Toddler eating food rich in nutrients and vitamins.

By: Patricia S. Hammett, M.D.


Boys Town Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1 to 3 need around 500 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Children age 4 to 8 should consume 800 mg a day. Calcium is essential for the development of strong bones, teeth and muscular strength.

Just two cups of milk per day (each cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium) can fulfill the daily requirements. However, if your toddler drinks more than three cups of milk a day, it may not leave enough room in his stomach for other essentials foods his body needs.

Although parents should encourage their child to drink milk, some children will not drink enough milk or will refuse it completely. Good sources for calcium for toddlers include:

  • 1 ounce natural or processed cheese: 200 mg
  • 1 cup yogurt: 300 mg
  • 1/2 cup green, leafy vegetables: 100 mg
  • 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice: 160 mg


Toddlers typically need 7mg of iron a day to help make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying red pigment in blood cells. If a child consumes a little more iron one day and a little less the next day, the body will adjust, but if the child continues to lack iron, he or she may become anemic. Iron deficiency anemia can cause muscle weakness, fatigue and lack of brain development. Supplements or vitamins with iron are usually not needed if your child eats a variety of iron-rich foods. Good sources of iron for toddlers include:

  • 1 ounce red meat, fish, and poultry: 1 mg
  • 1/2 cup iron fortified cereal or oatmeal: 6 mg
  • 1/4 cup beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, soy beans): 2 mg
  • 1/2 cup greens (peas, broccoli, asparagus): .5 mg
  • 1 large egg: .5 mg
  • 2 Tablespoons of dried fruits (raisins, apricots): 1.6 mg

If your child does not consume many of these foods, you may want to consider adding a toddler formula instead of cow’s milk or a multivitamin with iron. Talk with your child’s physician before you begin any supplements.

Vitamin A

Your toddler needs 4,000 IU’s of vitamin A per day. Vitamin A is best know for improving vision, but it also helps fight off viral infections, repairs body tissues and maintains healthy skin, nails and hair. Vitamin A is found in animal products, but some fruits and vegetables, like carrots and bananas, contain cartenoids, which are converted to Vitamin A by the body. Good sources of Vitamin A for toddlers include:

  • 1/4 cup cooked carrots: 9000 IU
  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli: 1080
  • 1 medium wedge of cantaloupe: 2225 IU
  • 1 medium peach: 525 IU
  • 1 cup skim milk: 500 IU / 1 cup whole milk: 500 IU

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is helps to boost the immune system, fight off colds and infections, delay onset of diseases and heal cuts and bruises. A toddler needs just 15 mg of Vitamin C per day, which is easy to do since so many foods contact this important nutrient. Good sources of Vitamin C for toddlers include:

  • 1/4 cup broccoli: 30 mg
  • 1/4 cup orange juice: 25 mg
  • 1 medium banana: 10 mg
  • 3 large strawberries: 21 mg

Vitamin D

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants, toddlers and adolescents should receive 400 IU’s of vitamin D per day to help build strong bones, teeth and muscles. The body absorbs a great deal of vitamin D from the sun’s rays. The use of sunscreens and the daily smog, can affect the amount of Vitamin D we actually absorb by mother-nature. Good sources of Vitamin D for toddlers include:

  • 1 ounce salmon serving: 110 IU's
  • 3 ounces tuna (1 small can in oil, drained): 200 IU’s
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole, non fat and reduced fat): 50 IU’s
  • 1/2 cup pudding (made from package with milk): 50 IU’s
  • 1 large egg: 25 IU’s
  • 1/2 cup fortified orange juice: 45 IU’s