How much vitamin C kids and toddlers need in their diet

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for your child's health and development. It helps repair red blood cells and boosts the immune system. Toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old need 15 mg of vitamin C a day and older children ages 4 to 8 years old need 25 mg a day. Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, especially red and orange-colored ones, like strawberries, red bell peppers, and oranges. Vitamin C deficiencies are rare, but if you're concerned your child isn't getting enough, talk with your doctor about whether or not they need a supplement.

Toddler picking up an orange while a pregnant woman watches
Photo credit: Ashlei Quinones for BabyCenter

Vitamin C is crucial for children's health and development. The body needs it to form and repair red blood cells, bones, and tissues. It also plays a part in keeping your child's gums healthy and strengthens your child's blood vessels, minimizing bruising from falls and scrapes.

In addition, vitamin C helps cuts and wounds heal, boosts the immune system, and keeps infections at bay. It also helps the body absorb iron from food sources.

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Here's what you need to know about how much vitamin C your child needs, which sources are the best, and how to prevent your child from getting too little or too much.

How much vitamin C kids and toddlers need

Ages 1 to 3 years: 15 milligrams (mg) daily

Ages 4 to 8: 25 mg daily

Vitamin C is available in so many foods that deficiencies are extremely rare. Children who are very picky eaters and don't eat a lot of fruits and vegetables may not get enough vitamin C. And children exposed to secondhand smoke may need more vitamin C to repair cell damage from cigarettes.

If you're concerned that your child isn't getting enough vitamin C, ask your pediatrician whether you need to boost your child's intake.

Your little one doesn't have to get enough vitamin C every day. Instead, aim to get the recommended amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.

The best sources of vitamin C

In general, a good rule of thumb to remember is that red- and orange-colored fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C. While the amount of vitamin C varies somewhat depending on the size of the fruit or vegetable, here are some foods that are high in vitamin C:

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  • 1/4 cup guava: 94 mg
  • 1/2 cup orange juice: 50 mg
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper: 47.5 mg
  • 1/4 cup papaya: 35 mg
  • 1/4 cup kiwi: 41 mg
  • 1/2 medium orange: 35 mg
  • 1/2 cup broccoli: 51 mg
  • 3 medium strawberries: 21 mg
  • 1/4 cup pink grapefruit: 23 mg
  • 1/4 cup cantaloupe: 17 mg
  • 1/4 cup mango: 15 mg
  • 1/4 cup raw tomato: 5 mg
  • 1/4 cup spinach: 4.5 mg
  • 1/4 cup potato, cooked without skin: 3 mg

Can my child get too much vitamin C?

Vitamin C is water-soluble, so any excess is flushed from the body in your child's urine. However, megadoses can still cause nausea, diarrhea, kidney stones, and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining).

For children ages 1 to 3,a megadose would be more than 400 mg of vitamin C in a day. For children ages 4 to 8, a megadose is more than 650 mg a day. Be careful before giving a child chewable supplements meant for adults, since each tablet can contain up to 500 mg.

For most children and adults, eating a well-rounded diet provides an adequate amount of nutrients, including vitamin C. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend vitamin supplements for kids unless your child's doctor thinks they need one.

Some neurodivergent kids with sensory processing disorders or autism may be especially picky eaters who struggle to eat foods rich in vitamin C. Talk with your child's pediatrician if you're worried about your child's diet to see if a vitamin supplement is right for them.

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Learn more: Ten important nutrients for children

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Erin Heger

Erin Heger is a freelance journalist who writes about health, parenting, and social issues. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, HuffPost, Business Insider, and Rewire News Group. Born and raised in Kansas, she lives just outside Kansas City with her husband and three kids.