picky eating can be attributed to neophobia (the fear or dislike of new and unfamiliar experiences). New foods can introduce you to a wide array of new experiences— flavors, textures, smells, etc. This multifaceted experience is part of what makes eating enjoyable and exciting. But for some, these new sensations can be intimidating.

Familiar foods are comforting and predictable. And some people want their eating experiences to be just that: comforting and predictable. While there’s no single identified cause for food-related neophobia, some studies suggest it is an inherited trait. That means if your parents are neophobes, there’s a good chance you will be, too.

There is also a link between picky eaters and being introduced to different foods later in childhood. Basically, the longer a toddler settles into the routine of only eating a set assortment of foods, the more likely they are to develop picky eating habits. If they aren’t exposed to tart foods early on, for example, they may develop an aversion to tart foods.

If a picky eater experiences bodily reactions, such as gagging or spitting, to certain foods, their pickiness may be the result of sensory food aversion. Individuals with sensory food aversion experience heightened sensory input from certain aspects of their food. This could be temperature, texture, taste, or smell. And because of this heightened sensory input, eating these foods can be overwhelming and unpleasant.

Is Picky Eating Unhealthy?

Picky eating can be frustrating for everyone involved. But for many parents, that frustration is rooted in concern. Eating a well-balanced diet is a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle. And in many cases, picky eating stands in the way of a well-balanced diet. In short, it can start to impact nutrition.

This leads many parents to the same question: just how bad is picky eating for my child’s health? While the effects of picky eating on nutrition vary from person to person, there are common trends that parents should note.

One of the most common effects of picky eating in children is difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. For extremely picky eaters, especially those with sensory food aversion, eating can easily become a chore. There just aren’t many foods picky eaters like, and so they don’t eat as much as they need to. While being underweight isn’t always a health risk, it   can indicate malnutrition—meaning a child isn’t getting the nutrients they need to support the body’s growth and development.

Oddly enough, picky eating can also have the opposite effect on your child’s weight. Because picky eaters tend to avoid fruits and vegetables, their diets often consist primarily of carbs—especially refined carbohydrates—and processed foods. And, when eaten in high quantities, both of these food types can lead to weight gain. Once again, this is an indication that your child isn’t acquiring the nutrients they need.

Put simply, children (and any picky eater adults, for that matter) should eat a variety of whole foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Unfortunately, these are typically the foods picky eaters avoid most. Without fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meat, and whole grains, it is difficult to get the appropriate amounts of fiber, protein, and vitamins a child’s growing body needs.

Strategies for How to Deal with Picky Eaters

So your suspicions have been confirmed: picky eating isn’t exactly healthy and is certainly not ideal. What’s next? Fortunately, picky eaters don’t have to be picky for life. There are a variety of strategies you can use to help a picky eater broaden their tastes—it’s just a matter of choosing the right strategy for the situation.

Studies suggest many food aversions can be overcome with repeated exposure. This means a picky eater may come to enjoy a food they avoid if they try it enough times. Say your child hates tomatoes—if you offer them tomatoes enough times, in a variety of forms, they may eventually come to enjoy them. If you’ve heard the term “acquired taste,” the same principle applies here. It’s just a matter of helping your child acquire a taste for certain foods.

Children respond to modeling. If you don’t eat your veggies, there’s a good chance your child won’t either. Don’t prepare separate meals for you and your child—sit down and eat the same food together. Show your picky eaters that you enjoy the tricky foods. Additionally, preparing food in a variety of ways can help a child branch out to new foods. If they hate raw carrots, try steaming them. (Worried about how this will affect the nutrient content of your food? Read up on the effects of cooking on vegetables!)

6 Tips to Make Feeding Your Fussy Eater Easier

If you’re looking for a variety of simple, actionable items to try to get your child to eat, look no further. Give these six tips a try!

  1. Give your child options: As children grow and develop, their sense of autonomy grows, too. This means kids may want more say in what foods they eat. Obviously a four-year-old boy shouldn’t have full control of his diet, but you can indulge his budding sense of autonomy by providing options. If you’re struggling to get your kids to eat carrots, it might not be about the carrots. It might be about the children’s sense of autonomy and control. Instead of forcing them to eat a carrot, provide two healthy options and ask which they’d prefer. Sometimes a question as simple as “Do you want carrots or green beans tonight?” can solve the problem.
  2. Don’t prepare separate meals: As mentioned above, children look up to their parents for modeled behavior. Don’t give in if your child sees a meal you’ve prepared and demands something else. Sit down to eat the meal together. As they watch you eat and enjoy the food, your picky eaters might decide to do the same. Again, be sure to allow for choices within the meal—peas vs. broccoli, for example—but don’t simply let kids opt out and choose a different meal entirely.
  3. Establish and maintain routines: Children thrive in an environment with established routines—and mealtime is no exception. A lot of picky eating can be attributed to children avoiding the unfamiliar. Trying new foods and branching out is stressful enough for young children, so try to make the rest of their eating experience predictable and consistent. Set aside blocks of time each day specifically for meals. Be consistent in when and where you and your children eat.
  4. Be patient and don’t force it: If your child refuses to eat broccoli, they probably won’t wake up one day and miraculously love it. Acquiring the taste will take time and repeated exposure. This might mean your child chews up a piece of broccoli only to spit it out—and there’s nothing wrong with that! Give picky eaters time to adjust to new foods and keep giving them opportunities to try the different items.
  5. Mix it up: While repeated exposure is one way to help a child eat a food, this doesn’t mean you should only prepare that food until they like it. If your child hates raw bell peppers, for example, don’t try to feed them raw bell peppers every night. Remember, their aversion might be rooted in texture. Mix up your preparation and try grilling or sauteing. And, let’s be honest, bell peppers aren’t the only healthy food out there. Don’t be afraid to give it a break and serve your child other nutritious foods—maybe carrots, broccoli, or green beans.
  6. Give feeding therapy a try: If you have an extremely picky eater or a child with sensory food aversion, feeding therapy is also an option to consider. Feeding therapy is especially helpful for children with strong bodily aversions to food—in other words, kids who gag, cough, spit, or choke when eating foods they don’t like. Although it shouldn’t be your first solution, feeding therapy can be a great way to help your child enjoy eating when all else fails.
family with children

family with children

Childhood and adolescence are among the most important stages of any person’s life. And while this probably isn’t news to you, it bears repeating. The amount of growth and development the body experiences during these periods of time are astounding. Simply put, the body changes during childhood and adolescence—a lot.

During childhood and adolescence, it can even seem like the body is constantly in flux. The changes come so rapidly that it may be difficult to monitor your child’s health—both physical and mental. Whether you’re a parent searching for facts and tips about your child’s health or a teen looking to read up on your health, you’ve come to the right place! After all, what better place to start than the basics?

The list below breaks down some of the most important (and interesting) facts about childhood and adolescent health.

1. A fast metabolism doesn’t mean you can forget about nutrition:

Adults often bemoan the fact that metabolism slows with age. That is, the body becomes less quick and efficient at breaking food down and turning it into energy the older it gets. So while children and teens can—and often do—scarf down four bowls of pasta without immediate consequences, that same amount of food might have lasting effects on an adult (and their waistline).

This fact leads many people to believe children, especially teenagers, can eat just about anything while maintaining their health. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly true. Children and teenagers can eat a lot of food, but that’s because the body is doing a lot of growing. That means it requires a lot of energy. And to provide it with the energy it needs, good nutrition is key.

The fundamentals of good nutrition stay the same from childhood to adulthood: you should strive to eat a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based fats, and quality, lean protein.

2. Teens and children should steer clear of adult beverages—and not just alcohol:

It goes without saying, children and teens shouldn’t drink alcohol. While the brain is still developing, alcohol consumption can have lasting, negative consequences. That being said, alcoholic beverages aren’t the only drinks to keep away from teens.

As of 2014, the CDC reported that 73 percent of children consume caffeine daily. While children under the age of 12 should avoid consuming caffeine altogether, teens can drink small amounts of caffeine without impacting their health. Here’s the problem: the amount of caffeine teens take in depends on what they’re drinking. And energy drinks are popular among teenagers.

Teens 14-17 years old are advised to consume no more than 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine each day—roughly one strong cup of coffee. Some energy drinks contain triple that amount of caffeine in one can. And many teens are drinking multiple energy drinks a day. You don’t have to be good at math to know that is way, way over the recommended limit.

So why does this matter? Children and teens are physically smaller than adults, so they feel the effects of caffeine much more strongly than, say, most people working office jobs. What’s more, teens’ brains are still developing and maturing. Caffeine can also disrupt teenagers’ sleep cycles—and sleep is a crucial time for brain development. In extreme cases, excessive caffeine intake can even put teens’ hearts at risk.

3. Sleep is a vital aspect of teen health and wellness:

Ask nearly anyone how much sleep you should get, and they’ll likely give you the same answer: eight hours. And while eight hours is a good guideline for adults, the recommended amount of sleep for healthy teenagers is between eight and 10 hours.

Between the demands of school, work, friendships, and other relationships, it can be hard for teenagers to prioritize sleep. But here’s why it’s important: Sleep plays an important role in pretty much every neurological process and function—memory, risk assessment, processing sensory input, you name it. And as a teen, your brain is still developing and making neural connections. Sleeping enough is crucial to allow those connections to be made.

4. Sunscreen is no joke:

While sunburns may seem like no big deal in the moment, they can have lasting impacts on your health. Excessive sun exposure—whether it’s frequent sunburns, extreme sunburns, or even too much tanning—can lead to premature aging of the skin. This means seeing wrinkles younger in life, and, in some cases, increased risk for skin issues.

This doesn’t mean staying out of the sun entirely. You can still go to the beach, swimming pool, or take a long walk on a sunny day—just be sure to wear sunscreen. And not just any sunscreen. The higher the SPF rating, the better.

As a guideline, 15 SPF is appropriate for daily wear, but for extended periods of sun exposure, you should aim to wear 30 SPF sunscreen or higher. And don’t forget to reapply every two hours, as needed!

5. Take care of your ears:

No, seriously. Ear health may seem like a strange topic to talk about, but it’s no joke. And it’s one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of adolescent health. With the proliferation of affordable smartphones, earbuds, mp3 players, and headphones, virtually everyone can listen to music anywhere.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But here’s the problem: teens and children (and even adults) often don’t understand the risks of listening to loud music for prolonged periods of time. And, as a result, many teens listen to music at dangerously high volumes. Blasting music through your headphones or earbuds will damage the cells in your cochlea, increasing your risk for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). So take care of your ears while you’re young—future you will be grateful!

6. Teens should exercise regularly:

When it comes to adult health, consistent exercise is one of the most oft-cited aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, exercise is a vital element of teen health.

You’ve probably come across a variety of suggestions for how much exercise teens should do: 30 minutes daily, 30 minutes six times a week, 60 minutes three times a week—you get the idea. If you average out these various suggestions, here’s the bottom line: teens should get somewhere between 180 and 210 minutes of exercise each week. This could be swimming, cycling, going to dance practice, walking the dog—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are revving your heart rate up.

While regular exercise will help keep your body healthy, the benefits aren’t purely physical. Regular exercise can help teens with mood regulation, alleviate stress, and get better sleep. All good important aspects of adolescent health.

7. Dental health is health, too:

As a teen, it’s easy to feel invincible. Your body bounces back from most injuries and your brain hasn’t fully developed its risk-assessment abilities. This combo can lead teens to make some, well, rash decisions. It can be hard to see the big picture.

When it comes to dental health, however, it’s all about the big picture. Once your baby teeth fall out, you have one set to last the rest of your life— so it’s important to take care of them. Ask adults what they wish they’d done differently in their teens and twenties, and many will give the same answer: they wish they’d taken better care of their teeth.

Dental health doesn’t have to be complicated, but it requires consistency. Be sure to brush and floss at least every night and you’ll keep your oral health thriving for the years to come.

8. It’s never too early to prioritize mental health:

One of the most common misconceptions about mental health is that only adults suffer from these kinds of issues. While early adulthood is a very common time for many mental health challenges to emerge, anyone, no matter their age, can experience change in mental health. In fact, one in about five teens has a diagnosed mental health disorder.

So what does this mean for you? Whether you experience mental health challenges or not, it’s never too early to prioritize your mental health. For teens, this might mean taking a break from social media, seeing a therapist, and, in some cases, taking medication prescribed by your healthcare provider. It’s all about finding what works for you and not waiting until adulthood hits to address any issues.

Little girl with variety of fruit and vegetable. Colorful rainbow of raw fresh fruits and vegetables. Child eating healthy snack. Vegetarian nutrition for kids. Vitamins for children. View from above.

Little girl with variety of fruit and vegetable. Colorful rainbow of raw fresh fruits and vegetables. Child eating healthy snack. Vegetarian nutrition for kids. Vitamins for children. View from above.

Healthy kids have a better chance of turning into healthy adults. But it takes work—and that work starts early. That’s because kids’ nutritional needs tie to the rapid development of childhood. So, nutrition for kids is about growth and development in the present and forming healthy building blocks and habits for a lifetime.

Just think about this: at two years old, your child’s brain has grown to 80 percent of its adult size. That’s incredible growth in a short amount of time. And for one of the most important parts of the body, too.

You understand why proper nutrition for kids is important. Now it’s time to deal with how you provide for kids’ nutritional needs. And the advice about the foods needed to grow healthy kids will sound very familiar.

When kids start eating solid foods, you should strive for a healthy balance. Like adults, kids’ nutritional needs start with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains.

Similar advice applies from six months (or when solid foods are introduced) all the way to 96 years. So, you won’t see it repeated in each section below. That would get tedious. But remember that keeping a balance of healthy, nutrient-dense foods is the foundation for good health—for a lifetime.

The Right Start: Nutritional Information for Infants

In the first six months of life, kids’ nutritional needs are taken care of by breast milk. If breastfeeding isn’t an option, high-quality commercial formula can provide the nutrition for babies up to six months old.

The mother’s nutritional status is very important for breastfed infants. Passing on adequate quantities of vitamins and minerals is essential to proper growth and development. That means a focus on getting all the nutrients—from a healthy diet or quality supplementation, if necessary—mom and baby both need.

At about six months, an infant needs a few important nutrients—especially iron. Levels of this essential mineral start dropping, and iron-rich foods are needed. Eleven milligrams (mg) of iron per day are recommended for babies 7–12 months old.*

Luckily, about this same time, kids are typically able to start supplementing breast milk or formula with other foods. So, iron-enriched cereals, fruit or vegetable purees, and other options can provide the extra nutrients healthy kids need. That’s on top of the nutrition babies continue to get from breast milk or formula.

Infants also need zinc, calcium, and vitamin D. Your baby needs to get 260 mg of calcium from six to 11 months. And you should shoot for 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D. This pair of vitamins and minerals work together to support strong bones and many growing body systems.*

Also, fats are critical for brain and nervous system development. So, don’t limit your baby’s intake of fats—especially plant-based ones.

As they grow, you can expand the variety of foods your infant eats. You can move to finger foods and chopped whole foods as your baby grows older. Just move slowly to more solid foods and be very conscious of any choking hazards. But make sure to have a variety of healthy foods to build your baby’s love for diverse, nutritious fare.

Feeding Your Toddler’s Growing Needs

Toddlers (ages 1 to 3) are growing. And their opinions about food are, too. This is a time when vegetables and fruits are met with a one-word rebuke—NO. It’s a simple word that even healthy kids can learn to associate with foods they need.

Picky eaters’ nutritional needs aren’t always being adequately met. Growing kids need fiber. The general rule for daily fiber is the child’s age plus five grams. A lot of that should come from vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Choosy children can also miss out on crucial micronutrients.

Your growing toddler needs about 700 mg of calcium each day to support the growth of strong, healthy bones. Good nutrition for kids one to three years old also should include plenty of iron. That means seven milligrams per day.*

The caloric requirements of your growing child can vary. Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,400 calories is normal. When they’re hitting growth spurts, your toddler may want to eat more. And when that growth slows, their appetite might follow.

As a general rule, aim for about 40 calories for every inch of height, each day. For example, a toddler who measures 30 inches should eat around 1,200 calories a day. This amount can vary depending on a child’s activity level or build. It’s also important to remember that the serving size for a toddler is about 25 percent of an adult’s.

This can be a tricky time. To get the nutrition your kids need takes patience. But it’s important to push through and help your toddler develop healthy dietary habits. These become even more important as kids age and start making their own food decisions.

Nutrition for Kids Ages 4 to 10

As the growth spurts continue, the need for calories and specific nutrients does, too.

Healthy kids in this group can eat 1,200–2,000 calories in a day. That’s a big range because activity and growth are big variables. Active kids going through a growth spurt can reach those upper limits.

Calcium is still a main concern. Again, that has a connection to the growth of bones as kids get taller. Kids’ nutritional needs include 1,000 mg of calcium and 600–1,000 IU of vitamin D. They also need a full complement of essential vitamins and minerals—especially vitamin E and folate.*

School-age kids make more food choices without you. Packing lunches and helping your kids make informed decisions are crucial. Children this age can start helping more in the kitchen. Involving them in meal planning and preparation creates educational opportunities and helps build good habits.

Older Kids’ Nutritional Needs

The life of the modern pre-teen and teenager can be hectic and overwhelming. It can create a balancing act between school, activities, and social lives.

At this busy time, kids are still growing—and puberty brings its own changes and challenges. Good nutrition for kids in this age group needs to remain a constant in chaos. That means 1,300 gm of calcium per day for growing bones. It should also include fiber-packed meals, extra iron for girls (15 mg) who have started menstruating, and all essential vitamins and minerals.*

Teens can eat you out of house and home. Active girls can require up to 2,400 calories. Active boys can chew through 2,000–3,200 calories. That’s a lot of food. And they should be nutrient-rich—not just empty calories.

At the same time, some older kids will start dieting. Body image is a big part of teenage life. This newfound self-consciousness can hinder the ability for healthy kids to get what they need.

Kids nutritional needs can’t take a backseat to vanity, activities, or a packed social schedule. So, your teens should start the day with a healthy breakfast to fuel their busy days. They should get a balance of macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—and micronutrients. Protein and fiber provide sustained energy and satiation.

Your teen will soon be out in the world, scavenging for their own food. Make sure they’re equipped with the skills and habits required to deliver good nutrition throughout their lives.

Group of happy children lying on green grass outdoors in spring park

Good Nutrition Grows Healthy Kids

Pound for pound, kids require more nutrition than adults. Their bones are growing longer and stronger. Their brains are being built for a lifetime of learning. Their organs, muscles, and other systems mature. Getting proper nutrition for kids of all ages helps from head to toe.

At the same time, a child’s likes and dislikes take shape. Opinions about foods are cemented. Palates develop and influence choices later on.

The good thing is that meeting kids’ nutritional needs as they grow can help teach them to love healthy foods later in life. So, the work you put in to provide what your kid needs also builds the foundation for a healthy future.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Asian Family spending time together in the kitchen

Asian Family spending time together in the kitchen

Give a kid a fish stick, you feed them for a night. Teach a kid to bake a salmon filet, roast broccoli, and make a salad, you’ve given them the skills to eat healthy for a lifetime.

Cooking as a family really can provide significant, sustained benefits for your children. That’s easier said than done, though. Just reading the phrase “cooking with kids” might make your mind conjure a mess of epic proportions. Noodles on the ceiling. A sauce waterfall tumbling off the counter. Sticky hands and a messy face.

With proper preparation and patience, cooking with kids won’t turn into a kitchen nightmare. And your children will fill up on life-long skills and short-term benefits. It will make any minor messes or stresses more than worth it.

The 9 Big Benefits of Cooking as a Family

You can make up a lot of excuses for skipping the family cooking. Time, convenience, stress, etc., etc., etc. But there’s an equally long list of the benefits for cooking as a family. Here’s the nine best reasons (there were more, but you only have so much time) to start cooking with kids:

  1. Cooking is an important life skill. Kids who don’t learn how to cook aren’t likely to starve as adults. There are ways to get food. But cooking isn’t an extravagance. It’s a skill that can impress, inspire, and empower kids and adults alike.
  2. It helps create healthy eating habits. Cooking at home is always better than eating out. And research keeps coming to the same conclusion—cooking and eating at home develops healthier eaters. That means more nutrient-rich foods (fruits and vegetables), lean proteins, grains, and fiber. Cooking and eating with your kids also helps you set an example for healthy eating that kids can mimic (sensible portions, good choices, and more).
  3. Makes weight management easier. Healthy weight goes hand in hand with healthy eating habits. Eating at home also makes it easier to avoid fried, fatty, and sugary foods. So, it makes sense that studies link family cooking and eating to healthy weight in kids.
  4. Cooking improves other skills. Reading and math aren’t the first skills you connect with cooking. But reading recipes, counting ingredients, and measuring are integral parts of food preparation. Communications skills—like language and listening—can also be improved when kids cook with their parents.
  5. It promotes better academic performance. There could be a connection to the skills kids acquire while cooking. Studies show that kids who participate in family cooking and eating test better and have bigger vocabularies.
  6. Acts as a substance-abuse deterrent. It might seem like a stretch, but there’s research to back up this benefit. Studies have found that kids who eat with their family are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.
  7. Cooking results in more adventurous eaters. Kids can be picky. And that’s not a good thing. Picky eaters can miss out on a lot of important nutrition. But cooking as a family helps kids get more excited about food. Kids are more likely to try the food they’ve helped make. This helps develop a healthy relationship with food and an adventurous palate.
  8. Fosters connection and conversation. Cooking with kids sets up quality family time. You’ll have a chance to talk to your kids, teach, listen, and connect with them. These conversations over meals—from chopping to chewing—helps bring families together.
  9. You’ll serve up a side of confidence for your kids. Making a meal is an accomplishment. Seeing ingredients turn into a delicious dish is a big deal for kids. Cooking as a family helps kids feel like they helped and accomplished something. That can lead to a boost in confidence.

Meal Planning as a Family

You know why you should be cooking with kids. Now it’s time to talk about the how. And it all starts with meal planning.

The whole family should have input on the menu. It’s only fair. Kids who are involved from planning to putting food on the plate will be more connected to the meals. And they’ll learn even more healthy habits.

You can let each member of the family pick a main course they’d like to make. Then you can go through the ingredient list to maximize the nutrient content. It’s also a chance for kids to learn what’s in the food they love and how to make healthy choices.

The opposite approach works, too. You can start by having kids make a list of their favorite ingredients. Then design a delicious meal that highlights what they already love.

A few more tips can help you prepare for cooking with kids. Shoot for a few nights a week for family cooking. Remember you don’t have to make every ingredient from scratch. Incorporate theme nights—tacos, soup and salads, or breakfast for dinner—to add structure to the week and simplify planning. Keep it simple by picking a protein, a vegetable, and a grain. And make sure to build healthy meals—with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and lean protein in whatever is decided.

Tips for Cooking with Kids

happy family funny kids are preparing the dough, bake cookies in the kitchen

It’s time to pull out the produce and fire up the burners. Here’s seven tips to help you get the food on the table with minimal fuss and maximum enjoyment:

  • Assign age-appropriate tasks: You aren’t going to give your toddler the cleaver. But there are jobs in kitchen that are suited for certain age groups. Kids under 5 years old can wash produce, count, measure, and even hand mix. Older kids (8 and up) can read recipes, stir food, grate, and even chop with some extra protection and supervision. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of tasks, separated by age, this is a great resource.
  • Set up for safety and mess-minimization: Make sure everybody has their workstation set up for the tasks they can safely perform. Place the younger kids away from the heat and sharp objects. Provide aprons and have kids work over sheet pans for easy cleanup.
  • Prepare some ingredients beforehand: It’s not cheating to have some ingredients ready to go into the pan—especially if they’re difficult to prepare or can make a mess. One good example: have raw chicken diced and ready to go in the pan if you’re making a stir fry.
  • Serve up guidance and compliments: You don’t have to be a chef to teach cooking basics to kids. Guide kids through the tasks until they’ve mastered them. And make sure they know when they’ve done a good job. Compliments count.
  • Don’t rush: Parenting is an exercise in patience. Cooking as a family is no different. Schedule extra time to prepare and cook the meals you make with your kids. And it’s a cliché, but the experience is actually more important than the end product.
  • Eliminate distractions: To get all the benefits of cooking with kids, turn off the TV and have everybody put down their phones. This will foster more conversation and enhance the quality time you spend as a family.
  • Have fun: You don’t need to have a food fight to enjoy your time in the kitchen. Mostly it’s about managing your expectations, leaving time to learn, laugh, and love what you’re doing. The fun you have making dinner will translate into the finished product.

Cooking as a family doesn’t have to be daunting. Preparing properly are the keys to a successful and (relatively) stress-free experience. And remember, when you’re cooking with kids you’re not just making a meal—you’re developing skills, confidence, and habits for a lifetime.











milk type

type of milk

Children require optimal nutrition during growth years to maximize their growth potential. Protein needs are significantly higher per pound of body weight for children compared to adults.

Adequate protein is essential for maintaining protein stores and keeping many bodily functions performing efficiently. It’s also needed for developing and growing:

  • the brain
  • immune system
  • muscles
  • collagen
  • hair

The protein source also appear critical for maximizing growth potential.

A 2012 meta-analysis found that children who consume dairy products daily grow taller than those who do not. Other published studies have found that cow-milk proteins (i.e., casein and whey) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) contribute to gains in linear growth.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the connection between childhood height and the type of milk consumed. This study included 5,020 healthy children between 24-72 months old living in Toronto, Canada.

Questionnaires collected age, sex, BMI (in kg/m2) Z score, maternal ethnicity, income, and maternal height. Neighborhood income was used to account for socioeconomic status. The researchers also analyzed the daily volume of milk—both cow and non-cow.

The results show an association between height and milk type consumed, depending on the dosage. And there was no statistically significant data to support that the consumption of non-cow milk improved childhood height. Non-cow milk was actually associated with decreased height gains during childhood.

On average, one cup of non-cow milk was associated with a 0.4 cm shorter stature. Interestingly, three-year-old children that consumed 3 cups of non-cow milk in comparison to those that drank 3 cups of cow milk were approximately 1.5 cm shorter.

Further research is needed to understand the causal relations between non-cow milk consumption and childhood height. This study suggests it is important to consider which type of milk is best for children to consume.

Different nutritional content (energy, protein, fats, and minerals) is one possible explanation for the results. For example, two cups of cow milk provides16 g of protein, which is 70 percent of the daily protein requirement for a 3-year-old. Two cups of almond milk provide 4 g of protein—only 25 percent of the daily protein recommendation.

What does this mean?

If your child is vegan, vegetarian, or has dairy allergies, reading labels and doing comparisons is important. This may help parents find the alternative that is nutritionally best for their child to support healthy growth and development.

Morency ME, Birken CS, Lebovic G, et al. Association between noncow milk beverage consumption and childhood height. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(2):597-602.

childrens nutrition

children's nutritionMixing fables and Internet fallacies blurs the line between fact and fiction. And that’s damaging because you can’t make smart decisions without accurate information.

Having the facts is especially important when you’re making choices that impact the health of your children. But sorting through so-called facts about children’s nutrition is hard.

We’re here to help. Below, are discussions of children’s nutrition topics so you sort fact from fiction.

Statement: Juice is as Healthy as Whole Fruit

There’s a reason you’re supposed to get 2-4 servings of fruit per day. Study after study tells us how fruit promotes good health. That’s why your doctor has probably told you to eat more fruit.

If fruit is good for you, then shouldn’t fruit juice be just as good? People have long thought whole fruit and its liquid counterpart were nutritionally equivalent. But new evidence disagrees.

A new study published in Nutrients—and done by USANA scientists—found a significant difference that goes down to your DNA.

Study subjects who consumed whole fruit showed different epigenetic signatures on specific regions of their DNA than juice drinkers. (Epigenetic signatures are the chemical codes that switch your genes on and off.) Those who ate whole fruit saw enrichment near pathways involved in immune function, chromosome integrity, and telomere maintenance. Those who drank juice showed enrichment near pro-inflammatory pathways.

The study points to fiber as the main driver of these differences. And it’s well known that fiber consumption impacts your microbiome and, in turn, the absorption of some nutrients.

Juice is convenient and tasty. But the amount of sugar in most juices, the lack of fiber, and differing epigenetic impacts make whole fruit the healthier choice.

Verdict: False

Statement: Carrots Can Help You See in the Dark

For decades—maybe even centuries—parents told kids that carrots can help them see in the dark. It’s an obvious ploy to increase interest in eating veggies. But there may be some truth to it.

Obviously, carrots (and basically any other substance) aren’t going to give your children super powers. Life doesn’t work like a comic book. That doesn’t mean carrots aren’t linked to eye health. They are. And it’s largely due to the beta-carotene that helps provide their orange color.

Beta-carotene is a pro-vitamin A carotenoid—a plant pigment in fruits and vegetables that also acts as an antioxidant molecule. While zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene re from the same family of carotenoid antioxidants, they do not promote vitamin-A activity. But beta-carotene’s ability to convert to vitamin A in the body plays an important role in supporting good vision.

While carrots can’t give your kids the power of night vision, they do contain nutrients that help maintain good eye health.

Verdict: Somewhat True

Statement: Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

This old adage seems to be falling on deaf ears because about half of American families don’t eat breakfast on a regular basis.

They’re missing out. Studies have linked breakfast to academic performance, memory, healthy weight, mood, and more.

And there’s something to be said for starting the day off with a balance of healthy foods. Getting protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and whole grains (with healthy fiber) provides a good foundation for the day and can keep your kids full. The healthy, balanced approach also avoids crashes that could be caused by sugary cereals.

Your children’s morning meals are important. But they can’t make up for poor choices later in the day. So breakfast is important, but eating a healthy, balanced diet all day is what’s most important.

Verdict: Mostly True

Statement: Kids Just Don’t Like Vegetables

Nobody’s born hating vegetables. But pop culture and friends’ anecdotes might have new parents believing all kids automatically hate healthy foods, like broccoli.

Some children—and adults—are picky eaters. And this pickiness can result in kids lacking dietary balance and getting more calories from sugar than they should. But early exposure to vegetables and other health foods can make a big difference throughout a child’s life.

One study even suggests vegetable flavors in a mother’s breast milk might improve an infant’s receptiveness to those flavors later on. More research is needed into this connection. But we know parental behavior—like healthy eating habits—rubs off on children.

Your child isn’t predisposed to vegetable hatred. But tastes developed early can have long-term consequences. Palates can change throughout life, but it’s vital to help your children acquire a love of healthy foods, like vegetables, early on.

Verdict: False


They’re smaller. They eat less. But, as most parents know, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to get children all the nutrients they need.

And it’s very important to provide children with what they need to support their growing minds and bodies. Focusing on a healthy, balanced diet—full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fiber-rich whole grains—and proper supplementation are key. They help provide a foundation of good health and develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

Teenage years are a critical period for brain development. Adolescents experience major shifts in hormones, and their brains hit developmental milestones throughout puberty. These changes contribute to a teen’s working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.

It’s important for teenagers to fortify their brain during this time of growth and development. Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients needed to help support and maintain a teenage brain.*

The Brain and Vitamin D

For children, teens, and adults alike, vitamin D helps protect brain cells and supports the development of new neural pathways. Vitamin D can even act like a hormone to help optimize cognition and executive (brain) function.*

For many teenagers, vitamin D is acquired in the diet and through sun exposure. But for adolescents living in high-latitude regions, like Norway or Alaska (where the sun doesn’t always shine), this daily nutrient requirement is often not met. And teens tend to make poor food choices that keep them from getting their vitamin D.

A European study conducted in 2016 tested several hypotheses on the relationship between adolescent’s vitamin D levels and executive function. The link between vitamin D levels and mental health (such as sense of well-being, happiness, and satisfaction) was also researched.*

The results supported researchers’ predictions—vitamin D supports executive function and mental health in teenagers. Teens optimized their performance on problem-solving and executive function tests when they supplemented with vitamin D. Their mental health was supported with higher levels of vitamin D, too.*

Conversely, the teens in the study who did not supplement with vitamin D (or who were vitamin D deficient) didn’t experience the same brain-supporting benefits.*

That’s why it’s so important that teens meet their vitamin D needs. The teenage years are booming with brain development. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is just one way teens can be proactive and support their executive function and mental health.*

Get to Know the Study

This study shows that adequate levels of vitamin D can be an effective way for teenagers to support their growing brains. Supplementing this essential vitamin may be the most practical way to optimize the daily intake of vitamin D for teens—particularly those living at high latitudes. And although this study was conducted in Norway, the results can be extrapolated and applied to adolescents all over the world.

Here are the details of the study and research that links vitamin D and teenage executive function:

This experiment examined the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and performance on two executive function tests. To account for the effects on mental health, a survey was given to all participants.

The study subjects were 52 Norwegian teenagers who participated in the experiment after school. All subjects received a tablet to take daily during the study, but only half the tablets contained a vitamin D supplement.

A blood draw and three online pre-tests helped researchers establish a baseline for vitamin D levels and brain performance. The first two tests were called the Tower of London, and the Tower of Hanoi, respectively. These tests observed the teenager’s ability to plan and “look ahead” by predicting how many steps would be required to solve a problem.

executive function

The final pre-test was a self-report of the adolescent’s mental health. There is a well-established link between mental health and vitamin D. Researchers wanted to confirm this link in their study.

Performance on each of the two executive function test and self-report of mental health were recorded for each subject at the beginning of the study, and 4-5 months later. With half of the participants supplementing with vitamin D tablets on a daily basis, the researchers had three predictions to test:

  1. Vitamin D supplementation would be beneficial on both executive function tests*
  2. Vitamin D supplementation during winter would improve self-perceived mental health*
  3. Vitamin D supplementation would increase overall levels of vitamin D in adolescents*

The Case for Vitamin D

In the years since this study was published, more research has established a similar relationship between the brain and vitamin D. Teens aren’t the only age group that could benefit from vitamin D. Young children especially need to meet their daily vitamin D requirements to support the development of fine motor skills, and establish a foundation of mental well-being.*

See all the ways vitamin D helps optimizes your brain health. Check out these resources and read the research for yourself.*