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Slideshow: Essential Nutrients for Kids A to Z

Vitamin A

Why kids need it: Vitamin A is key for kids' good eyesight, especially for color and night vision. It also gives their immune systems an infection-fighting boost.

Where to find it: Fill kids' plates with carrots and other orange vegetables and fruits -- like cantaloupe and sweet potatoes -- and fill their glasses with fortified milk.

B Vitamins

Why kids need them: Kids need B vitamins (or B complex), which include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, B6, B12, and biotin, to make and use energy. Without enough B vitamins, kids can get anemia.

Where to find them: You can find Bs in just about every food group. Whole grains, fish, chicken, meat, leafy greens, and dairy are packed with them.

Vitamin C

Why kids need it: A daily helping of C helps ward off sneezes and sniffles by helping kids' bodies fight infections. It also speeds the healing of scrapes and other boo-boos.

Where to find it: Kids can drink a glass of orange juice or, better yet, eat an orange. Other fruits and vegetables are also great C sources. Try strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and sweet red peppers.

Vitamin D

Why kids need it: For strong bones and teeth, kids need daily D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium so it can build bones.

Where to find it: The skin makes vitamin D when the sun hits it. But because the UV rays that fuel vitamin D production also can cause cancer, watch getting your D from the sun. Instead, add fortified milk, cereal, tuna, or eggs to kids' diets.

Calcium

Why kids need it: Kids need calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Too little can lead to a higher chance of bone disease later in life.

Where to find it: Dairy is the best place to find calcium. A few servings of low-fat milk and yogurt every day should keep your kids' bones strong and healthy.

Choline

Why kids need it: Choline isn't a vitamin, but it's still an important nutrient. Cells need it for their shape, and the nervous system needs it to speed messages throughout the body.

Where to find it: Kids' bodies don't make their own choline, so they have to get this nutrient from foods like eggs, fish, beef, chicken, and broccoli.

Iron

Why kids need it: Iron isn't just for pumping in the gym. It also helps pump blood in the body. Iron is found in the part of red blood cells that moves oxygen to the rest of the body.

Where to find it: Beef up on lean meat, or give kids other iron-filled foods, like beans, dark leafy greens, and iron-fortified cereal.

Magnesium

Why kids need it: Magnesium is one of the building blocks of the body's cells, and it's important in making energy. A diet rich in magnesium also will keep your child's heart pumping strongly into adulthood.

Where to find it: Bran cereal, brown rice, tofu, beans, almonds, and other nuts are all rich sources of magnesium.

Potassium

Why kids need it: Almost every cell and organ in the body needs potassium to work as it should. Potassium also is important for blood pressure, keeping the heart pumping and the muscles working when kids are running around.

Where to find it: Bananas are loaded with potassium, but you also can find it in sweet potatoes, white beans, skim milk, and low-fat yogurt.

Zinc

Why kids need it: Zinc may help kids stop colds by helping their immune systems fight viruses and other disease-causing germs. The body needs zinc to grow and develop.

Where to find it: Chicken, beans, and fortified breakfast cereals are filled with zinc.

Fortified Foods

The best way to make sure your child gets the nutrients he or she needs is to serve a variety of foods. Fortified orange juice, breads, and cereals also can help with balanced nutrition. Worried about a picky eater? Talk to your pediatrician about a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.

Super Nutrition for Kids

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on January 15, 2013

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