By: Patricia S. Hammett, M.D.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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