It can be hard enough to get all the nutrients you need as an adult, but trying to get the kids to eat healthy foods often feels like an exercise in futility—especially when they’re picky eaters. Add to that the fact that sometimes it’s not exactly easy to figure out what the “essential nutrients” for kids even are, much less remember that on a daily basis. This parenting business—it’s complicated. I decided it might be a good idea to revisit the basics as to the essential nutrients kids need daily, so that I can tweak my own menus and fine-tune the things I’m sliding in front of them. With that in mind, based on my research, here are the five essential nutrients kids need daily, in no particular order of importance.
To get more healthy eating ideas once you’re done reading, take a look at 10 Superfoods That Your Children Might Actually Eat
Essential Nutrients Kids Need Daily #1—Vitamin C
Vitamin C is important for the immune system, and we know kids need all the help they can get when it comes to avoiding illness! After all, they’re around all those kids and germs and grossness all day every day at school, so boosting those immune systems is paramount to keeping sickness outta the house! Plus, Vitamin C can help speed up the healing process for cuts and scrapes, while also strengthening the blood vessels, bones, and teeth. Kids ages 4 to 8 should get about 25 mg per day, and kids ages 9 to 13 need 45 mg daily.
Clearly, there’s a need for vitamin C among the little ones. Even better is the fact that you can find this nutrient in many kid-friendly foods. Some great sources of Vitamin C include:
- Fruit juice
Essential Nutrients Kids Need Daily #2—Calcium
It should come as no surprise that kids need calcium on a daily basis, as this is a pretty essential nutrient. In fact, everyone needs to eat calcium-rich foods every day. But, I’ll admit to being totally shocked at how much kids need of this essential nutrient—a whopping 1,000 mg a day from ages 4 to 8, and 1,300 mg per day from ages 9 to 18.
Getting enough calcium is imperative if you want your kids to have strong bones and teeth. And since these early years is when their bones are ready to soak up all the calcium they can, this helps build a strong foundation of bone mass which will serve them well for years to come. Encourage them to eat the following calcium-rich foods:
- Calcium-fortified cereals
- Sweet potatoes
If you’re having trouble getting your kids to eat calcium-rich foods, check out: Calcium for the Picky Eater’s Diet—A Parenting Sneak Attack.
If you’re like me and have kids who don’t drink milk, eat yogurt, or much cheese, put up the white flag immediately and reach for a calcium supplement to help you check that I’ve got the ‘essential nutrients for kids covered’ box. I’m admittedly biased, but that’s where FitFormula’s Cal-EZ Calcium + D is a quick and easy solution.
Essential Nutrients Kids Need Daily #3—Potassium
Among the essential nutrients for kids is potassium, an electrolyte that’s responsible for helping maintain blood pressure. It also helps the muscles contract normally, which means it’s important for heart health. Children ages 4 to 8 need 3,800 mg per day, and those ages 9 to 13 need 4,500 mg per day.
Some of the main nutrients kids need are found in foods that most children love, and potassium is no exception. Here’s where to get this essential nutrient for kids:
- Orange juice
- Sunflower seeds
Essential Nutrients Kids Need Daily #4—Iron
Iron keeps the blood healthy, as it helps the body produce red blood cells. When kids don’t get enough iron, they can end up with anemia, which can cause fatigue, irritability, dizziness, and developmental delays. And unfortunately, iron deficiency is among the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US.
To avoid that, make sure your kids get about 10 mg of iron per day if they’re 4 to 8 years old, and 8 mg per day if they’re older. They can get it from the following foods:
- Red meat
- Leafy greens
- Iron-fortified cereal
Essential Nutrients Kids Need Daily #5—Fiber
Fiber is another essential nutrient kids need daily and it’s especially useful for keep kids feeling full—which we all know is important if we don’t want to deal with those requests for snacks every few minutes! It also keeps the system regular (as in good pooping) and can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Kids should get 25 grams of fiber per day when they’re between 4 and 8 years old. Boys between 9 and 13 years old need 31 grams per day, while girls the same age need 26 grams daily. They can get fiber from the following foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole-grain bread
- Whole-grain cereal
Ready to join me in my quest to getting more of these five essential nutrients kids need daily onto their plates and in their bellies? For me, that doesn’t mean they still won’t eat plenty of Doritos and other things that aren’t great for them, but if I can manage to balance that with a fair amount of these essential nutrients too, I’ll call it a win. And trust me on that calcium front, especially if your kids aren’t big dairy lovers or are lactose intolerant—adding a packet of FitFormula’s Cal-EZ to their favorite food or drink makes it easy, breezy to make sure they get their 1,000 mg of calcium. For me, it makes it one less thing I have to think about, which I need. Even better—Get 50% off when you order today using code: FitFormula50!
Want to go overboard on this essential nutrient business? Check out these Five Healthy Winter Recipes Your Children Will Love and let me know if you think any of them will be winners in your house.
Other resources on this topic: