What are vitamins?

Vitamins are essential micronutrients that your child needs every day in small amounts to help her body work properly. There are two types: fat-soluble and water soluble.


Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) are found in animal fats, vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver and oily fish. Children should eat them once or twice a week as they can be stored in the body.

Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the vitamin B group) are found in fruit, vegetables and grains and can't be stored in the body, so children need to eat food containing them each day.

There are six key vitamins vital for the healthy development of babies and young children. Try to ensure that your child’s daily diet includes foods that contain all of these vitamins. If she has a poor diet and you feel she would benefit from vitamin supplements, consult your health visitor.

Vitamin A

Helps maintain skin and mucus linings (e.g. in the nose) and keeps the immune system healthy.

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Good food sources
Liver, cheese, eggs, oily fish, whole milk, margarine and yoghurt.

Vitamin B6

Helps the body use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food. It also helps form haemoglobin (the substance that carries oxygen around the body).

Good food sources
Pork, poultry, white fish, bread, whole cereals, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B12

Helps make red blood cells, keeps the nervous system healthy, helps process folic acid.

Good food sources
Meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract and fortified breakfast cereals.

Biotin (vitamin B7)

Helps the body turn food into energy.

Good food sources
Meat such as kidney, eggs, some fruit and vegetables and dried mixed fruit.

Folic Acid (folate)

Working with vitamin B12, it helps form healthy red blood cells.

Good food sources
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, brown rice, breakfast cereals, bread, oranges and bananas.

Niacin (vitamin B3)

Helps produce energy from food and keeps the nervous and digestive systems healthy.

Good food sources
Beef, pork, chicken, wheat and maize flour, eggs and milk.

Panthothenic Acid (vitamin B5)

Works with the other B group vitamins in the body to release energy from food.

Good food sources
Chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, broccoli, brown rice, wholemeal bread and breakfast cereal.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

Helps to keep the skin, eyes, nervous system and mucus membranes healthy, helps produce red blood cells and aids iron absorption.

Good food sources
Milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, rice and mushrooms.

Thiamin (vitamin B1)

Helps to break down and release energy from food, and keeps nerves and muscle tissue healthy.

Good food sources
Pork, vegetables, milk, cheese, peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, wholegrain breads and some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C

Protects the cells and keeps them healthy, and helps the body absorb iron.

Good food sources
Peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, oranges and kiwi fruit.

Vitamin D

Regulates calcium and phosphate in the body to keep bones and teeth healthy, and strengthens the immune system.

Good food sources
Oily fish, eggs, margarine, breakfast cereals and powdered milk. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, as the vitamin forms under the skin in reaction to light.

Vitamin E

Acts as an antioxidant to protect the cells in the body from damage.

Good food sources
Plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil, nuts, seeds and wheatgerm.

Vitamin K

Needed to help the blood clot and ensure wounds heal properly. Also needed to build strong bones.


Good food sources
Green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils and cereals. Small amounts in meat and dairy foods.