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Health & Parenting

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4 Nutrients Your Child May Be Missing

WebMD Feature

Many American children aren't getting enough of four essential nutrients: vitamin D, calcium, fiber, and potassium.

You can easily include them in your child’s diet, once you know what they do and how much your child needs.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the hottest vitamin on researchers' radars these days, and most people don't get enough of it.

In adults, a shortfall of vitamin D has been linked to conditions including osteoporosis, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, and depression. It's not clear yet if it can prevent those conditions, but a deficiency is a growing concern.

Experts agree that vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and maximize bone growth and strength. Kids who get too little of it can develop soft bones (a condition called rickets) early in life and osteoporosis, which typically shows up later in life.

How much vitamin D to get: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends kids get a minimum of 400 IU per day. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), which sets the U.S. government's official nutrient guidelines, recommends a daily dietary allowance of 600 IU for children ages 1-18. That's about the equivalent of six glasses of fortified milk.

How to get more vitamin D: The body makes the vitamin when exposed to strong sunlight, storing extra for future use. Common foods rich in it include most milk products and other fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals, orange juice, and yogurt. Other foods that have it include fattier fish, such as salmon and light tuna.

Supplements are another source . Children who don't drink a quart of fortified milk every day should take supplements, according to the AAP.


Calcium helps bones grow and stay strong. It also helps with heart rhythm, blood clotting, and muscle function.

Most calcium is stored in bones. If your child doesn't get enough in his or her diet, the body will take it from their bones.

How much calcium to get: Children should get this much per day, according to the IOM:

  • Ages 1-3: 500 milligrams
  • Ages 4-8: 800 milligrams
  • Ages 9-18: 1,300 milligrams
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