Impact of Nutrition in Child Growth

More than half of all child deaths are associated with malnutrition, which weakens the body’s resistance to illness. Poor diet, frequent illness, and inadequate or inattentive care of young children can lead to malnutrition. If a woman is malnourished during pregnancy, or if her child is malnourished during the first two years of life, the child’s physical and mental growth and development may be slowed. This cannot be improved upon when the child is older, it will affect the child for the rest of his or her life.

Children need the right foods at the right time to grow and develop to their full potential. The most critical time for good nutrition is during the 1,000-day period from pregnancy until a child’s second birthday. In the first two years of life, breastfeeding saves lives, shields children from disease, boosts brain development and guarantees children a safe and nutritious food source. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that infants begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth, be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and continue breastfeeding until 2 years of age or beyond.

Now let’s look at various stages of life in a child and their nutrition focus;

  1. BABIES

In the early months, when the baby is most at risk, exclusive breastfeeding helps to protect against diarrhea and other common infections. This stage is all about the milk, whether breast milk or milk formula. Although breast milk is more important and should be given to any child less than six months.

By about six months, a child needs other types of foods and drinks. Breastfeeding can continue into the second year. At about six months most babies are ready to start solid foods like iron-fortified infant cereal and strained fruits and vegetables. Because breast milk may not provide enough iron and zinc when babies are around six to nine months, fortified cereals and meats can help breastfed babies in particular.

Once you do start adding foods, don’t go low-fat crazy. Although the AAP guidelines state fat restriction in some babies is appropriate, in general, you don’t want to restrict fats under age two because a healthy amount of fat is important for babies’ brain and nerve development.

AAP* American Academy of Pediatrics.

2. TODDLERS and PRESCHOOLERS

Toddlers and preschoolers grow fast and their appetites come and go in bursts, so they may eat a whole lot one day and then hardly anything the next. It’s normal, and as long as you give them a healthy selection, their body will always get what it needs

  • Calcium, the body’s building block, is needed to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. Children may not believe or care that milk “does the body good,” but it is the best source of much-needed calcium. But children who are lactose intolerant can try calcium fortified foods or in some cases, pediatricians may recommend calcium supplements.
  • Fiber is another important focus. Toddlers start to say “no” more and preschoolers can be especially opinionated about what they eat. The kids may want to stick to the bland, beige, starchy diet (fries, chicken nuggets), but this is the time to encourage fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, which all provide fiber because it helps aid digestion and prevents constipation.

3. GRADE SCHOOLERS

It isn’t uncommon for a 6 or 7 year-old to suddenly decide to be a vegetarian once they understand animals and where food comes from. This doesn’t mean the child would not get enough protein, the child would just not benefit from animal protein but would have access to plant proteins.

Areas that might be a little too sufficient are sugars, fats, sodium and the body needs this but also in moderation so as not to cause overweight. So parents have to ensure their children get these nutrients in their diet.

So packing your child’s breakfast and lunch would go a long way in your child’s health.

4. PRETEENS and TEENS

As puberty kicks in, young people need more calories to support the many changes they will experience. Unfortunately, for some, those extra calories come from fast food or “junk” foods with little nutritional value.

Some adolescents even go the opposite way and restrict calories, fats, or carbs. Adolescence is the time kids start to become conscious of their weight and body image, which, for some, can lead to eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors. Parents should be aware of changes in their child’s eating patterns and make family dinners important.

Like calories, calcium requirements are higher. Calcium is very important because the majority of bone mass is built during this time. Encouraging kids to have milk, milk products, or calcium-rich alternatives, should help them get more calcium.

Your child’s gender also plays a role in determining whether he or she needs more of a particular nutrient. For instance, teen girls need more iron than their male counterparts to replace what’s lost during menstruation, and males need slightly more protein than girls.

WATER IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT

Water makes up more than half of kids’ body weight and is needed to keep all parts of the body functioning properly. There’s no specific amount of water recommended for children, but it’s a good idea to give them water throughout the day and not just when they’re thirsty. Babies however, do not need water especially for the first 6 months of life.

If your child doesn’t like the taste of water or drinking water generally, add a slice of orange or lemon to add a bit of flavor to the water. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of water. For example watermelon, oranges, and so on. Kids should drink more water when ill, when it’s hot out, or when engaged in physical activity.

A healthy child becomes a healthy adult, and only with your support and guidance will your child be both.

We hope you enjoyed today’s blog post. Don’t forget to share with your friends also and also follow us on our social media pages.

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REFERENCES

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Your one stop blog to a healthy lifestyle. Ndali is a healthy food delivery mobile and web app that connects professional chefs and food vendors to food lovers.

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Ndali

Ndali

Your one stop blog to a healthy lifestyle. Ndali is a healthy food delivery mobile and web app that connects professional chefs and food vendors to food lovers.

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