Your child’s growth is tied to several factors, including nutrition. While quality nutrition is necessary to help your child stay healthy, it also contributes to development during times of steady growth and in growth spurts. It is important to understand what your child needs for growth and how you can help his diet stay healthy and nutritious.
Quality nutrition is needed to help your child grow and to provide her with the energy she needs for physical activity that furthers her development. Her needs vary according to her age -- for example, nutrition experts at the non-profit HelpGuide.org indicate that toddlers need 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day, which only increases through adolescence. Overall, she needs a balance of carbohydrates, grains, protein and healthy fats in order to reach her full growth potential. She also needs extra iron, found in red meat and fortified cereals, and calcium, found in dairy products, during the teen years and during periods of growth spurts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org states that you can expect your child to grow a little over 2 inches a year in height and gain about 6 1/2 pounds a year in middle childhood. However, his growth is influenced mostly by genetics and is not necessarily increased by quality nutrition. In fact, the website indicates that even picky eaters will typically still grow normally, and extra calories from nutritious foods can end up just causing weight gain.
Keep in mind that your child needs exercise to grow and develop, in addition to healthy foods. Too much sedentary activity, such as watching television and playing video games, can impair her bone growth, according to HealthyChildren.org. Make sure your child spends time playing outside every day, when possible, and encourage her to get involved in extracurricular activities, like sports.
Instead of trying to improve nutrition simply for growth reasons, focus on consistently providing your child with healthy foods by cooking at home, making healthy snacks available and getting your child involved in trying new foods. Authors at HelpGuide.org recommend against banning sweets and junk food altogether, since that can invite cravings and overindulging. Talk to your child’s doctor if you feel that he is not growing or gaining weight consistently or if you feel that he is gaining too much weight.