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Nutrition and its role in the Growth and Development of Children

19 May, 2017

Nutrition is very crucial in a child’s life as it has a huge impact on the growth and development of the child. Malnutrition develops when the body does not get the proper amount of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals  required to keep the organs and tissues healthy and functioning well. A child can be malnourished by being undernourished or overnourished.

Primary reasons for undernourishment  are inappropriate feeding practices, lack of care, poor hygiene  and repeated illnesses  . Undernourishment raises the risk of malnutrition. The risk is greatest in the first two years of life. The risk further increases when diarrhoea and other illnesses sap the body of the nutrients required to stay healthy.

Overnutrition is when a person is overweight or obese. It can cause diabetes in childhood and cardiovascular disease and other diseases in adulthood. Sometimes children eat large quantities of foods that are high in energy but not rich in other necessary nutrients, such as sugary drinks or fried, starchy foods. In such cases improving the quality of the child's diet is crucial along with increasing his or her level of physical activity.

A variety of foods – vegetables and fruits,cereals,pulses, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products – help to meet the child's nutrition needs


Following are some nutritious foods for young children  to eat:

  • Staple foods, including cereals  like rice, wheat, millets and roots like potatoes,yam.
  • Pulses, such as lentils and chana, rajma, soyabean, lobia .
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, curd,buttermilk.
  • Green leafy and orange-coloured vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes (which provide vitamins).
  • High-protein foods, such as red meat, poultry, fish, liver and eggs .
  • Oils, including vegetable oils like mustard oil,sunflower oil,soyabean oil etc and ghee,butter.


It is important that children eat frequently to provide for all their needs.

Encourage children to eat, but not to force-feed them.  Infants need to be fed directly. Young children should be assisted when they are learning to feed themselves.

If a child refuses to eat a variety of foods, the caregiver can experiment with different food combinations, tastes, textures and methods of encouragement.

Girls and boys require the same amount of attention and time for feeding. They should receive the same quantity and quality of food and drink.  It is important for both mothers and fathers to be informed about child nutrition. Both parents should take part in feeding their daughters and sons.

Some key nutrients whose deficiency is common in children and the best food sources to be supplied through diet include:

Vitamin D-This vitamin is crucial in building and strengthening bones and teeth.  The best  sources are sunlight, fish, egg(yolk),mushroom ,cheese and soya milk and tofu.

Vitamin B12-This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining the health of nerve cells and blood cells.                      Its deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur.The best sources are dairy products, eggs, fish, crabs and the liver of lamb and goat.

Iron-it helps red blood cells carry oxygen to the body and plays a key role in brain and muscle function. A lack of iron in the blood can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a common nutritional deficiency in children. Children who are picky eaters may not eat foods with enough iron, and sometimes parents have trouble finding  foods that are high in iron. Kids on a vegetarian diet also might not get enough iron, because iron from meat sources is more easily absorbed than iron from plant sources.Best sources are red meat,organ meat especially the liver and heart,soyabean,kidney beans,bengalgram,spinach,dates,raisins,apricots,pomegranates,beets,cashewnuts ,pumpkin seeds.


Making sure our children are given variety of foods on a daily basis and frequent meals/snacks through the day will help ensure their nutritional requirements are being met.