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Important Nutrients for Toddlers: What They Need

    Important Nutrients for Toddlers: What They Need

    Toddlers need the right nutrients to support their growth and development. Therefore, parents must find the best types of food that can provide the most important nutrients for toddlers. The right kind of diet can help your child’s overall development. This includes:

    • Cognitive development
    • Physical
    • Emotional and social wellbeing
    • Language
    • Sensory
    • Motor skills

    A toddler rapidly grows within a short time, and a healthy diet and appetite help to supplement his development. But being a picky eater may have an effect on his overall growth. To address this challenge, parents must find ways to provide the healthiest meals, one that includes all the important nutrients for toddlers.

    10 Important Nutrients for Toddlers

    As a parent, you need to know all the essential nutrients that can aid your child’s growth and development. To make your life easier, here is a list of nutrients


    This mineral is essential in the development of bones and teeth. Having enough calcium can prevent osteoporosis in the future. Some types of food that contain calcium include:

    • Milk
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Sardines


    Protein helps in building, maintaining, and repairing muscles and tissue. It is also a great source of energy. It takes longer to break down in the digestive system compared to carbohydrates. Here are some protein-rich foods you can give your toddler:

    • Meat (pork, beef, chicken)
    • Fish
    • Eggs
    • Nuts
    • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)


    Fiber helps reduce the risk of acquiring heart disease, certain types of cancers, and obesity. It also aids digestion and prevents constipation.

    When you have toddlers who are picky eaters, it may be a challenge to have them try different types of food. They may even prefer to eat the same thing over and over again, and this may lead to problems with digestion. Giving food that is rich in fiber will help you and your toddler in maintaining a healthy gut. Rich-fiber foods include:

    • Fruits (oranges, berries, banana, avocado)
    • Vegetables (broccoli, carrots)
    • Whole grains
    • Beans and legume


    Carbs are the main energy source of the body. Therefore, carbohydrates are one of the most important nutrients for toddlers as it makes them active and attentive the entire day. Thus, you should give your toddler foods that are high in carbohydrates. Here are some examples of food rich in carbohydrates:

    • Rice
    • Potatoes
    • Bread
    • Cereal
    • Pasta


    Folate is responsible for healthy cells and helps convert carbohydrates to energy. Foods that are rich in folate include:

    • Chayote
    • Legumes
    • Beets
    • Asparagus
    • Leafy greens
    • Banana


    Fats, specifically healthy fats, need to be included in your toddler’s diet. These fats aid in the proper development of your toddler’s body and brain. You can get healthy fats from the following:

    • Avocado
    • Fishes with Omega-3 fatty acids (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines)
    • Nuts
    • Poultry
    • Lean red meat
    • Breast milk (if you’re still breastfeeding your toddler)


    Next, iron is another important nutrient. It helps red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the entire body. Iron deficiency is the term used when a person lacks iron, causing tiredness and breathlessness. To prevent this condition from occurring, give your child foods that have high iron content such as:

    • Dark green leafy vegetables like malunggay (moringa), saluyot (chorchorus), alugbati (Malabar spinach), kangkong (water spinach), dahon ng gabi (taro leaves), dahon ng kamote (sweet potato leaves), petchay (Chinese cabbage)
    • Read meats (pork, beef)
    • Beans, peas, and lentils
    • Soybean products (tofu, soy milk, etc.)
    • Ginger


    Potassium regulates fluid balance in the body, as well as maintains normal blood pressure. Some foods that are high in potassium are:

    • Banana
    • Spinach
    • Broccoli
    • Ginger
    • Sweet potato
    • Potato
    • Peas
    • Mushroom

    Vitamin D

    This vitamin is essential when it comes to healthy bone development. Vitamin D is not often found in food, but you can ask your pediatrician for a vitamin D supplement if needed. Certain food contain vitamin D, such as:

    • Vitamin D fortified foods like some dairy products, cereals, orange juice
    • Fatty fishes such as tuna, salmon, mackerel

    Also, don’t forget that a healthy sunlight exposure is also a great source of Vitamin D.

    Vitamin A

    Vitamin A promotes good vision, boosts the immune system, as well as maintains good skin. This nutrient also ensures the proper functioning of the heart, kidney, and lungs. Foods that contain vitamin A are the following:

    • Eggs
    • Vitamin A-fortified foods like cereals and skim milk
    • Orange and yellow vegetables (carrot, squash, bell peppers)
    • Fruits like mango and papaya

    Vitamin C

    Vitamin C boosts immunity, as well as helps develop strong and healthy teeth and bones. Here are some foods that contain Vitamin C:

    • Tomato
    • Broccoli
    • Spinach
    • Citrus fruits (lemons, oranges)
    • Berries
    • Bell peppers
    • Mango
    • Chili leaves

    All the aforementioned nutrients for toddlers contribute to your child’s overall development. Always consult your pediatrician to know which nutrients are specifically needed by your toddler.

    Here are other important tips to remember:

    important nutrients for toddlers

    Is My Toddler Getting Enough Nutrients?

    To make sure that your toddler gets all the essential nutrients in food, you need to follow these steps:

    • Make sure you offer your toddler the five food groups in each meal. This step will help you keep in check if your child gets enough nutrients. The five main food groups include (1) grains, (2) fruits, (3) vegetables, (4) dairy, and (5) protein.
    • Always include more fruits and vegetables in your child’s diets as there are a lot of nutrients found in these food groups.
    • Only serve the exact amount of food your toddler can finish. Let your toddler decide whether to get more food or not.
    • Try to include your toddler when preparing meals. This helps them become more interested in what they eat. This is also a great opportunity for you to educate your child. By watching you, your child will also learn to make healthier food choices.
    • Be a good example for your child. Always eat together, so that your child can see that you, too, consume the same food. This will not only strengthen the bond between you and your toddler, but it will also encourage your child to eat as healthy as you do.

    Key Takeaways

    Encouraging your child to eat a healthy, balanced diet and a variety of food may be tough. But it is important that they get all the important nutrients their body needs to grow and develop.

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    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


    Nutrition: Toddler, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=toddler-nutrition-90-P02291, Accessed June 13, 2020

    Childhood Nutrition, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Childhood-Nutrition.aspx, Accessed June 13, 2020

    9 Must-Eat Nutrients for your Child, https://www.parents.com/kids/nutrition/healthy-eating/must-eat-nutrients/,  Accessed June 13, 2020

    Nutrition Guide for Toddlers, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/toddler-food.html, Accessed June 13, 2020

    Kids Need their Nutrients, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=kids-need-their-nutrients–1-19820, Accessed June 13, 2020

    Feeding and Nutrition Tip: Your 2 Year Old, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Feeding-and-Nutrition-Your-Two-Year-Old.aspx, Accessed June 13, 2020

    Making Sure Your Child is Eating Enough, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Making-Sure-Your-Child-is-Eating-Enough.aspx, Accessed June 13, 2020


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    Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 28, 2021
    Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD