A varied diet is the best way to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

What Macronutrients & Micronutrients Do Toddlers Need?

by Eliza Martinez

On days when your toddler only eats one carrot stick, a handful of crackers and a sip of milk, you might worry that he isn't getting the nutrients he needs to grow. Toddlers are notoriously picky about what they are willing to eat, but in most cases, a variety of foods, even in tiny bits, goes a long way toward fulfilling his needs.

1. Macronutrients

Carbohydrates, fat and protein are macronutrients that your toddler needs to grow and develop. And, carbohydrates are important for sustaining your wild and crazy toddler's energy. Whole grains, like oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat pasta, as well as starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes are yummy choices. Healthy fats, like those in olive oil, avocado and fish, are important for brain development and rev his energy levels. Protein helps proper growth and development and is available in meats, beans, dairy foods and eggs.

2. Vitamins

Vitamins are part of the micronutrients group. Several are important for your toddler's health, including vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins, according to Mead Johnson Nutritionals. These micronutrients give him energy to play all day, keep him from coming down with latest virus, helps him circulate around the playground, help his eyesight develop and keeps his blood healthy. Whew. The fruits and vegetables your toddler is willing to eat are ideal sources of vitamins A and C. Grain foods, such as bread, pasta, cereal and crackers are good sources of B vitamins and are toddler favorites. Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs and fortified cereal. Eggs, olive oil and whole grains are good sources of vitamin E. Dairy foods and broccoli are good choices for getting enough vitamin K.

3. Minerals

Several minerals, which are also considered micronutrients, play an important role in your toddler's health. Mead Johnson Nutritionals emphasizes calcium, iron and zinc. Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth and is available in toddler-friendly foods like milk and yogurt. Iron transports oxygen through your toddler's body. Meat, beans, eggs, leafy greens and whole grains are good sources. Zinc is important for preventing common toddler sniffles and coughs and is found in meat, beans and lentils. The KidsHealth website also recommends getting enough potassium, which keeps your toddlers muscles working as he plays and promotes healthy nervous system function. Bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits and beans are healthy sources of the nutrient.

4. Getting Enough

With a picky toddler who would rather use his food for fingerpainting than for eating, you might be concerned that he isn't getting nearly enough nutrition in his diet. The Choose My Plate website, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you offer a variety of foods from each food group. The site also suggests offering new foods at the beginning of a meal when hunger is more likely to get him eating. Keep offering new foods -- and over time, your toddler might be willing to gobble them up. Modeling good eating habits, even if you'd rather have chips and soda for a snack, is also a powerful way to get your little one to eat plenty of healthy foods.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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