Vitamin requirements for your toddler 1-5 years

Expert Stories | Mrs. Shayana Ameresekere MHumNutr (Aus) RNutr(Aus), Nutritionist

Children up to the age of 5 years are undergoing a period of rapid growth in the muscles, bones and the development of the brain. (S. Ameresekere, 2021). Their food and nutritional needs differ significantly from those of babies, teenagers and adults. The growth and development are affected by increasing activity levels and a relatively small stomach capacity. This means that a large range of vital nutrients have to be included within the smaller volumes of the food your child consumes. (S. Ameresekere, 2021). A balanced diet and appropriate approach to food issues are important factors in preventing many health and development problems in young children and in their future health including obesity, stunting, iron deficiency, specific nutrient deficiencies, dental issues and developmental delay. (S. Ameresekere, 2021).

In addition to eating sufficient calories thought out the day, a child between the ages of 1-5 years diet should meet the following Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) to ensure they are receiving their essential vitamins.

Dietary Reference Intakes

The following vitamins are considered essential for your child to have healthy growth and development during the first 5 years of age, the DRIs are;

Nutrient DRI for 1–3 years DRI for 4–8 years
Vitamin A 300 mcg 400 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.9 mcg 1.2 mcg
Vitamin C 15 mg 25 mg
Vitamin D 600 IU (15 mcg) 600 IU (15 mcg)

(https://wb.md/2QGMmq9)

Even on a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein infants and children up to 5 years of age may not get enough of these vitamins, especially vitamin D. (S. Ameresekere, 2021).

Vitamin A 

Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system, fighting infection and for good vision in low light. Good food sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish and yellow or orange based fruits and vegetables (carrots, peppers, papaya, tomatoes and apricots). (S. Ameresekere, 2021).

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for maintaining the health of blood cells and nerves and is also important for normal neural development of the growing brain, It also helps the formation of DNA, maximising metabolism, energy, and maintaining healthy heart functions.

Vitamin B12 is present in a variety of animal foods, including meat, dairy and egg products. Plant-based foods are generally poor sources of vitamin B12 unless they're fortified with it. (https://wb.md/3gTRrWE)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps form and repair red blood cells, bones, and tissues. It helps your child's gums stay healthy and strengthens your child's blood vessels, minimising bruising from falls and scrapes. In addition, vitamin C helps cuts and wounds heal, boosts the immune system, and keeps infections at bay. It is a good anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant which also helps the body absorb iron from food sources. (Leaf AAVitamins for babies and young children Archives of Disease in Childhood 2007;92:160-164).

Good sources of vitamin C are; Strawberries, guava, oranges, red bell pepper, papaya, grapefruit and kiwi fruit.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed to keep teeth and bones healthy, a deficiency of vitamin D may lead to Rickets in early childhood. Young children are especially vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency because of their rapid growth and sometimes limited exposure to sunlight. In young children, signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are; lethargy, irritability poor growth, delayed teething, swollen joints or bowed legs muscle spasms and seizures. Vitamin D is mainly derived from the action of the sunlight on the skin, about 90% and a small amount is obtained via the child's diet (about 10%). Because it is so difficult to get sufficient Vitamin D sufficient and safe skin exposure to sunlight and the inclusion of foods rich in Vitamin D in the daily diet are important in preventing a vitamin deficiency. (S. Amereskere, 2021).