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Nutrient Requirements for Toddlers

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Preschoolers grow and develop in leaps and bounds, and because of this, they need a balanced and varied diet. Of the many vitamins and minerals that are necessary, there are some that we should pay special attention to.

Calcium: beyond bone health

Calcium is essential for the proper development and health of bones and teeth. In addition, it plays a role in maintaining a normal blood pressure and in muscle contractions (e.g. the heartbeat). Milk products are considered the most reliable source of calcium in our diet. Calcium in milk products is naturally present in large quantities, and this calcium is better absorbed than the calcium from other food sources. Needless to say, if milk products are not included in toddlers' diets, it is difficult to meet their daily calcium needs.

Vitamin D: An essential vitamin!

Working in close association with calcium, vitamin D is just as valuable since it stimulates calcium absorption. Vitamin D is synthesized by the skin when it comes in contact with UV rays of the sun. However, with the use of sunscreens and limited exposure to the sun during the winter season, the production of vitamin D is often reduced. Consequently, it is important to ensure a daily dietary source of this nutrient.

Iron is essential!

Iron is an essential nutrient as our bodies are unable to produce it. It must therefore come from the foods we eat. Inadequate intakes of iron can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, a slowing down of intellectual performance, and when deficiencies are more serious, anemia. It is therefore important to make sensible choices that will ensure sufficient consumption of foods that contain iron. Iron is found in meat and its alternatives, certain vegetables and iron-fortified grain products.

It is important to note that iron contained in animal products is absorbed better than iron found in plant foods. To improve the absorption of plant-based iron, it is important to include a source of vitamin C with your child's meal. Think of bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruit, kiwis or strawberries, which are all excellent sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin supplements: Are they necessary?

Healthy and normally developing children who eat a variety of foods chosen from the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide get all the essential vitamins and minerals they need. Vitamin supplements are therefore not necessary. Offering varied and balanced meals and snacks to toddlers will help them develop good eating habits that they will probably keep their whole lives!

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