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

"You can begin to reduce fat and cholesterol intake around age two, but not before because the brain and nervous system continue to need these nutrients to develop," says Sheth. 

Children who are growing normally can begin to have more lower-fat foods at age two, including low-fat (1%) and fat-free milk and yogurt. Children from 2 to 3 years old require at least 16 ounces of milk daily; those from 4 to 8 years old need 20 ounces or more.

Milk provides calcium and vitamin D for growing bones. Everyone between the ages of 1 to 70 years old should get 600 IU of vitamin D daily, about the amount found in five 8-ounce glasses of milk, an amount that may be difficult for young children to consume. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children of all ages who drink less than 32 ounces of vitamin D-added milk daily need vitamin D supplements.

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.