10 Essential Nutrients for Children

Let’s talk nutrients. Every parent will have heard the phrase ‘balance diet’ but what is meant by a balance diet? Here are the ten essential nutrients that all children need to have in order to grow up healthy and strong.

1. Vitamin D

Here we go again. We’ve talked about Vitamin D a lot on our blog but we don’t think we’ll stop anytime soon. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks for strong bones. Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect you from developing osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break. Unfortunately due to our weather most Irish children and adults are actually deficient in Vitamin D which is why the HSE recommends that everyone take a Vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D is found in:

  • Oily Fish
  • Red Meat
  • Eggs Yolks
  • Fortified Foods
2. Calcium

Calcium is essential for building children’s healthy bones and teeth. This nutrient is also important for nerve, muscle and heart function and blood clotting, but remember, Calcium works in conjunction with Vitamin D so make sure you always have both.

Calcium is found in:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurts
  • Egg Yolks
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
3. Protein

Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells and to work correctly. It is made up of building blocks called amino acids which your child’s body uses not only as an energy source but to build muscle and bone. The amount of protein your child needs depends on their weight, gender, age and activity level/general health.

Protein is found in:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Dairy products
4. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s most important source of energy. They help your little one’s body to use fat and protein for building and preparing tissue. As a result, it’s probably best to ignore the latest diet trend of ‘cutting carbs’. Carbs come in several different forms such as sugars, starches, and fiber. As per usual, we recommend avoiding the sugars as much as possible.

The following foods are a good source of carbohydrates :

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
5. Fats

Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored in a child’s body. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids that our bodies can not make by themselves. This nutrient is very important for helping the body to properly use the other nutrients it needs, such as Vitamin A, D & E.

Good fats are found in:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Whole-meal dairy products
6. Iron

Iron is incredibly important in your child’s diet as it helps keep their blood healthy. Irons helps make new red blood cells that carry oxygen around your child’s body. It also supports healthy growth and development. Babies are born with stores of iron that last about six months, after this your child needs to get iron from the food they eat. If they don’t have enough iron, they can develop anaemia.

Foods rich in iron:

  • Red meats
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Beans
  • Whole Grains
7. Folate

High folate foods play a major role in the development of unborn babies’ brains and spinal cords. However, the importance of folate doesn’t end after birth. Folate is also very important for kids. One of the B vitamins, it is necessary for healthy growth and development. Just like iron, a lack of this nutrient can cause anemia.

High Folate foods include:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Spinach
  • Kidney Beans
  • Brussel Sprouts
8. Fiber

Fiber is needed to produce bowel regularity in children. Not only that but it can also reduce the chances of having heart disease and cancer in later life.

Fiber rich foods include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
9. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an incredibly important nutrient as it helps reduce child morbidity and mortality. It is also essential for vision, immunity and bone growth as well as keeping the skin healthy and working to prevent infection.

Vitamin A foods include:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Apricots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
10. Vitamin C

The go-to cure for the common cold, Vitamin C also hold’s the body’s cells together, strengthens the walls of blood vessels, helps the body heal wounds, and is important for building strong bones and teeth.

Vitamin C foods are:

  • Citrus Fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Mangos

There we go, the ten essential nutrients for children. Make sure to check out the HSE website and have a look at the food pyramid for recommends portions!


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