Is Your Child’s Diet Nutrient-Dense? Five Important Nutrients Every Kid Needs

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kids diet nutrient dense

Photo Credit: Christina Maldonado Photography

“A worried mother does better research than the FBI.”

Since Piper arrived three-and-half years ago, I have entered full-on FBI investigative mommy mode.

Now, before you get the idea I’m some helicopter parent that is constantly spraying my child with Lysol (which I just wouldn’t do, after all, this is a natural living blog). Inspecting every perimeter of their being all day and night.  Let me assure you, I am not that parent.

I believe in always providing the best for my kids and when something raises a red flag, it’s time to get researching.

That’s when FBI-mommy comes out.

My red flags first went up when Piper turned two. Piper simply wasn’t developing in the areas of speech and language. Late-blooming just didn’t seem to be the issue.  Something seemed to be missing. After much research, enough to probably put the FBI to shame, I discovered the huge impact a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods can have on a developing child’s brain. Most of the critical nutrients Piper wasn’t getting. In fact, in all good intentions many of the nutrients his developing body and brain needed to thrive were foods I had removed from our diets, all in the name of being “healthy”.

I was well-intentioned, but confused and misinformed and quickly changed our diets to a more traditional way of eating, embracing the way our ancestors ate for thousands of years.  Within just a few months the impact of a traditional, nutrient-rich diet was huge and remarkably enjoyable and satisfying for our whole family.  You can read Piper’s story here.

Child's diet nutrient dense

Photo Credit: Christina Maldonado Photography

In my research Nourishing Traditions and the work of Dr. Weston A. Price provided much insight into the key nutrients healthy, growing children need.

Five important nutrients growing children need and how to get them:

 1. Fat:

Healthy fats are essential for growing brains, building a healthy immune system, building muscles and bones, and providing important energy.  Fats also help in absorbing other key fat-soluble nutrients found in Vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 fats) are particularly important for growing brains.

Recently it has been discovered that the Omega-3 fats are necessary for the complete development of the human brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life. The Omega-3 fat and its derivative, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is so essential to a child’s development that if a mother and infant are deficient in it, the child’s nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders. Source

Good Sources: Cod Liver Oil (where to buy), mama’s milk, whole raw milk (read more about raw milk), egg yolks, grass fed butter/ghee, coconut oil, pastured meats, avocados, olive oil, sustainably-caught fish, flax seeds, walnuts, nut butters, bone broths.

2. Iron:

Iron is essential for moving oxygen in the body and helps the body store and use oxygen. Without proper amounts of iron children become anemic. Lack of iron can result in irritability, loss of appetite, an increase of infections, and behavioral issues.  Iron can come from both animal and plant-based sources, however, animal sources are much easier for the body to absorb and use.

Good Sources: Mama’s milk, egg yolks, pastured beef (liver too), pastured chicken, fish, beans, green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses, properly prepared whole wheat grains, raisins, oatmeal, lentils, bone broths.

3. Zinc:

Zinc is critical for children, in order, to fight off infection and sickness. A diet rich in zinc also aids in proper digestion. A diet low in zinc increases a child’s risk of developing pneumonia and diarrhea. (source)

Good Sources: Full fat yogurt (learn how to make), pastured cheese, pastured chicken, cashews and cashew butter, almonds and almond butter, peas, raw whole milk, lentils, beans, pastured beef, bone broths.

4. Protein:

Protein is essential for children’s growth and development, providing energy, and increasing a child’s immune system. Protein is made up of amino acids which are used as the building blocks for healthy cell growth.

Of the 22 amino acids, babies and toddlers can make 13 and must get the others from protein-rich foods… (source)

Good Sources: Pastured meats, sustainably-caught fish/seafood, beans, lentils, pastured cheese, raw milk, pastured eggs, whole fat yogurt, nuts and seeds, nut butters, properly prepared grains, bone broth.

5. Vitamins A and D:

Vitamins A and D are required for healthy cell growth and proper bone growth. They play a critical role in fighting infections and keeping children healthy. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb essential minerals.


Vitamin A: Cooked greens, cooked broccoli, peas, peaches, mango, papayas, cantaloupe, apricots, squash, carrots, pastured cheese, pastured eggs, cod liver oil, homemade oatmeal, raw milk, bone broths, pastured butter/ghee.

Vitamin D: Salmon, tuna, sardines, raw milk, whole milk yogurt, egg yolk, pastured egg yolks, pastured butter/ghee.

nutrient dense child's diet

Earlier this week, I gathered over sixty nutrient-dense recipes every kid will love. If you need ideas for getting these important nutrients in your child’s everyday diet I encourage you to head over to the huge resource of recipes here.

Read more:

Real Food For Real Kids: Three Practical Tips

60 Plus Nutrient-Dense Recipes Every Kid Will Love

Is Your Child’s Brain Starving?

A Child’s Perspective on Whole Food

The Gift of Real Food

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  1. says: Aileen

    Thank you for the great information! I am a mother of two – 2 years old and 2 months old. Did you happen to do any research on the Vitamin D supplements doctors are recommending for exclusively breastfed infants? I opted out of giving the drops to my 2 year old and have run into the same dilemma with my new baby. My husband and I had decided not to give them to her and instead bringing her in the sun for a few minutes each day, but I still have worry and guilt over our decision.

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Hey Aileen, You’re so welcome :). I breastfed both my kids and never gave much thought to Vitamin D with my first (also didn’t supplement). After reading Nourishing Traditions and having my second baby, I decided to take cod liver oil, get plenty of safe sun exposure for baby and I, and consume a good diet rich in healthy fat. I decided artificial Vitamin D drops were not for us.

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