What Are the Key Nutrients in a Child's Diet?

It's very important for parents to be informed in regards to the key nutrients in a child's diet. These are fundamental to children's proper growth and development.
What Are the Key Nutrients in a Child's Diet?

Last update: 01 March, 2019

In today’s article, we’ll go into detail regarding the key nutrients in a child’s diet. Many parents don’t know what group different foods belong to, nor the role they play in a child’s development.

Each food has a specific task in children’s growth, and help prevent a variety of illnesses.

The key nutrients in a child’s diet

Nutrition plays a key role in maintaining optimal health and preventing illnesses –both now and in the future. It may seem a bit confusing for parents when it comes to knowing what foods are adequate and how they’re classified.

Below, we’ll present a detailed list of the key nutrients in a child’s diet:


When talking about vitamins, it’s important to be specific, given that there are many types. You may not know exactly which vitamins children really need. Each one has a function in a child’s body and growth. Here’s a detailed list:

  • Vitamin A: Plays an important role in the development of sight. It also has to do with bone growth and the growth of tissues like nails, hair and skin. Also, it has to do with protecting the body.
  • Vitamin C: Helps to form and repair red blood cells, bones and tissues. Furthermore, it aids in the scarring process, strengthens the immune system, and keeps infections under control. Experts recommend vitamin C in order to raise a person’s defenses.
  • Vitamin D: This is fundamental in helping children’s bodies absorb calcium and build healthy bones. It also helps maintain our bodies and immune systems, contributes to the production of insulin, and regulates cell growth.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E limits the production of free radicals – irregularities in the composition of electrons – which can cause cell damage.
  • Zinc: Helps in the process of digestion and in the metabolism of food. Zinc is fundamental for growth.

What Are the Key Nutrients in a Child's Diet?


Proteins are essential to growth and for leading an optimal life. They contribute to proper cell functioning and the formation of antibodies, which are responsible for protecting the body from infection.

Proteins are composed of amino acids, 8 of which are fundamental for our bodies. Experts recommend that 65% of the proteins we consume come from animals. The remaining 35% should be plant based. 

However, these proportions often depend on a doctor’s specific line of thinking. Below are some examples of animal-based and plant-based protein sources of protein:

  • Animal-based proteins: Meats, poultry, eggs, molluscs and seafood.
  • Plant-based proteins: Include legumes and nuts.

“Proteins should make up between 10 and 15% of a child’s diet”


Minerals are also an important requirement for our bodies. Iron, calcium and iodine are fundamental to the growing process and are key nutrients in a child’s diet.

Below are details on the benefits of each one:

  • Iron: This mineral is fundamental in the formation of blood. A correct iron intake will go hand in hand with the increase of the volume of blood in the body. A variety of foods offer iron, including legumes and fruits.
  • Calcium: Calcium is necessary in the formation of the skeleton. Therefore, children must eat foods that are rich in calcium. Calcium is found in milk, dairy products and vegetables, like spinach.
  • Iodine: This mineral is also very important for the growth of children. Furthermore, it regulates functions like cardiac frequency and body temperature. It’s present in foods like fish and asparagus.
What Are the Key Nutrients in a Child's Diet?


Carbohydrates are a fundamental source of energy for the bodies of little ones. It’s important to point out that not all carbohydrates are good. They’re divided into two types, and parents should be aware of the characteristics of each.

Below are details on both:

  • Simple carbohydrates have a faster impact on children’s bodies, metabolizing into simple sugar much more quickly. Milk and fruit are examples of foods that contain simple carbohydrates.
  • Complex carbohydrates are characterized by having a slower absorption. They don’t pass as quickly to the blood, meaning they offer a greater sense of satisfaction and facilitate digestion. You can find them in foods like wheat flour and corn flour.

It’s fundamental for parents to be aware of the key nutrients in a child’s diet and make sure to include them. Doing so will allow their little ones to develop properly. Failing to do so, however, will result in deficiencies that can produce a variety of health problems .

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Carr AC., Maggini S., Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 2017.
  • Vanherwegen AS., Gysemans C., Mathieu C., Regulation of immune function by vitamin D and its use in diseases of immunity. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am, 2017. 46 (4): 1061-1094.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.