Essential Nutrients for Kids, A to Z

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Vitamin A

Why kids need it: This vitamin is key for good eyesight, especially for color and night vision. It also gives a child’s immune system — the body’s defense against germs — an infection-fighting boost.

Where to find it: Fill kids’ plates with carrots and other orange vegetables and fruits, like cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Serve with glasses of fortified milk.

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B Vitamins

Why kids need them: These nutrients — which include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, B6, B12, and biotin — help their bodies make and use energy. Without enough B vitamins, kids can get anemia.

Where to find them: You can find Bs in just about every food group. Whole grains, fish, chicken, meat, leafy greens, and dairy are packed with them.

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Vitamin C

Why kids need it: This vitamin helps kids ward off sneezes and sniffles by helping their bodies fight infections. It also helps scrapes and cuts heal faster.

Where to find it: Kids can drink a glass of orange juice or, better yet, eat an orange. Other fruits and vegetables are also great C sources: strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and sweet red peppers.

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 Vitamin D

Why kids need it: For strong bones and teeth, children need this nutrient every day. It helps them absorb calcium so their bodies can build up bones.

Where to find it: The skin makes this vitamin when the sun hits it. But because the UV rays that fuel that process also can cause cancer, your kids shouldn’t get too much sun. Instead, boost their D with fortified milk, cereal, tuna, or eggs.

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Calcium

Why kids need it: This mineral is a must for healthy bones and teeth. Too little can lead to a higher chance of bone disease later in life.

Where to find it: Dairy is the best source. A few servings of low-fat milk and yogurt every day should keep your kids’ bones sturdy.

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Choline

Why kids need it: This nutrient isn’t a vitamin, but it’s still important. Cells need it to keep their shape, and the nervous system needs it to speed messages throughout the body.

Where to find it: The body doesn’t make its own choline, so kids have to get it from foods like eggs, fish, beef, chicken, and broccoli

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Iron

Why kids need it: Red blood cells use it to move oxygen to the rest of the body.

Where to find it: Beef up on lean meat, or give kids other foods like beans, dark leafy greens, and iron-fortified cereal.

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Magnesium

Why kids need it: This nutrient is one of the building blocks of the body’s cells, and it’s important for making energy. A diet rich in magnesium also will keep your child’s heart pumping strongly into adulthood.

Where to find it: Bran cereal, brown rice, tofu, beans, almonds, and other nuts are all great sources.

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Potassium

Why kids need it: Almost every cell and organ in the body needs this to work properly. It’s also important for blood pressure, to keep the heart pumping and the muscles working when children are running around.

Where to find it: Bananas are loaded with potassium, but you also can find it in sweet potatoes, white beans, skim milk, and low-fat yogurt.

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Zinc

Why kids need it: Zinc may keep colds away by helping kids’ immune systems fight viruses and other germs. Plus, their bodies need it to grow and develop properly.

Where to find it: Chicken, beans, and fortified breakfast cereals.

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Fortified Foods

The best way to make sure your kid gets the nutrients he needs is to serve him a mix of different foods. Fortified orange juice, breads, and cereals also can help you make sure he gets balanced nutrition. Worried about a picky eater? Ask your pediatrician if your child needs a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.

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