Building blocks

The typical toddler won’t sit down to a bowl of cabbage and beetroot surprise without a murmur. But of course growing bodies do need the right mix of food and nutrients to form strong teeth and bones, muscles and healthy tissues. A good diet can also help to protect against illness.

Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin, eyes and immunity. You’ll get it from yellow and orange fruit and vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, mango, apricots), dark green vegetables, liver and dairy products.

Vitamin B is very important, particularly B6 which is required for the production of antibodies and red blood cells. It comes from avocados, bananas, fish, liver, wheat bran, cabbage, milk and eggs.

Vitamin C is important for your toddler’s immune system, wound healing and bone and tissue growth. Find it in citrus fruits, berries, and vegetables (provided that they are not cooked until very soft), potatoes and fruit juice.

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of minerals. Good sources are oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines) and dairy products.

Iron is important for your toddler’s immune system and oxygen supply to the cells.
Iron-deficiency is common in toddlers as iron requirements are high but dietary intake is often low, especially if little or no meat is eaten. If your toddler is listless, irritable, tires easily, yawns all the time and is very pale, then it may be a good idea to have them checked for anaemia. Iron comes from meat-based sources ( beef, pork, lamb) and from plant-based sources (fortified cereals, bread, dried fruit, eggs, beans and pulses and green leafy vegetables).

Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth and muscles. Dairy products contain it as do dark green vegetables, sesame seeds, canned fish with soft edible bones, fortified orange juice and pulses.

Magnesium is required for most body processes, including energy production. The best sources are brown rice, legumes such as beans and lentil’s, and brewer's yeast.

is required for growth, energy metabolism, immunity and insulin storage. It comes from meat, mushrooms, eggs and wholegrain products.

Are vitamin supplements the answer?

  • There is disagreement among professionals about whether multivitamins are good for all children. It’s not a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. Given a variety of healthy choices, a toddler will often eat a more balanced diet than the parents think.
  • The most important vitamins that toddlers need will depend on the specific toddler.
  • A child who is not eating enough good things in general will probably need extra Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
  • Typically, an over-the-counter multivitamin and mineral supplement should provide all of these.
  • If you do decide to go for a multi-vitamin, it must be a special formulation for your child’s age group.
  • If your child has any chronic ailments, check with your doctor before putting them on a course of vitamins.

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