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Kids Health - Role of Nutrition and Exercise in Children's Health, Growth, Development

Friday, April 20, 2012
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Role of Nutrition in Kids Health, Kids Growth & Kids Development

In today's competitive world, parents not only want their children to be intelligent but also healthy and fit. Preparations start even before conception such as keeping a check on pre-pregnancy weight of the mother, iron and folic acid status of her body etc as these determine the pregnancy output. At each stage, from infant to toddler to teenager, body's demand for various nutrients change as children grow and develop through each stage differently. Not only is the caloric intake increased, but servings from each food group vary. Good nutrition is very crucial during the growing years due to rapid muscle and bone development in children as strong muscles allow us to stand, walk and even talk - functions that are vital for a good quality of life. Therefore it's important to maintain a good balance in the consumption of carbohydrates, protein and fats as a part of their diet.

Kids Health - health benefits of exercise in children
Developing good dietary and exercise habits since childhood help kids have strong, healthy bones throughout their lives. Several lifestyle factors, particularly nutrition, physical activity, and sun exposure can substantially influence the gain of bone mass during childhood and adolescence. Kids that are more active, eat better and stay healthier. Their development is above average on all fronts, including emotional and social. Studies have shown that kids who eat more fruits and vegetable, consume enough dairy and protein and are active 40-60 minutes daily are less likely to develop chronic preventive diseases such as diabetes and heart disease in adulthood.

Newborn nutrition needs
The most important and foremost step towards road of normal growth for kids is exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life. Mother's milk is sufficient to meet all the nutritional requirements of children till 6 months of age. Gradual introduction to family foods becomes essential to meet increasing body demands of the following nutrients:

- are the body's main energy source. It is important to get 55 percent to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrate foods. Emphasis should be given to complex carbohydrate foods in the diet, especially whole grains, cereals, breads, pasta, legumes, beans, starchy vegetables, fruits and milk. Intake of sugars in the form of candies and sweets should be limited or avoided. Adequate amount of carbohydratess are necessary to build strong muscles in a child's body. For vegetarians a combination of cereal & pulse (For e.g Dal-rice, Idli, dhoklas, dal paratha, etc) ensure optimum protein availability.

- are the kids body's building blocks. They form important component of muscles and other tissues and also help the kids body defend against infections. Adequate protein consumption helps in tissue repair (wear & tear of the body) and synthesis of amino acids which enables the kids muscle development. Protein plays a key role in acquiring bone mass. During kids growth, insufficient caloric intake and protein can severely impair bone development. Good sources of protein include lean meat, eggs, fish, poultry, whole dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc) soy foods, legumes etc.

- Include healthy fats like nuts (almonds, walnuts, groundnuts, pistachios etc), oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil can be included in the kids diet. Saturated fats including foods cooked in butter or cream, bakery foods and junk foods should be limited or avoided altogether.

- are the nutrients required by the kids body in trace amounts and help in the release of energy stored in food especially B-vitamins.
  • Vitamins affect the learning curve positively and are also needed for good nutrition and optimum growth. Vitamins such as vitamin A is necessary in kids for the maintenance of good eyesight and skin and is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, orange and yellow colored fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, papaya, carrot, mangoes and milk and milk products. B vitamins can be obtained from whole grain cereals and pulses and help in metabolism of food in the body. Ascorbic acid i.e. vitamin C-the healing vitamin is found in citrus fruits. Vitamin D is necessary in the absorption and deposition of calcium and phosphorous in the bones and teeth. Dietary sources of Vitamin D include fortified milk and cooking oils, nuts, fatty fishes etc. Sufficient exposure to sun also improves the synthesis of Vitamin D.
  • Minerals form part of body structural component and are essential to ensure adequate growth of tissues. Minerals such as an adequate intake of -
  • Calcium is associated with increased peak bone mass & bone development: Good sources include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, parsley, carrots, sprouts, radish, bony fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, etc. as well as soy foods.
  • Phosphorous imparts rigidity and strength to the bone. Low amounts of dietary phosphorous can lead to de-mineralization and loss of calcium through urine. Good sources include dairy products, fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, whole cereals, nuts, legumes & vegetables.
  • Magnesium - Adequate intake of magnesium rich foods increases bone density in both boys and girls. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and poultry.
  • Iron is essential for formation of hemoglobin and plays an important role in transport of oxygen. Iron deficiency (when the body's iron stores are becoming depleted) can be a big problem for some kids, particularly toddlers and teens. Iron deficiency can affect a child's growth and may lead to learning and behavioral problems. Iron rich foods that can make family's diet more nutritious are dark green leafy vegetables, red meat, eggs, salmon, tuna, dry fruits, iron fortified cereals etc.
Water- Water is critical for good health. During our normal daily routine we lose water through our breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For the body to function properly and to prevent dehydration symptoms, we must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. Therefore an intake of 8-10 glasses of fluids like water, fruit juices, dairy, soups, etc is necessary for optimum functioning of the kids body.

- Good night's sleep of at least 8 hours is very essential for maximum muscle growth to occur along with good nutrition. Don't forget the age-old saying "Early to bed & early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy & wise".

Physical activity
- Kids must be encouraged to participate in sports and outdoor activities to the maximum, let them play or take part in activities of their choice like swimming, running, playing in the park, cycling etc. As being active will not only help their muscles grow and develop better but also improve their concentration abilities in school, productivity and mood. Physical exercise improves the efficiency of heart and delays the incidence of chronic lifestyle related diseases.

Such habits can be inculcated in kids since the beginning as good nutrition in childhood is a lifetime investment in your child's future.

By. Ritu Jain,
Dietitian, NutritionVista

For personalized nutrition counseling please sign up for an online consultation program that suits your needs. For kids evaluation and diet & lifestyle plan we recommend a one month assessment and prevention program.



User Comments

01 May, 2012 | shery | Reply

shery if a child is malnourished then how we will calculate his energy requirement according to his current weight or required weight?

02 May, 2012 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dear Shery, Calculating energy requirement for malnourished children is always calculated on the current weight and height of the child. It is quite a complicated procedure nevertheless to give you a rough break up the calculation takes into account factors such as - energy required for maintenance, activity, growth and urine and fecal losses. (Energy for Growth includes energy for tissue biosynthesis and energy stored as new tissue which can go up from 15% to 50% of dietary need depending on the level of or recovery from malnutrition)
Energy Intake (Ei) = Maintenance (Em) + Activity (Ea) + Growth (Eg) + Waste (Ew)
I hope this helps.
Thank you

01 May, 2012 | Aparna | Reply

Aparna Excess weight and obesity are leading to an epidemic of diabetes in adults and children. The need of the hour is to create a healthier 'eat less, move more' environment for today's children for any lifestyle interventions to succeed.

Children's willpower and ability to make healthy food choices are undermined by an "obesogenic" environment. The solution to diabetes and its morbidity does not lye in better treatments but in public-policy approaches that provide economic incentives to consume healthy foods and environments that require physical movement.

04 October, 2010 | Kanika Jain | Reply

Kanika Jain Here are few tips to develop healthy habits in children

-If kids see you eating right and getting physically active, they’ll take notice of your effort and will be encouraged to do it themselves too. Involve your family in physical activities. What about enjoying an outdoor game together? Or limiting your own TV viewing or computer time first.

-Praise them for whatever little effort they make to adopt healthy eating habits or involvement in any sport (but make sure that you don’t end up giving them chocolates or candies as rewards. Though once in a while its ok, but make sure you have other positives and healthy rewards planned up for them)

-Set realistic and short term goals and be patient but persistent. Things will not change overnight. Try out making one change at a time. Do not overload your kid with instructions. Let him \her explore the world and their likings in their own way and then guide. For instance, many parents enroll their kids for swimming classes which they may or may not like..So, let them explore on their own which sport\physical activity they like first.Chances are that they will stick to it for longer time.

16 November, 2010 | Aarathi Varadachar | Reply

Aarathi Varadachar It's a very interesting article. Also like the tips provided. I would like to add one or two suggestions too.

If the kid is behaving well and following something that you want him to do with respect to his health and habit then reward him with stars, have a golden, silver and bronze stickers from the market. On a monthly planner write the name of the kids and the day they have been up to the mark give them a golden star. This not only will encourage them to look forward to the next day's activity but also let them understand what a healthy competition is. Secondly, once a week plan a family time together and play indoor and outdoor games. It is not necessary to go outing to spend quality time with family but just that two or three hours is enough to energize them for the whole week. Choose games that not only let you spend energy physically but also mentally.

26 September, 2010 | Neha Kakkar | Reply

Neha Kakkar Its not only adults who need lifestyle changes, but with the rising number of cases of obesity amongst children and average age of people suffering from chronic lifestyle diseases coming down , it has become even more important to start with lifestyle changes at younger age. Right from childhood, importance of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity should be emphasized

09 August, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Dear Mr Nowshehri ,
Actually a balanced diet, good sleep, proper eye care (hygiene) and regular exercise will ensure a good eye sight. However nutrients’ in particular are Protein, Vitamin A, E , and C, Omega 3 and other essential fatty acids, Zinc and Phytonutrients –Lutein & zeaxanthin .
So make sure to include dairy, eggs, nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecan etc fish and other sea food , fresh fruits especially citrus, vegetables –Tomatoes green leafy vegetables, carrots and all vegetables which are green yellow and orange.
Log onto to get comprehensive information for good health for all the members of the family
Thank you

09 August, 2010 | Irfan S Nowshehri | Reply

Irfan S Nowshehri Hello Dear,
could you please tell me that what sort of nutrition i will give to my 2 year old child which will maintain his good eyesight.

Thanking you

02 July, 2010 | Geetanjali Kelkar | Reply

Geetanjali Kelkar Hi Sudhindra

Banana according to Ayurvedic dietary principles has the property to increase phlegm. The effect will be pronounced if a person is suffering from severe cold and if he consumes raw banana. However,fully ripe banana does in not increase phlegm. So children can definitely eat banana.

02 July, 2010 | Sudhindra | Reply

Sudhindra But I have been advised my many family members and colleagues that Banana, will increase the Phlegm (Flem)that leads to cough and nasal blockages. Is it true? Infact this was my main question?

01 July, 2010 | Poonam Vaswani | Reply

Poonam Vaswani Hello Sudhindra,
Bananas not only contain potassium, but also many other essential nutrients like fiber, an amino acid tryptophan (which improves mood) and B complex vitamins. They make a healthy snack for children, especially before or after playing, as they supply the body with quick energy.

01 July, 2010 | Sudhindra | Reply

Sudhindra For potassium, it is advisable to give Banana a day to the children?

08 March, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Hello Ms Sarasen
Yes, your question is logical, as for generations the pediatricians have recommended starting solids soon after the infant has completed 3 months of age. However numerous studies have now shown that exclusive Breast feeding for 6 months has a lot more benefits than introducing solid foods before 6 months and therefore recommended strongly by WHO ( World Health Organization) and a number of other international bodies.
To list a few advantages
Delaying solids gives babies
• Offers greater protection from illness as there are more than 50 + factors found only in Breast milk which helps build immunity in an infant.
• Reduce the risk of allergies as it gives time for the digestive system time to mature.
• Protects babies from iron-deficiency anemia by maintaining normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores in the body.
• Helps to protect baby from future obesity.

Even for the nursing mothers, exclusively breast feeding for 6 months helps her
• Maintain her milk supply,
• Space children or delay the next pregnancy as it as acts as a contraception,
• Get back to normal shape and size and not put on excessive weight.
I hope you doubts are now clarified.
Thank you
NutritionVista team

08 March, 2010 | Janki Patel, Dietician on line | Reply

Janki Patel, Dietician on line Hello Sarasen,
The first few days milk after child birth, is called "colostum" which gives immunity to the new born. In first six months, digestion of child is little weak. Mother's milk is digested and all the nutrients are absorbed well.Mother's milk has all the vital nutrients needed for child. Child gets nutrition and is safe from infections likely to cause from bottle or other food.After six months, child needs other foods for growth.

07 March, 2010 | sarasen | Reply

sarasen Why is exclusive breastfeeding recommended for the first six months?

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