Dietary needs vary in line with a child’s stage of growth and development.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet throughout your life, but for children it is essential for their normal growth and development. Getting all the necessary nutrients from food and drinks such as milk, along with plenty of exercise, has an immediate impact on children’s well-being, as well as long-term consequences for their health when they reach adulthood.
Establishing good eating and exercise habits early in life will help your child achieve his or her growth potential and provide the foundation for a healthy life.
Children need the same basic proportions of foods from the different food groups as adults, but in smaller serving sizes. These calories and nutrients allow a child’s brain to reach its full potential. Without sufficient nutrients, a child’s brain may not grow property, which can affect intellectual development.
Calcium for healthy bones
Although the height of a child’s parents affects how tall he or she will eventually be as an adult, diet plays a key role too. Children who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D will be shorter than children of the same age and are also at greater risk for bone fractures compared to those who get enough of these nutrients.
Energy and nutrient needs
Body composition (the relative amount of body fat, muscle, and bone), the amount of physical activity that a child does, and his or her age determine the energy and nutrient needs of the child. These requirements vary dramatically depending on the stage of a child’s growth and development. For example, the more muscle an adolescent has, the greater his or her need for calorie requirements will be.
The changing body
Boys and girls have similar amounts of body fat until puberty. Babies and toddlers have a high amount of body fat, which decreases as they enter their elementary school years. During puberty, children’s body fat increases again. At the end of adolescence boys lose some body fat, whereas girls maintain the extra body fat deposited during adolescence throughout their adult years.
There is also a difference in the proportion of muscle that boys and girls have. They have similar amounts until puberty, at which stage boys triple their muscle mass, but girls only double theirs. This difference helps explain the higher energy requirements of teenage boys and men compared to that of teenage girls and women.
Growing children Young children are active and curious about the world around them. Frequent snacks and meals are necessary to replenish the calories they burn.
The table below shows the recommended amounts of energy in calories that children from different age groups should be getting from food each day. It also shows the average amount of calories per lb (0.45kg) of body weight that each group needs for healthy growth. Although children of all ages grow rapidly, their energy needs vary; for example, the amount of energy needed, on a per lb/kg basis, for an 18-year-ole teenager is much lower than that of an 18-month-old toddler. Babies double their body weight over a few months, whereas older children and adolescents may double their weight over 5-10 years.
Energy requirements vary in special cases. Physically active children use up more energy, so they need more calories than less active children. In addition, children who are ill or recovering from an injury need almost double their normal amount of calories to aid the healing process and continue growing.
Spring loaded Seven-year-olds are energetic and need about 2,000 calories per day, ideally from nutrient-dense foods, such as lean meat, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Do children need vitamin and mineral supplements?
If children eat a varied diet, they should not need supplements. A very picky eater may need them. The most common vitamins and minerals that may be insufficient are listed below:
Calcium Most children get enough calcium as long as they drink milk and include yogurt and cheese in their diet. However, those who do not eat dairy products or do not drink milk may require a calcium supplement. Calcium needs are particularly high for adolescents because they gain more than 20 percent of their adult height and about 50 percent of their adult skeletal mass in this period.
Vitamin D Recent recommendations for all babies, including those who are exclusively breast-fed, now state that they should have a minimum intake of 0.005mg of vitamin D per day, beginning during the first two months of life. It is recommended that this intake level of vitamin D should be contained throughout childhood and adolescence to ensure strong and healthy bones.
Vitamin K Most newborn babies are given an injection of vitamin K immediately after delivery in order to prevent a bleeding disorder called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.
Fluoride A supplement of fluoride is recommended for strong teeth development of babies 6 months or older who are exclusively breast-fed or living in an area without fluoridated water. Ask your doctor because too much fluoride can discolor the teeth.
Iron Newborn infants usually have enough iron stores from their mother for about four months. If they are not breast-fed, they should receive iron-fortified formula. Once babies begin to eat solid foods, they should be given iron-fortified cereal to prevent the risk of iron deficiency.