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10 Must-Eat Nutrients for Growing Children

by | Diet and Nutrition

Feb 19, 2021

Growing children need all the help they can get to have good health. So, parents need to pay close attention to their diet and food. Also, kids need nutrients to grow strong well and be healthy. There are certain foods they need and those that are a must for them to consume. Here are nutrients for growing children for good health and happiness. 

1. Growing Children Need Carbohydrates

Kids need plenty of energy to move around, play, and be active. To fuel up, you need to feed them with nutrients. Physical activities are an essential part of growing up no one should ignore. 

It helps to build muscles, generate heat, and promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Some of the best foods for energy for kids are oatmeal, eggs, bananas, and sweet potatoes. 

2. They Need Protein 

Children are growing every day and fast. To do this, the body produces hormones and enzymes that enrich cells. Protein is the building block of life that helps kids to grow with health and strength. There are 20 amino acids that make up protein. Out of these, only 11 come from the body. The rest has to come from the food you eat. Kids need this protein in a regular and steady supply to help them grow well. 

Protein also promotes brainpower and triggers several activities. Children need protein for muscle, growth, blood, bones, organs, hair, nails, and energy. That’s why as parents, you need to ensure they eat plenty of protein. Eggs, chicken, beans, cheese, nuts, yogurt, and milk are the best source of protein for kids. 

3. Essential Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids are very important nutrients for growing children. Kids need it for brain development so that they can be smart. Essential fatty acids improve sleep quality, which promotes growth, brain health, and happiness. 

Children who consume fatty acids are less likely to have symptoms of ADHD and asthma. The nutrient enriches their cells and protects them against certain medical challenges. 

The best way to add essential fatty acids to your children’s meal is with salmons and sardines. You may also include herring, oysters, and shrimp. 

4. Growing Children Need Iron 

One of the common childhood medical challenges is iron deficiency. Kids need iron to help transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Oxygen is essential because of its importance in the oxidation process. It helps to change food and liquid into small bits that body cells can absorb. 

Also, iron helps in the formation of red blood cells. At least 70% of the iron in the body is in the blood. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia in children, and it is a great global health concern (1). 

Iron forms part of hemoglobin, responsible for transporting oxygen from lungs to tissue. Green peas, lean meat, eggs, fortified cereals, and spinach are food rich in iron. 

5. They Need Calcium

If you want your kids to have strong bones, teeth, and muscles, then you need to feed them calcium. As they get older, they even need more of it. Calcium is nutrients for growing children because it supports their growth and health. Kids who don’t get enough calcium are at risk of having rickets. The disease softens their legs and bows them. 

Rickets also lead to poor growth resulting in pain and weakness in the body. Children will need between 700mg per day of calcium for 1 – 3-year-olds to 1,300mg per day for 9 – 18-year-olds (2). Top calcium foods for kids are broccoli, salmon, tofu, milk, and calcium-fortified cereals. 

6. They Need Vitamins 

Children also need plenty of vitamins in their bodies for growth and body functions. Vitamins help build strong bones, teeth, muscle, and healthy tissue, and proper brain development. They also need it to build strong immunity to protect them against diseases. 

Vitamin A will help in developing great eyesight, immune responses, and tissue repair. Vitamin B complex is for metabolism, energy, a healthy nervous system, and so on. 

Children will also need potassium for healthy living and growth. The best source of vitamins for kids is organic fruits and vegetables. They will also need to consume chicken, eggs, fish, tomatoes, and cheese. 

7. Growing Children Need Water

Almost every living thing in nature needs water to survive. This makes it one of the most important nutrients for growing children. Water takes part in almost every activity in the human body. It helps to transport nutrients from one place to another, for effective use. 

Water also helps to break down food; something children need for cell absorption. Children who drink water get a better digestive system for less complication in the restroom. Toddlers need to drink 2 – 4 cups a day while kids 9 – 13 years old need 7 – 8 cups a day. 

8. Folate is Essential for Growing Kids

Kids also need to consume folate in their food. The importance of folate starts from the womb when the mother needs to take it. In the womb, babies need it for brain development. Growing children need folate because the nutrient is in our DNA. 

Folate is important in the formation and functions of cells in the body. You can’t have red blood cells without folate, and it helps in digestive and immune health. The body naturally produces folate even though kids need to consume it. Sources of folate include asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets, etc. 

9. Fiber is Essential for Growing Kids

Children need a healthy digestive system to increase their health and happiness. That’s why you need to feed them food rich in fiber. Food rich in fiber also helps kids prevent constipation. Such foods limit the risk of heart diseases, obesity, and certain cancers in children (3). 

Best fiber foods for kids include apples, baked potatoes, yogurt, high-fiber cereals, etc. 

Growing Children Need Magnesium 

Bones in children need calcium to grow strong and healthy. But there is no guarantee calcium will be available when needed. That’s one of the major roles of magnesium as nutrients for growing children. 

Magnesium is also for skin, hair, and teeth. Lack of magnesium in children may lead to hyperactivity, anxiety, restlessness, etc. Magnesium is added to some breakfast cereals. But kids can also get it from leafy greens, beans, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spinach.



  1. Mayo Clinic: Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents
  2. Health Sciences: The Importance of Calcium to Children
  3. NCBI: What Do We Know about Dietary Fiber Intake in Children and Health? The Effects of Fiber Intake on Constipation, Obesity, and Diabetes in Children


By Sara Leandro

Sara Leandro is a certified health coach who helps others feel their best through individualized lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals. She covers topics ranging from health and productivity to relationships.

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