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The Five Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Children?

Did you know that five common nutrients are essential for your children’s bodies and minds to function properly?  Without these nutrients delivered through foods, you run the risk of your child becoming nutrient deficient.

There are five common nutritional deficiencies in children:

  • Iron- transports oxygen to your cells
  • Iodine-regulates the thyroid
  • Vitamin D- promotes the absorption of calcium
  • Zinc- contributes to overall health and growth
  • Calcium- works on muscles and nerves and helps your teeth and bones.

You know that you want the best for your children, and nutrition is vital for their health and development. Below you will discover some helpful information regarding nutritional deficiencies in children. You will also learn how to possibly avoid these deficiencies if you read below.

Article Contents

Why Nutrition is Important to a Child?

When a child understands proper nutrition, the foundation is built for them to grow up and have a healthy life. When children live in a home or environment that consistently provides them with healthy and nutritious food, they will follow the example given.

As a whole, with proper nutrition, your child will be less likely to suffer from diabetes and morbid obesity. Nutritional deficits can cause:

  • Long term and short-term health challenges
  • Difficulty recovering from wounds and sickness
  • Higher risk of infection
  • Difficulty with focus and schoolwork

When a child is provided with the right foods, instead of always eating junk, they will be more likely to avoid health problems that might occur. A healthy diet will also allow your kids to concentrate in school and improve their learning skills.

Proper nutrition is more than just getting your child to eat their broccoli; it also involves helping them learn to stop eating when they are full. Children need to learn to listen to their bodies and determine when they are hungry and full.

A well-balanced diet will help your child develop their teeth, bones, and muscles the right way. Nutritional wellness also helps advance your child’s mind by providing the ability to focus and participate in the classroom.

What Should a Child Eat in a Day?

Children should have a balance of all the main food groups per day. It can be problematic to teach children how to eat right if they are not used to it, but if you are patient and work with them, they will thank you in the long run.

The charts below indicate the appropriate caloric intake for girls and boys aged 2-18. They can be your guide, and you will notice that boys require higher calorie and serving sizes. This increase is because males are overall larger than females, and they have greater muscle mass.


2 – 41100 – 14002 – 41 – 1.51 – 1.53 – 52 – 2.5
5 – 81200 – 18003 – 51 – 1.51.5 – 2.54 – 62.5
9 – 131400 – 22004 – 61.5 – 21.5 – 35 – 73
14 – 181800 – 24005 – 6.51.5 – 22.5 – 36 – 83


2 – 41100 – 16002 – 51 – 1.51 – 23 – 52 – 2.5
5 – 81200 – 20003 – 5.51 – 21.5 – 2.54 – 62.5
9 – 131600 – 26005 – 6.51.5 – 22 – 3.55 – 93
14 – 182000 – 32005.5 – 72 – 2.52.5 – 46 – 103

The caloric intake between girls and boys is a little different, but they both need the same types of food each day. Make sure to offer your children nutrient-rich foods that keep them going throughout the day. Some parents may choose to introduce a good quality multi-vitamin.

Introduce vitamins when your child is four years old, consult your physician for suggestions as they would be the best one to make this judgment. Vitamins can be helpful with the picky eater, but you must be cautious not to give too much.

What is a Child's Nutritional Needs?

The nutritional needs of children may vary, but it is ideal for them to eat from the four food groups. Adults should encourage them to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits are an excellent way for them to satisfy their sweet tooth without consuming unhealthy foods.

Nutrients play a crucial role in disease prevention. Children should also eat adequate amounts of protein to keep themselves strong. Some good choices for them include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Lean red meat
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter

Children need to start with good eating habits from an early age. Once they know that they should eat healthy snacks, such as string cheese and apples, instead of chocolate bars and soda, you know that you have done your job.

The Five Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Children?

Many children in underdeveloped countries suffer from nutrition deficiencies. However, it is also common in America for kids to have nutritional deficiencies, especially with the over-processed and sugary foods available in the United States.

Nutritional deficiencies can cause many issues for kids and can even harm their health. As a parent, make sure that most of what your child is consuming is healthy for them. The following includes the nutritional deficiencies and the illnesses they can cause.

Iron: Causes Lack of Focus

Fatigue or an inability to focus on school or work up to their potential is common for children who have an iron deficiency. Lack of iron can impede the learning process and make children tired. Without enough iron, children cannot use their muscles properly and may not be able to think clearly.

Without adequate iron, anemia may be present. Your physician can test the blood to see how anemic a patient is. If severe, they may prescribe an iron supplement to increase the iron level more quickly. This increase will take about three months for the iron level to rise to the normal range.

During this time, introduce the following nutritional foods that provide iron to the healthy diet:

  • Seafood

  • Chicken breast

  • Turkey thigh

  • Red meat

  • Spinach

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Brocolli

Iodine: Needed for Bone Protection

Iodine is needed for a steady metabolic rate, bone protection, and a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Children need iodine in their diet, and lack of iodine can lead to weight gain and developmental difficulties. Iodine can also protect against U.V. radiation from the sun.

Your thyroid utilizes iodine to make hormones that prevent:

  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Goiter
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Stunted growth in infants

If pregnant mothers are iodine deficient, it can cause reduced mental development for their baby.  See the list below for iodine-rich foods:

  • Seaweed
  • Cod
  • Dairy
  • Iodized salt
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Prunes

Iodine deficiency is a common health issue.  Many people do not eat the foods necessary to keep their thyroid health. Iodine deficiency occurs when food products do contain enough iodine. This condition happens when the soil is iodine poor and the edible plants have no iodine to absorb.

Vitamin D: Needed for Strong Bones

Growth and bone pain – Vitamin D is essential to help utilize calcium for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency can facilitate muscle pain or cramping, and weak bones. If the insufficiency is severe enough, it can even cause skeletal deformities. Vitamin D promotes a healthy immune system.

Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to a condition called rickets, which is soft bones. Other medical problems are bone pain, severe asthma in children, and cancer. The lack of sun exposure and diets without dairy-based products can facilitate vitamin D deficiency.

Your physician can check vitamin D levels and may begin a course of high dose vitamin D for eight weeks if too low. Once the vitamin D has increased to acceptable levels, the doctor will drop the dosage to a maintenance dose. Introduce foods abundant in vitamin D; see the list below for food choices rich in vitamin D:

  • Egg Yolks
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Pudding
  • Oatmeal
  • Cheerios
  • Raisin Bran
  • Honey Bunches of Oats
  • Cocoa Pebbles

Zinc: Essential in Cell Production

Constant illness – If the child constantly has cold or flu-like symptoms, slow growth, hair loss, or resistance to wound healing, they may have a zinc deficiency. A zinc deficiency also affects digestion and will cause loss of appetite. In turn, there would be unintended weight loss.

Zinc is essential in cell production, which is necessary for growth. Stunted growth is a classic sign of zinc deficiency; however, your physician can check the zinc level to see if it is too low. Zinc deficiency can also cause loss of:

  • Vision
  • Smell
  • Taste

Having a zinc deficiency can inhibit the digestion of foods, which means your body is not absorbing nutrients. See the list below for foods that are high in zinc:

  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Lima beans
  • Red Meat
  • Poultry
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fortified cereals

You can avoid zinc deficiency if you incorporate the above foods into your diet. Zinc helps keep the body healthy and strong enough to beat colds and the flu, as it improves your immunity. If you eat a varied diet, your body should get enough zinc.

Calcium: Strengthens Teeth and Bones

Weak teeth and bones – This could indicate a calcium deficiency. Calcium intake also impacts the muscles, heart, blood clotting, enzyme function, and nervous system regulation. Calcium and vitamin D work together, and calcium can not be absorbed without vitamin D.

Symptoms of calcium deficiency include:

  • Extremity numbness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Eczema

Various foods contain calcium. If you have challenges with lactose, you can get your calcium from vegetables, certain fish, and nuts. See the list below for foods that are abundant in calcium:

  • Milk
  • Dairy
  • Green Leafy Veggies
  • Tofu
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fortified Cereal

Children need to develop good eating habits when they are young so they do not end up with problems due to nutritional deficiency. If your child begins to demonstrate any of these signs for nutritional deficiency, you must have them check with their pediatrician or doctor for the appropriate treatment.

A healthy diet is the best way for children to obtain all the nutrients they need to avoid significant health problems. Healthy foods help fight obesity and other health issues.


Children need to learn the significance of eating healthy foods. Healthy eating will ensure that they do not develop a nutritional deficiency, which can cause all sorts of health problems. Parents should always encourage their kids to consume a balance of foods from the major food groups.

Discovering how to make healthy food choices will leave a lasting impression on youngsters. These choices will become second nature to your children and help them make good choices throughout their life.