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Top 5 health-boosting nutrients for kids

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Kid-friendly nutrition

Ensuring your children are getting all of the nutrients they need on a daily basis is hard work. It’s important to feed your family a variety of wholesome foods as you strive for a balanced diet, but there are a few nutritional essentials that every child from toddler or teen need more than others. Here’s our list of the top five nutrient must-haves for kids to keep in mind as you plan your family’s meals.

Boy eating cereal

Top nutrients for kids

1. Calcium

Why: Because the bulk of a person's growth and bone development happens between the ages of 10 and 20 years of age, it's absolutely vital to the lifelong health of your children's bone strength that they get enough calcium on a daily basis. On top of that, calcium helps to promote heart and muscle functioning.

How much your child needs: The Recommended Dietary Allowance of calcium is 500 milligrams for children who are between the ages of one and three years old and 800 milligrams for children who are between the ages of four and eight. Kids over the age of nine and under 18 need about 1,300 milligrams a day.

Great ways to get calcium: Encourage your child to eat cereal in the morning or to snack on yogurt throughout the day. Other great sources of calcium include cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice and spinach.

2. Magnesium

Why: Another bone-friendly mineral, magnesium is responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. It will protect your children's nervous system functioning and will keep their hearts beating strong and steadily.

How much your child needs: Infants need less magnesium than toddlers or teens. Start with 30 milligrams per day for children under six months of age and increase amount to 74 milligrams between the ages of six months to one year. Children one to three years old should have about 80 milligrams while children aged four to eight need 130 milligrams daily. Children over nine years old need about 240 milligrams a day while teens may require up to 410 milligrams.

Great ways to get magnesium: Avocado, almonds, cashews, spinach, oatmeal and raisins are all good food sources of magnesium.

3. Vitamin D

Why: More and more research is pointing to the fact that Americans, on average, do not get enough vitamin D on a daily basis. What's more, the nutrient is being studied as an anti-cancer agent and it's essential for bone growth and strength in kids. Vitamin D can also regulate and protect immune system functioning and stave off inflammation of the body.

How much your child needs: The American Academy of Pediatrics recently upped the recommended daily dose of vitamin D to 400 milligrams for children of all ages.

Great ways to get vitamin D: Fish, milk and vitamin D-fortified cereals are tasty ways to sneak this nutrient into your child's diet.

4. Vitamin E

Why: This wonder nutrient can help treat everything from cardiovascular disease to eye infections. On top of that, it's renowned for its immune system-boosting properties and its ability to repair sun-damaged skin.

How much your child needs: Children will require about 4 to 5 milligrams of vitamin E on a daily basis, while pre-teens will need about 11 milligrams. Anyone over 14 years need about 15 milligrams per day.

Great ways to get vitamin E: Nuts, including sunflower seeds, almonds and peanuts, are delicious sources of this nutrient. Kiwis, broccoli and olives will also do the trick.

5. Fiber

Why: Many children don't get enough of this digestive tract nutrient on a daily basis. Fiber can help cleanse a child's colon and may also reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes down the road.

How much your child needs: It's recommended that children eat about 20 to 26 grams of fiber every day, though most are probably only getting half of that.

Great ways to get fiber: Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruit and oatmeal. As a bonus your children's health, limit foods that are overly-processed as well as juices, since they are typically devoid of fiber.

More kid-friendly diet tips

Enhance children's activity and nutrition
An alphabet of kid-friendly recipes
Teaching kids healthy portion sizes

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