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Toddlers, Preschoolers, and School-Aged Children (1 to 8 years old) continued...

As a child’s diet begins to reflect his family’s eating patterns, he is at risk for a diet low in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition, toddlers and older children can be fickle eaters, and may repeatedly reject nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Kids who regularly avoid meat and other iron-rich foods, or any food group, may need a multivitamin supplement to fill in nutrient gaps. Children who don’t consume enough milk or calcium and vitamin-D fortified foods may require extra calcium.

Pre-teens and Teens (9 to 19 years old)

Adolescence is the time for a child’s final growth spurt. A child's body begins preparing for the changes to come starting around age nine.

“Good nutrition allows children to reach their full growth potential. However, many pre-teens and adolescents come up short for the nutrients they need to maximize growth,” Sheth says.

Nearly half of all skeletal growth occurs during the teen years. Rapidly growing bones trigger a higher demand for calcium, and the body responds by boosting calcium absorption from food and depositing it in bones to make them longer and thicker.

Calcium needs are higher now, too. From age 9 to 18, children require 1,300 mg of calcium daily, about the amount found in 32 ounces of milk. Children of all ages require 600 IU of vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption in the body.

Iron requirements increase at age 14 to support increased blood volume and muscle mass. Teen girls need more iron than boys to make up for monthly losses due to menstruation. Inadequate iron intake can lead to anemia caused by iron deficiency, the most common nutrient shortfall for teen girls.

Teens who skimp on animal products run a greater risk for iron deficiency and insufficient intake of vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D, among others. A daily multivitamin helps to fill in small nutrient gaps in a teen’s diet.