Potassium in Children

by Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Getting your kids to eat healthy is often a difficult and thankless job. Potassium is one of those nutrients you may associate more with diarrhea than good health. But this essential nutrient is not only important for fluid balance, but also helps build muscle, supports growth and plays a role in transmitting signals in nerve cells. While it may be difficult to get your kids to make the right food choices, potassium is found in a variety of different foods, making it easier for you to find foods that fit finicky taste buds.

How Much Potassium Do Kids Need?

Potassium may be found in a variety of different foods, but it seems most Americans, including kids, aren't getting enough of this essential mineral in their diet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kids need between 3,000 and 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day, Currently, most children meet only about half of their needs, according to the USDA. It may not be important to your kids, but making sure they eat more potassium now may help prevent adult diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.

Kid-Friendly Foods Rich in Potassium

Potassium-rich foods are found in almost every food group, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein foods. Fruits and vegetables are some of the better sources of this essential mineral, and include bananas, strawberries, oranges, kiwi fruit, raisins, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach and carrots. Milk and yogurt, a staple for most kids, are also a good source. From the protein group, you can up potassium intake with meat, chicken, fish such as salmon, beans and peas.

Tips for Increasing Potassium

As a nutrient that's found in a variety of delicious foods, you should be able to easily add more potassium to your child's diet without too many moans and groans. For example, at breakfast, cereal and milk with a banana is easy to make and a favorite with kids. If you need breakfast on the run, blend strawberries with yogurt and ice for a high-potassium fruit smoothie. If you have more time, make an omelet filled with sliced grape tomatoes, spinach and cheese. Add carrot sticks or a clementines to your child's lunch bag for a little more potassium. If you're eating lunch at home, serve vegetable soup filled with carrots, potatoes, peas, beans and any other veggie your little one likes, and serve with a cup of chocolate milk. Serving a side of vegetables at dinner is an easy way to add potassium to the meal, but getting your kids to eat them may be difficult if the kids don't like them. Roasting, sauteing or serving veggies with a sauce may enhance flavor and improve the likelihood of your child eating them.

About the Author

Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.