Nutrition Recommendations for Tweens

For Ages 9 through 13


  • DRIs = Dietary Reference Intakes. Different nutrients include RDAs, AIs, and ULs.
    • RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance. The average daily level that most healthy people need to prevent a deficiency. RDAs vary by age and gender.
    • AIs = Adequate Intakes. Used when there is not enough information to develop an RDA. A “best guess” amount based on the available evidence.
    • UL = Tolerable Upper Intake Level. The maximum daily intake that is unlikely to cause harm with long-term use.


Calcium: Calcium needs increase steadily throughout childhood and remain high throughout the teen years, when the bulk of the bone development takes place.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1,300 mg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 3,000 mg

Choline: Choline is needed for optimal brain and nervous system development. Many children might not get enough of this important nutrient.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Adequate Intake (AI): 375 mg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 2 grams

Folate: Adequate folate is important to maintain normal growth rates in children.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 300 mcg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 600 mcg

Iodine: Even mild iodine deficiency could cause subtle changes in brain function in children.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 120 mcg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 600 mcg


  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 8 mg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL) up to 13 years: 40 mg

Vitamin A: Food and supplement labels list vitamin A in International Units (IUs), but as the availability of vitamin A to the body varies depending on the source. Nutritionists use “Retinol Activity Equivalents” (1 IU retinol = 0.3 mcg RAE).

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) 9–13 years: 600 mcg RAE
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 1,700 mcg RAE (5,667 IU)

Vitamin B12: Vegetarian or vegan children may not get enough vitamin B12.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1.8 mcg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): Vitamin B12 appears safe at all intake levels from food and supplements.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a key player in immune system and collagen health, and helps improve iron absorption.

  • Daily Recommended Intakes
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 45 mg
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 1,200 mg

Vitamin D: Vitamin D works with calcium to help build young bones, protecting against disease later in life.

  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
    • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 600 IU
    • Upper Intake Level (UL): 4,000 IU
Don’t forget the omega-3s
  • Essential fatty acids are especially important for children, where they support healthy brain and nervous system development and may be helpful for behavioral problems, depression, asthma, and for diabetes and tooth decay prevention.
  • No formal recommendations have been made regarding omega-3 intake, but keep these points in mind when thinking about omega-3s for children.
    • Children should eat no more than 12 ounces per week of “safer” fish, such as rainbow trout, clams, catfish, and wild salmon. Avoid feeding children shark, albacore tuna, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish due to high levels of contaminants in these fish.
    • Some plants foods—like soybeans, flaxseeds, and walnuts—contain omega-3 fatty acids, but the conversion of the omega-3s in these foods to the form that is most beneficial for health may not be adequate to fulfill children’s nutritional needs.
    • If you’re giving an omega-3 supplement to a child, look for one with a purity guarantee.

How much is too much?

  • Most children won’t get too much calcium from diet alone, but when combined with supplements, it’s possible to overdose.
  • You can’t overdose on naturally occurring folate, but fortified foods and folic acid-containing supplements should be consumed in moderation.
  • Iodine excess can cause symptoms similar to iodine deficiency.
  • Excess iron can cause serious organ toxicity.
  • Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so it can build up in the body and cause toxicity. Only pre-formed vitamin A from animal sources and supplements containing vitamin A as retinol or retinyl palmitate can cause toxicity; pro-vitamin A from plant sources doesn’t have this effect.
  • Excess vitamin C can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea.
  • Most children are more likely to have a deficiency of vitamin D than to be getting too much. However, vitamin D can be toxic in large amounts.

Copyright © 2022 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

Learn more about TraceGains, the company.

Information expires December 2022.