Toddler eating food rich in nutrients and vitamins.

By: Patricia S. Hammett, M.D.

Calcium

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

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

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

Iron

Toddlers typically need 7 mg 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 iron
  • 1/2 cup iron-fortified cereal or oatmeal: 6 mg iron
  • 1/4 cup beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, soy beans): 2 mg iron
  • 1/2 cup greens (peas, broccoli, asparagus): .5 mg iron
  • 1 large egg: .5 mg iron
  • 2 tablespoons of dried fruits (raisins, apricots): 1.6 mg iron

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 of vitamin A per day. Vitamin A is best known 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 carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A by the body. Good sources of vitamin A for toddlers include:

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

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps 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 contain this important nutrient. Good sources of vitamin C for toddlers include:

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

Vitamin D

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants, toddlers and adolescents receive 400 IU 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 from Mother Nature. Good sources of vitamin D for toddlers include:

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