Assessing Nutrition for Kids for Healthy Growth and Development

Welcome to Part 1 of the Childhood and Adolescence Nutrition Series!  In this post we will cover the first topic, Assessing Nutrition for Healthy Growth and Development.  These are important first steps for parents teaching their kids about good food.

childhood-development

We begin with a review of the stages of your child’s development.  These stages vary between males and females once we begin childhood.

Infancy –  Birth to 2 years of age

ChildhoodFemales – Ages 2-10

  • Preschool years – aged 2-6
  • School years – aged 6-10

ChildhoodMales – Ages 2-12

  • Preschool years – aged 2-6
  • School years – aged 6-12

AdolescenceFemales – Ages 10-18

  • Prepubescence – aged 10-12
  • Pubescence –  aged 12-14
  • Postpubescence – aged 14-18

AdolescenceMales – Ages 12-20

  • Prepubescence – aged 10-12
  • Pubescence –  aged 12-14
  • Postpubescence – aged 14-20

Growth and development of children is tracked many ways by pediatricians and other caregivers.  The most common method is using growth charts. These charts track the growth of a child’s physical size, the development of cells and organs, and the increase in cell number and size.  Whenever there is an irregularity with a child’s growth pattern, that is an important signal to take a look at the child’s nutritional habits.

Example of a Growth Chart for Boys

Example of a Growth Chart for Boys

Diet influences bone growth and maturation. Too few calories can result in a delay of the formation of bone.  There may be other factors, such as genetics or endocrine dysfunction, but diet is generally the first place to start an analysis.

The National Academy of Science has developed several ways to assess nutritional needs:

  • The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA)
  • Adequate Intake
  • Estimated Average Requirement
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level

You can check out more detailed info here.

Protein and calories are important for the growth of children.  Protein promotes growth and maintenance of the tissues while calories provide much-needed energy, especially for growth and development.  If protein and calories are lacking, growth can be stunted.

Nutrients are also critical.  Folic acid, zinc and calcium are nutrients that kids are at risk of getting inadequate amounts.  Iron however, is the most deficient nutrient for kids. Anemia is the most common condition for kids who lack iron.

Why do some children lack sufficient nutrients? There are many reasons, but the primary one is socioeconomic. Lower income preschoolers and teenagers are most vulnerable to nutritional shortages.

How can we as parents help our kids eat better and grow stronger? And how can we do it without becoming overwhelmed?

MyPyramid.gov is a great place to start. (Read my summary of the Food Pyramid here.)

food-pyramid

USDA Food Pyramid

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides advice to promote health and to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases through diet and physical activity.  Just as these diseases can affect us as adults, our children are at risk as well!

Here are some sobering statistics:

Roughly 68-75% of U.S. children exceed the current dietary recommendations for the intake of total or saturated fats.  On the other side of the coin, the percentage of energy intake from protein and carbohydrates has increased.  Kids are eating drinking less milk and more carbonated, high-sugar sodas.  They are eating less vegetables, soups, breads, grains and eggs.  The food choices of most kids do NOT meet the recommended standards of MyPyramid.

kids-and-soda

What can we do?!

Here are the main themes of MyPyramid that can help you teach your kids to eat healthy:

  • Variety
  • Proportionality
  • Moderation
  • Activity

Give your kids foods from all food groups; eat more fruits and veggies and less of the foods high in saturated fats; moderate foods with sugar and trans fat; and be physically active every day!!  Kids watch way too much TV and play way too many videos games. Encourage your kids to play and play with them!

This is our starting point: getting a basic idea of how our kids grow and how important nutrition can be.  As parents we are responsible for what our kids eat, how much they eat and how nutritious that food is.  Become a label reader (learn more here).  Talk to your kids about healthy food. Play together and have meals together. Family time is key to raising happy and healthy kids.

In our next topic, we will talk about those picky eaters and tips for dealing with and identifying eating behaviors.  See you then!

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One Response to Assessing Nutrition for Kids for Healthy Growth and Development

  1. Pingback: Food Allergies in Kids: Childhood and Adolescent Nutrition Series | Holistic Healing and Wellness Studio

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