One of the terms that appear frequently in articles and blog posts related to nutrition is Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA. You might have seen this term mentioned on the labels of different food products too. Ever wondered what this is? Or, how relevant it is, when it comes to choosing healthy and nutritious foods for your toddlers?

RDA refers to the ideal amount of nutrients your child needs every day for his or her healthy growth and development. In some cases, RDA may also be referred to as Recommended Dietary Intake. Focusing on RDA is important as the excessive or insufficient consumption of any particular nutrient can have undesirable effects. Here are a few things you need to know about RDA and the ideal diet for kids.

  1. RDA is decided by ICMR: The RDA values for different nutrients in India are determined by the Indian Council of Medical Research, in Hyderabad.

    The values for RDA may vary from country to country. In India, the ICMR sets the ideal RDA for Indian infants, children and adults.

  2. RDA differs from child to child, based on activity levels: There are a number of factors that go into determining the RDA for toddlers. Such factors include activity levels, dietary traditions, dietary practices, margin of safety, etc.
  3. RDA can be met by a well-balanced diet: To meet the RDA values efficiently, your toddler’s diet should contain a balanced mix of whole grains, pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, milk and dairy products, chicken, fish, and healthy oils and fats.
  4. Toddler RDA (per kg of body weight) may be higher than RDA for adults: A toddler grows at a much faster rate than an adult. Hence, they may need higher amounts of certain nutrients when calculated per kg of body weight.
  5. Toddlers need nutrient-dense food: Though toddlers have tiny stomachs, their calorific needs are quite high. Hence, they need nutrient-dense foods to reach their ideal nutritional status.
  6. Dietary guidelines for toddlers: Toddlers need 1060 calories each day. This should be a mix of fats, protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. The ideal RDA values for toddlers between the age of 1 year and 3 years, for different nutrients, are:
    • Protein: 16.7 grams
    • Fats: 27 grams
    • Calcium: 600 mg
    • Iron: 9 mg
    • Thiamine: 0.5 mg
    • Riboflavin: 0.6 mg
    • Niacin:8 mg
    • Pyridoxine: 0.9 mg
    • Vitamin A: 400 µg as retinol or 3200 µg as β-carotene
    • Vitamin C: 40 mg
    • Folate: 80 µg
    • Vitamin B12: 0.2-1 µg
    • Magnesium: 50 mg
    • Zinc: 5 mg

As mothers, it is natural to worry about your toddler’s nutritional requirements. However, being aware of the RDA values of various nutrients can help you take care of your little one in a more organized manner. You can check these values on food labels too, when you go grocery shopping, and plan meals accordingly. It can be especially helpful when you want to regulate the amount of fat your child consumes, so that risks of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes can be avoided.

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