Nutritional Requirements For Preschool Children (1-6 years)

The years between  1 and 6 are known as preschoolers. The growth is generally slower than in the first year of life but continues  gradually. Activity  also increases markedly during the second year of life as the child becomes increasingly mobile. This article tells you about the nutritional requirements for preschool children.

Development of a full dentition by about the age of 2 years also increases the range of foods that can safely be eaten. There is an increased need for all nutrients, but the pattern of increase varies for in different nutrients in relation to their role in growth of specific tissues.

Nutritional Requirements


Energy is required for growth and activity. Insufficient food will not only result in undernutrition in terms of inadequate weight gain but will also hinder growth. The rate of growth fluctuates from one to another. Upto 10 years of age there is no difference in sex for RDA. Due to improper weaning practices, the child may not meet calorie and protein requirement and pave the way for PEM. Insufficient calorie intake can lead to protein deficiency.


The increase in the muscle mass that must accompany bone growth requires positive nitrogen balance that is met by protein intake of 1.5 to 2g/kg body weight. The increase in total body size necessitates a larger vascular system to transport nutrients to the tissues and waste all products away from the tissues. Thus there is an increase in demand for nutrients needed in blood formation like iron, protein, folacin and pyridoxine. Bone growth also creates a need for protein.


Fat energy including invisible fat for children should be 25% of the total energy and essential fatty acid energy is 5-6%.


Calcium requirements of children is calculated on the basis of the amount of calcium accretion in the body. This deposition is not uniform throughout growing period, but would be relatively greater during early childhood and during adolescence than during the other periods of growth. Since, all dietary calcium is not absorbed 400 mg/day is prescribed through the actual requirement may be less.

Deficiency of calcium can affect the bones of growing children. Milk is the best source of calcium. Hence the diet of preschool child should include 1-2 glasses of milk per day. During growth for an increase in each kilogram in body weight 30 mg of iron is required and since the increase in body weight during childhood is 2kg/year on an average, the daily requirement of iron for growth will be 0.2 mg. The physiological requirement can vary markedly for 1-2 years from 0.2-0.5 mg per kg of body weight per day.

To meet this increased demand for iron, iron rich foods like:

  • Rice flakes
  • egg yolk
  • greens should be included in the diet.

Dietary lack of iron accompanied by hookworm infestation can lead to anaemia.

Also know about Sports anaemia and Megaloblastic anaemia


The incidence of vitamin A deficiency signs are high and serum vitamin A levels are generally low among Indian children whose dietary intake is less than 100 mcg. According to the studies conducted by ICMR, children receiving food supplements which provided a total of 300 mcg of vitamin A per day over a period of 6 months, serum vitamin A levels were found to be around 30 mg/dl and no clinical signs of vitamin A deficiency.

Based on this data 400 mcg have been suggested including the safety allowances. Deficiency of vitamin A in children can cause: bitot’s spots, night blindness or in severe cases total blindness also.

Foods like:

  • Milk
  • Carrot
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables should be added in the diet.

A level of 200 I.U of vitamin D is suggested purely tentatively as dietary allowances for Indian children.

The daily allowances of B-vitamin requirements are based on energy intake. The allowances per 100 kcals are (same as an adult) 0.5 mg thiamine, 0.6 mg riboflavin and 6.6 mg niacin equivalents. Requirements for children for folic acid and B12 were computed from interpolation of values for infants and adults.