Why Does Choline Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?
Read time: 3 minutes
What to know about meeting your and your child’s choline needs
Learn why choline is critical for your health
How much choline is needed by age
Which foods are good sources of choline
What does choline do?
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient necessary for healthy cell membranes and metabolism.1 It’s part of acetylcholine, a key chemical involved in memory, mood, and muscle function.1 It’s also important for infant brain development, specifically in memory and learning functions, as well as overall growth and development.23
How much choline is needed?
There isn’t enough data to establish official “Recommended Daily Amounts” (RDAs) for choline because it was only recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998, and research is still emerging.4
We do, however, have “Adequate Intakes” (AIs) by age, gender, and life stage. These AIs provide guidance to help people get a level of choline that is nutritionally adequate.1
Babies 0 – 6 months require 125 mg
Infants 7 – 12 months require 150 mg
Children 1 – 3 years require 200 mg
Children 4 – 8 years require 250 mg
Children 9 – 13 years require 375 mg
Boys 14 – 18 years require 550 mg
Girls 14 – 18 years require 400 mg
Adult men 19 – 70+ years require 550 mg
Adult women 19 – 70+ years require 425 mg
Pregnancy 14 – 50 years require 450 mg
Lactation 14 – 50 years require 550 mg1
Food sources of choline
The good things is that many foods contain choline. Particularly rich in choline are beef, egg yolk, poultry, and fish.1
Cruciferous veggies and some beans are also sources of this nutrient, such as potatoes, soy beans, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and green peas.1
Other plants that contain choline include sunflower seeds, quinoa, peanuts, and brown rice.1
Wondering if you and your child are getting enough choline? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!
Choline in your, your baby, and your toddler’s diet
Choline: Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and formula feeding
Infant formulas manufactured in the United States are required to contain choline.8 Breastmilk does as well. In fact, a large amount of choline is transferred from mother to baby in breastmilk, indicating how important this nutrient is for baby’s development.5
The good news is that during pregnancy and breastfeeding your body prioritizes the baby; it will take from your choline stores so that baby gets what they need.However, if your diet does not have adequate choline, not only could you be left depleted, but your little one may not be getting enough either.
The amount of choline in breastmilk is strongly linked with how much choline you get through your diet, so having a diet rich in choline is important.6
Choline: Toddler and parent diet
As an essential nutrient, choline can be made by the body, but not in sufficient amounts for what it needs.1 Because of this it is important to get additional choline through the foods you eat.
Choosing foods throughout the week that contain choline can help both you and your toddler get enough of this nutrient. Don’t worry about tracking specific numbers, instead focus on including choline-rich foods in your diet.
Meal Plan for 12 Month Old Toddler
Meal Plan for 18 to 24 Month Old Toddlers
Tips for getting enough choline
Include choline-rich food sources in your and your child’s diet regularly
Most people in the United States are not meeting the recommended amounts for choline.19
Familiarize yourself with the foods high in choline and sprinkle them in throughout your week to help you take in enough. If you aren’t sure if you’re getting enough, take note of how many times you eat choline-rich foods during a week and make adjustments if needed.
As always, check with your health care professional before taking any supplements and to see if you may need this nutrient in your pre -or post-natal vitamin.
Here’s a cheat sheet of foods with amounts of choline by serving:
Egg (white and yolk): 1 large has about 147 mg
Beef, top round: 3 oz has about 117 mg
Soybeans, roasted: ½ cup has about 107 mg
Chicken breast: 3 oz has about 72 mg
Beef, ground: 3 oz has about 72 mg
Fish, cod: 3 oz has about 71
Potatoes, baked: 1 large potato has about 57 mg
Wheat germ, toasted: 1 oz has about 51 mg
Beans, kidney: ½ cup has about 45 mg
Quinoa, cooked: 1 cup has about 43 mg
Milk, whole or 1%*: 1 cup has about 43 mg
Yogurt: 1 cup has about 38 mg
Brussels sprouts, cooked: ½ cup has about 32 mg
Broccoli, cooked: ½ cup has about 31 mg
Peanuts, dry roasted: ¼ cup has about 24 mg
Cauliflower, cooked: ½ cup has about 24 mg
Sunflower seeds, roasted: ¼ cup has about 19 mg
Brown rice, cooked: 1 cup has about 19 mg1
Note that choline in eggs is only in the yolk.10 So if you include eggs in your diet as a source of this nutrient, be sure to eat the whole egg!
*Children under 1 year should not drink cow’s milk. Read more here: How Do I Introduce Milk to my Toddler
Recipe and meal ideas to help increase choline
Wondering about how to include choline in your baby and toddler’s diet? Here are some recipe ideas to help. Feel free to mash or blend any of the below recipes up should your little one need a softer or smoother consistency!
Whole Grain Chicken Nuggets with Green Bean ‘Fries’
Beef Sweet Potato and Broccoli Puree
Strawberry Quinoa Cereal for Baby *To make this for a toddler or adult, add cow’s milk or a milk alternative as the liquid. If making for an adult (or toddler who is developmentally ready) top with sunflower seeds for an extra sprinkle of choline.
Check your multivitamin to see what amount of choline it contains
If you are taking a vitamin supplement, compare the amount of choline it contains to the amount recommended for your gender and age. Many multivitamins and prenatal vitamins currently do not contain sufficient amounts of choline to meet the established adequate intakes.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy
Meal Plan: Getting the Right Nutrition while Breastfeeding