Nutrition for Children and Teenagers


Each individual inherits a unique genetic pattern upon which the environment throughout life brings about modifications in physical, biochemical, mental and emotional characteristics. 

There is rate of growth and maturation and the activity of the child or growth and maturation and behaviors for a life time have their beginnings in childhood and adolescence.

Nutritional Needs

Changes in growth and development

Neither growth nor development occurs at a uniform rate. The rapid growth in overall structural development occurs during infancy, which is followed by gradual growth which accelerates during adolescence. During all these three phases of life, there is rapid cell division. 

These cell division reduces and there is an increase in cell size and the cell division stops with continuing protein synthesis and increase in cell size. These phases follow a serial schedule, with a slight variation of timing for the various organs and tissues of body, like brain development occurs rapidly in foetal period and infancy and sexual maturity takes place during teenage.

Adolescent growth and development

The adolescent period lasts for almost 10 years. It is characterized by a sudden increase in height and weight by hormonal changes by sexual maturation and varied changes in emotions.

Along with spurt in height of girls, development of breast and axillary and pubic hair takes place. Menarche occurs after peak speed of growth. Among boys in the growth phase there is spurt in sexual changes deepening of the voice broadening of shoulders, development of axillary, body and pubic hair and growth of the penis and testicles.

Nutritional Status of Children

The determination of nutritional status can be generally made by specialists qualified to give complete physical and dental examination, to make biochemical studies of the murine and blood and to evaluate growth pattern, anthropo-metric measurements are used. Characteristic of a well-nourished child.

Sense of well being
Alert, interested in activities for his age, vigorous, happy
Quick recovery form fatigue, sleeps well at nigh does not fall asleep in school
Normal for height, age and body built
Erect, arm and legs straight
Straight, without being crowed in a well-shaped jaw.
Firm, pink, no signs of bleeding
Smooth, slightly moist, healthy growth, reddish pink
Well developed, firm
Nervous control
Good attention span for age, gets along with others does not cry easily: not irritable and restless
Gastrointestinal factor
Good appetite, normal regular elimination

Nutritional related problems of preschool children

Protein energy malnutrition

The primary cause of malnutrition is inadequate and faulty diets which is followed by poverty and other socioeconomic factors which precipitate various other infections due to unhygienic living conditions. The predisposing factors for PEM are:

Due to poverty mother cannot provide sufficient food to the child.

Use of starchy gruels which provide bulk food but of less calorific value, malted cereals can meet the caloric requirement

Malnutrition inhibits the synthesis of enzymes results in loss of appetite leading to less consumption of food
Chronic infections
Infestations like ascariasis particularly giardiasis leads to anorexia

Vitamins and deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is a major nutritional problem affecting young children leading to blindness, severe form vitamin A deficiency like Xerophthalmia aries when the diet contains practically no whole milk, butter and very limited amounts of fish, fruits and vegetables and so lack of both retinol and carotenes. Protein energy malnutrition further aggravates the deficiency.

Food behavior

Food play a vital role in the development of the whole person throughout the growing years. Food could become a means of communication. It has cultural and social meanings. It is associated with emotion and its acceptance or rejection in personal matter.

The environment in which a child lives determines the food behavior and the quality of nutrition the child receives. 

The family plays a major responsible role for child’s food habit and established an emotional climate, the other interdependent factors are being the number of family members, income, education, the attitude towards food, parental knowledge of nutritional varied attitudes towards child rearing authoritarian or non-authoritarian or any other.

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