The first few years of human life are critical for the development of your mind and body. The brain requires constant nourishment, which can only come from food. Even after that, the body requires certain kinds of nutrients in a certain amount to function and grow properly. Hence, there should be special attention on the food being given to the toddlers and kids.

Experts maintain that the first five years of a person’s life define how their brain will function for the rest of their life. Hence, kids should receive proper nourishment to develop a well-functioning cognitive system, learning capability, processing speed, and an ability to control moods and impulses. Apart from the food, a child’s environment also plays an important role in their cognitive performance.

Here are the nutrients vital for toddlers and kids:

Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that builds muscle mass and provides energy for day-to-day functioning. It is crucial for the building of tissues and muscles in a child’s body. It also helps improve the immune system.

The major sources of protein are animal products like chicken, fish, lean meats, turkey, milk, yogurt, butter, and string cheese.  However, it can also be attained through legumes and nuts. The recommended intake of protein for kids between the ages of 2-8 years is 3-5 ounces per day. It is 5-8 ounces for those aged 10-14 years.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient found rare in foods. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Human body can synthesize it through ultraviolet rays of the sun when they touch the skin. The vitamin is important for strong, healthy bones.

The recommended intake of vitamin D for children is 600 international units per day. While vitamin D is rare in foods, some products are a good source of this nutrient. They include cereals and dairy products. However, kids may need a multivitamin as well. Sunlight is also a good source, but excessive exposure to sun rays increases the risk of skin cancer.

Iron

Iron is a vital mineral required by the human body for many functions. It is the part of hemoglobin—a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the entire body. It helps the muscles use and store oxygen. This mineral is also the part of many other enzymes and proteins. It helps with the production of red blood cells and with the children’s growth.

Iron deficiency can cause anemia in children. Experts recommend iron’s intake to be around 10 milligrams per day for kids between ages of 4-8 years. After that, they should take 8 milligrams of iron per day. Good sources of protein include beans, red meat, eggs, tuna, and green leafy vegetables.

Healthy Fats

Despite the bad reputation, fats are important for the nerve and brain development. They are even more important for toddlers and kids. They help with blood clotting, metabolism, and vitamins absorption. Kids required 30 percent of their diet to consist of fats. 

However, these fats should be unsaturated, as saturated fats are not good for health. Good sources of fats are vegetable oils like corn, soy, safflower, and olive. Animal products like chicken and fish are also a good source of healthy fats, especially for kids above the age of 2. Fatty acids in flaxseed, salmon, and walnuts are also good for children.

Calcium

Calcium is another vital mineral that builds bones and promotes their health. It enables blood clotting, muscle contraction, and assures that the heart can beat. Around 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is in teeth and bones. These parts of the body store nutrients for years.

Experts recommend 1000 milligrams of calcium intake for children having ages between 4-8 years and 1300 milligrams for ages between 9-13 years. Calcium can be derived through dairy products like tofu and milk. Kids should drink two cups of milk every day to attain good bone health.

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps with the development of the brain and immune system. It supports healing and enables iron absorption. Kids with ages between 4-8 years need at least 25 milligrams every day while those aged between 9-13 years require 45 milligrams a day.

The sources for vitamin C include fresh vegetables and fruits like strawberries, oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli, peppers, cabbage, and fresh juices.