Health Food and Nutrition

7 Most Essential Nutrients for Your Child’s Growth

Tanuja Sodhi
All age groups

Created by Tanuja Sodhi
Updated on Aug 20, 2013

7 Most Essential Nutrients for Your Childs Growth

Will my little girl put on weight on her bony body? Will my boy always remain lethargic and listless or would he be high on energy someday? Is my child getting a good diet that facilitates growth? These are some of the top-of-the-list worries gnawing at the parents’ minds when their children are of a growing age. While children come in many different sizes and shapes, growing at their individual rates; we as parents can play an important role in their growth through administering good nutrition. The payoff? A child with a healthy weight, strong bones and teeth, a well-regulated digestive system, oxygen-rich blood, and healthy nutritional habits they can carry throughout their life. So, I lay out the details on 7 crucial nutrients that a growing body needs to help it optimize its growth mechanism.


Remember the colourful calcium toy-containers that lured kids to gobble up pastel-hued calcium tablets without a fuss? These weren’t designed without a purpose. Since calcium is the most important nutrient for growing kids, the much drama around its packaging is not totally irrelevant. Calcium helps make strong bones and teeth especially during the growing years. Calcium in the blood helps maintain heart rhythm, and promotes proper bloody clotting and muscular function. Teenagers, especially girls, often get far less calcium than they should. Being deficient could stunt growth and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life,( especially for girls).

Recommended quantity per day of calcium

Children ages 2 to 3- 500 mg

Children ages 4 to 8- 800 mg
Children ages 9 to 18- 1,300 mg

Good sources:

Soy products like tofu, soy milk, soy greens, soy beans, soy bean sprouts, etc.
Calcium fortified foods like cereals & juices
Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, methi, etc.
Grains like nachni (ragi)
Fish like salmon and sardines.
My mom called it roughage, and maintained that we kids needed in plenty to keep our digestive systems working efficiently. Fibre fills the child’s tummy up and keeps them ‘regular’. It helps keep off Type II diabetes and constipation. It also helps reduce the risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease later in life.

Recommended quantity per day of fibre

Kids should get 19 to 25 grams of fibre a day. However, you can apply the popular "rule of five”, wherein you have to add 5 to your child's age so that you get the recommended minimum daily grams. For example, a 4-year-old should get at least 9 grams of fiber a day.

Kids should get 19 to 25 grams of fibre a day. However, you can apply the popular "rule of five”, wherein you have to add 5 to your child's age so that you get the recommended minimum daily grams. For example, a 4-year-old should get at least 9 grams of fiber a day.

Children ages 2 to 3- 19 g

Children ages 4 to 8- 25 g
Girls ages 9 to 18- 26 g
Boys ages 9 to 13- 31 g
Boys ages 14 to 18- 38 g

Good Sources:

Fresh fruits with skin
Vegetables with skin (especially green beans, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, leafy vegetables)
High-fiber whole grain cereals like oatmeal, brown rice, multigrain flour
Beans (dry) like rajma, lobia
Lentils like pulses and dried peas
Legumes like sprouts
Whole-grain bread and pasta
Ground flaxseed
Dried fruits and nuts


Every cell in the body is made of protein, which makes this major nutrient essential for healthy

growth and development. Proteins are the source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your child's body. This is especially important for children, because children are constantly going through periods of growth and development. Protein also helps the body to repair cells and make new cells, which means that it helps heal wounds.

Recommended quantity per day of protein

Children ages 1 to 3- 13 to16 g

Children ages 4 to 8- 19 to 25 g
Children ages 9 to 13- 34 and 45 g
Teenage girls- 46 g
Teenage boys- 55 g

As puberty hits, girls start to need slightly less protein than boys. Also, as children grow in age, the protein needs decrease.

Good Sources:

Dairy (milk, cheese, paneer, yogurt, buttermilk)
fish and seafood (like tuna, salmon, halibut, crab, clam)
meats (such as chicken breast)
nuts like peanuts and almonds
seeds like pumpkin, squash, sunflower and watermelon
Beans (such as chickpeas, kidney beans and black bean).


Iron is one of the body's most precious minerals. Iron helps our body to generate the energy we need to undertake everyday activities. So, not having enough iron in the body can make kids feel tired and listless. Iron also plays an important role in the development of the brain during the early years impacting on behaviour and intelligence. In children, the consequences of iron deficiency are severe, potentially affecting behaviour and normal intellectual development. Iron is also vital in strengthening the immune system. Iron can be absorbed better by the body when consumed with vitamin C (an iron absorption enhancer).

Recommended quantity per day of iron

7 to 12 months- 11 mg

1 to 3 years- 7 mg
4 to 8 years- 10 mg
9 to 13 years- 8 mg
14 to 18 years, girls- 15 mg
14 to 18 years, boys- 11 mg

Good Sources

Lean meat ( like mutton liver, beef, chicken)
Fish and seafood like shrimps
Dark leafy greens
Dried fruits
Soy nuts
Whole wheat bread
Fortified cereals


  • Magnesium is important to almost 300 bodily functions, including the muscles, nerves and heart. It boosts immune system and it contributes to the formation of teeth and bones. Many enzymes that our body needs to make energy can only be activated by magnesium. Finally, magnesium aids in the regulation of other important nutrients such as calcium, copper, zinc, vitamin D and potassium.

Recommended quantity per day of magnesium

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium varies greatly depending on your age, gender and physical condition.

Infants up to 3 years- 40 to 80 mg

Children 4 to 6 years- 120 mg
Children 7 to 10 years- 170 mg
Boys older than 10 years- 270 to 400 mg
Girls older than 10 years- 280 to 300 mg

Good Sources

Dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, peas, beans
Fruits like banana, avocados
Whole-grain breads and cereals like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and millet
Beans and lentils like soy beans, rajma, lobia and Kabuli chana
Dried fruits like figs, prunes, apricots, dates and raisins
Seeds like sesame, squash and pumpkin
Nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts
Fish like halibut and mackerel
Soy products like tofu

Vitamin E protects against cell damage and bolsters a healthy immune system. It's a powerful anti-oxidant that fights harmful by-products of everything from air pollution and cigarette smoke to ultraviolet rays.

Recommended quantity per day of vitamin E

Healthy breastfeeding infants 0-6 months- 4 mg

Infants ages 7-12 months- 5 mg
Children ages 1-3 years- 6 mg
Children ages 4-8 years- 7 mg
Children ages 9-13 years- 11 mg
Children older than 14 years- 15 mg

Good Sources

Wheat germ
Peanut butter
Sunflower seeds
Oils like canola, olive, sunflower and safflower
Green leafy vegetables like spinach


  • Potassium is an important electrolyte that allows the cells, tissues and organs to function optimally. Potassium is a key player in maintaining healthy fluid balance that regulates the electrical activity of the heart, builds protein and metabolizes carbohydrates. A potassium-rich diet can decrease high blood pressure and may also reduce your risk of kidney stones and bone loss.

  • Recommended quantity per day of potassium 

Babies under 6 months- 400 mg

Babies between 7 months and 1 year old- 700 mg
Toddlers between 1 and 3 years old- 3,000 mg
Children between the ages of 4 to 8- 3,800 mg
Children between the ages of 9 and 13- 4,500 mg
Boys and girls over the age of 14- 4,700 mg

Good Sources

Oranges and orange juice
White and sweet potatoes
Honeydew melon
Dried apricots
Tomatoes, tomato sauce
Fish such as halibut and cod
Therefore, the power of the 7 essential nutrients cannot be undermined. The best way to make sure that your child gets these power- nutrients is to serve a variety of foods that have different nutrients, tastes, textures and colors. Watching your child eat nutrient-rich foods every day should be an assurance enough for you that you as a parent have played a crucial role in facilitating your little one’s growth and development.

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| Dec 24, 2017


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| Oct 02, 2017

very nice food chat and really the needed one thnx.

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| Jul 09, 2015

@meenakshi - you can refer to this link for two year old toddlers meal plan - AND in the same page there's a link for blank meal plannee as well - so u can add some nice foods from this blog too... I hope that hepls!

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| May 29, 2015

Very informative. Pls let me know can I give my daughter oranges as she has allergy cough which increases with any sweet sour and cold food. food . which is restricted from her diet

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| May 12, 2015

yes reema beetroot is a good source of iron

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| Jan 15, 2014

Informative article. However, how much you try you tend to miss out on some of these vital nutrients. A diet chart would definitely. Would appreciate if you could design one.

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| Oct 29, 2013

Thanks a lot for this vital info.. a major concern of every parent..

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| Sep 06, 2013

Thanks a lot for this useful information.

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| Sep 04, 2013

A diet chart will help. My son is 5 years old and is a fussy eater. Can you suggest a diet chart?

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| Aug 29, 2013

is beetroot a Gud source of iron

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| Aug 29, 2013

huge piece of information:) Thanks a ton

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| Aug 29, 2013

Thank you for the vital information Ms. Sodhi. Please help us with suggestions to incorporate this in our children's daily diet.

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| Aug 21, 2013

How is it possible to give all the 7 nutrients in one day as per the suggested quantity, that too for working parents. Help me to solve

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