Making your own chewable vitamins may seem like one of those things that is just too far out there to do at home. I assure you, however, it's actually one of the easiest DIY projects you could ever tackle.
Like seriously – it takes 5-10 minutes, tops. And the hardest part is scraping the thick, viscous honey off the spoon. You can do this!
Also, by making your own chewable vitamins, you have complete control over your ingredient list, thus avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, the seemingly ubiquitous “natural flavors,” and synthetic colors and dyes that often lurk in store-bought versions. You can also make your supplements whole-food based rather than relying on synthetics, such as using organic acerola powder instead of ground up Vitamin C/ascorbic acid tablets, if you so desire.
Plus, you can save a pretty penny. My last batch cost $3.91 to make – and it was that high only because I was very heavy-handed with the expensive probiotics I sneaked into the batch. That batch made 20 pieces, enough to dose three kids for two days with the amount of Vitamin C and probiotics that I wanted to give them. Obviously, your final cost and dosage will vary according to whatever supplement you add to the gummy base.
For those who are interested, here's my cost breakdown:
Juice – $0.15 (a store-bought berry blend – freshly juiced is far better)
Gelatin – $0.46 (grass-fed beef, certified kosher)
Honey – $0.30 (purchased from our local apiary)
Supplements (Vitamin C powder and probiotics) – $3
I sometimes use other supplements, as well, depending on my family's needs: a multivitamin, a calcium/magnesium supplement, or a few drops of a homemade tincture, such as echinacea, elderberry, or the herbal blend we use for our homemade cough drops – the supplements are totally optional and totally up to you. I'd like to try cod liver oil someday, but I have my doubts about the success of that venture….
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A Word About Gelatin
It should be noted as well, that gelatin is not just the coagulant here, but a highly prized ingredient in its own right.
According to Dr. F.M. Pottenger in his article, “Hydrophilic Colloid Diet,” gelatin is an essential aid to digestion by “keeping the gastric mucosa in excellent condition.”
He further mentions that gelatin helps food gel within the stomach for more consistent digestion and reduces heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux by binding acids with the foods.
Gelatin is also essential to heal and seal the gut where nutrients are absorbed into the body, aids liver function, and it provides a tremendously high percentage of protein and minerals per gram, which is certainly a boon for most growing children and pregnant women! Nathan R. Gotthoffer's book, “Gelatin in Nutrition and Medicine,” is a fascinating read about the myriad ways gelatin functions within the digestive system.
And as usual, quality matters – most of the gelatin powders we find on the market are made from the hides of feedlot pigs and are created at a very high temperature, which can turn the gelatin acidic and bitter. (I remember one batch of marshmallows I made that smelled like death itself and I finally realized the culprit was the gelatin. Gack.)
However, if you can source grass-fed, 100% beef gelatin that is processed at the lowest temperature possible, the vitamin and mineral content will be much higher, as well as your ethical conscience will be assuaged – heh.
(I get asked A LOT about recommended brands for gelatin, so due to the sheer popularity of the question, I'm including my recommendations as part of this post. This gelatin and this gelatin are both excellent. This one is 100% beef like the others, but I haven't been able to verify its source or the method of its processing. To my knowledge, none of these are available outside of the United States, so buying online may be the only option.)
But aside from all of that postulatin' and gesticulatin', these homemade chewable vitamins are just a great vehicle for getting supplements into your kids – they're basically gummy bears or gummy worms or gummy stars and your kids will gobble them up as fast as you allow.
Homemade Chewable Gummy Vitamins
You can certainly make these as a daily vitamin, but I tend to make them mostly when my kiddos are ill and I want to give them mega-doses of something they need: probiotics, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, etc. It makes healing fun and levels the complaints about taking medicine nearly to nil. Score one for Mommy!
1/3 cup juice – any fruit or vegetable juice except pineapple will gel and the sweeter the better for balancing all the flavors
2 tablespoons honey
6 teaspoons gelatin
additives: liquid multi-vitamins, probiotics, mineral supplement – the more concentrated, the better
Place the juice and honey in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand 2-3 minutes.
Place pan over very low heat and heat until gelatin is completely dissolved, 5-6 minutes. The liquid should be just slightly warm to the touch.
Stir in any supplements, then pour immediately into candy molds or a shallow pan. Set aside at room temperature for 2-3 hours or place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to gel, then remove, cut into squares if necessary, and store at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
Tips & Suggestions
Juice: In this recipe, I used a store-bought juice blend, but you could use other liquids too: kombucha, herbal syrups, or coconut water, for example. Also, home-juiced juices will provide greater vitamin bio-availability and you can be much more creative with your flavors if you juice it yourself. Strawberry/golden raspberry, anyone? Or pure blueberry? Or even carrot/orange/mango! Use whatever flavors you and your kids crave to create a gummy you love!
Molds: The easiest mold is just a bread pan or – if you double the recipe – a square cake pan. Once it's firm, you can just peel it out and cut it into pieces. However, it's very fun, too, to use candy molds. In the pictures above, we used star and rose molds, but any candy mold design you can find is fair game.