6 Vitamins and Minerals Your Kids Need

From the WebMD Archives

Children and teens have different nutritional needs from adults. Do your meals meet their needs?

The most important vitamins and minerals that your kids needs are:

1. Calcium

"Calcium is the essential building block of bones and teeth," says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The more bone your child builds now, the more reserves she'll have when bone loss begins in later years.

Who Needs It and How Much:

  • Ages 1-3: 700 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily.
  • Ages 4-8: 1,000 mg daily.
  • Ages 9-18: 1,300 mg daily.

Foods That Have It: Dairy products, fortified foods, salmon, and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale.

2. Fiber

Fiber isn't a vitamin or mineral, but foods that are high in fiber also tend to be packed with many important nutrients, like vitamin E, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Who Needs It and How Much:

Fiber recommendations are based on how many calories you take in: about 14 grams for every 1,000 calories.

Although kids are much smaller than adults, their bodies also need just about as much fiber as grown-ups in order to maintain a healthy digestive system, Giancoli says. "A 4-8-year-old, who may be eating about 1,500 calories a day, needs 25 grams of fiber a day, and that's about what I eat.” So toddlers, who generally eat a bit less than older kids, probably need around 18 grams of fiber a day.

Food Sources:

Foods high in fiber include berries, broccoli, avocados, and oatmeal. Another excellent source of fiber is almost any kind of bean, such as navy, pinto, red, or kidney beans, or chickpeas. Beans are also high in protein and nutrients like vitamin A and potassium, making them a great food for vegetarian and vegan families.

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3. B12 and Other B Vitamins

The B vitamins are important for metabolism, energy, and a healthy heart and nervous system. One of the most important B vitamins is B12.

Who Needs It and How Much:

Recommended intake is measured in micrograms:

  • Babies: about 0.5 micrograms daily.
  • Toddlers: 0.9 micrograms daily.
  • Ages 4-8: 1.2 micrograms daily.
  • Ages 9-13: 1.8 micrograms daily.
  • Teens: 2.4 micrograms daily (2.6 micrograms for pregnant teens)

Foods That Have It:

Vitamin B12 comes mainly from animal-based foods, like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Most kids usually get enough B12 in a regular diet, but vegetarian/vegan kids may not, says Debi Silber, MS, RD, a dietitian in Dix Hills, N.Y. Look for fortified foods that are high in B12. Check food labels for the content of cyanocobalamin, the active form of vitamin B12.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D works with calcium to build strong bones. It may also help protect against chronic disease later in life.

Who Needs It and How Much:

Babies and children should get at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfed babies need vitamin D supplement drops until they are weaned and are getting at least 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified infant formula or milk.

Foods That Have It:

Some fish, including salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are excellent sources of vitamin D, as are eggs (D is found in the yolk) and fortified milk. Vegetarian and vegan families should look for fortified cereals high in D. Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplements for all kids, unless they're getting 400 IU from their diet.

5. Vitamin E

Vitamin E strengthens the body's immune system. It also helps keep blood vessels clear and flowing well.

Who Needs It and How Much:

  • Ages 1-3 need 9 IU of vitamin E daily.
  • Ages 4-8 need 10.4 IU daily.
  • Ages 9-13 need 16.4 IU daily.
  • Teens need as much as adults: 22 IU daily.

Foods That Have It:

Vegetable oils such as sunflower and safflower oils, as well as nuts and seeds including almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, are excellent vitamin E sources.

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6. Iron

Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.

Who Needs It and How Much:

Kids' iron requirements range between 7-10 milligrams (mg) a day. By their teen years, boys need about 11 mg a day and girls who have started menstruating need more, about 15 mg.

Foods That Have It:

Red meats and other animal products are high in iron. Non-meat sources of iron include dark green leafy veggies (spinach, collard greens, kale) and beans such as kidney, navy, lima, and soy.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on April 15, 2013

Sources

SOURCES:

Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Debi Silber, MS, RD, dietitian, Dix Hills, N.Y. 

National Institutes of Health: Kids and their Bones: "A Guide for Parents." 

Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12," "Vitamin E."

Institute of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes."

Harvard School of Public Health: "The Nutrition Source: Daily Fiber Requirements."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Vitamin D: On the Double."

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