Health Food and Nutrition

7 Most Essential Nutrients for Your Child’s Growth

Tanuja Sodhi
0 to 1 years

Created by Tanuja Sodhi
Updated on Jun 09, 2021

7 Most Essential Nutrients for Your Childs Growth
Reviewed by Expert panel

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 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. [Read - What Should Be Child's Daily Diet Plan?]

Nutrients Needed for Child's Proper Growth & Development

So, I lay out the details on 7 crucial nutrients that a growing body needs to help it optimize its growth mechanism.

#1. Calcium

Remember the colorful 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 blood 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 - 1300 mg

Good Sources:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • paneer
  • buttermilk
  • Soy products like tofu, soy milk, soy greens, soybeans, soybean 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

#2. Fiber

My mom called it roughage and maintained that we kids needed in plenty to keep our digestive systems working efficiently. Fiber 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 fiber 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

#3. Protein

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. [Know: Essentials Nutrients for Your Teenager Boy]

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. [Know: Why Power of Proteins Required for Your Child?]

Good Sources:

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

#4. Iron

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 behavior and intelligence. In children, the consequences of iron deficiency are severe, potentially affecting behavior 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)
  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood like shrimps
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Dried fruits
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Tomatoes
  • Soy nuts
  • Raisins
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Fortified cereals

#5. Magnesium

Magnesium is important to almost 300 bodily functions, including the muscles, nerves, and heart. It boosts the 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 bread and cereals like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and millet
  • Beans and lentils like soybeans, 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

#6. Vitamin

Vitamin E protects against cell damage and bolsters a healthy immune system. It's a powerful antioxidant 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
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oils like canola, olive, sunflower, and safflower
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach

#7. Potassium

Potassium is an important electrolyte that allows the cells, tissues, and organs to function optimally. Potassium is a key player in maintaining a 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 to 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:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Dried apricots
  • Prunes
  • Tomatoes, tomato sauce
  • Fish such as halibut and cod
  • Spinach
  • Pistachios


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.


This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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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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| 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 29, 2013

huge piece of information:) Thanks a ton

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| Aug 29, 2013

is beetroot a Gud source of iron

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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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| Sep 06, 2013

Thanks a lot for this useful information.

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| Oct 29, 2013

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

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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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| May 12, 2015

yes reema beetroot is a good source of iron

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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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| 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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| Oct 02, 2017

very nice food chat and really the needed one thnx.

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| Dec 24, 2017


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| May 11, 2020

Thank you for giving useful information

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| Jul 28, 2020

Which part of the egg should be given to 1 year old baby?

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