There are 4 stages of growth and development. These are infancy, preschool, school age and adolescence. To these stages, more experts are adding a fifth stage - prenatal development.
Good nutrition is essential to normal growth and development. Getting enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals is necessary. A healthy diet supports growth and development. Each day, the diet should include: 6 to 11 servings of grains2 to 4 servings of fruit3 to 5 servings of vegetables2 to 4 servings of milk and milk substitutes2 to 3 servings of meat and protein substitutes
Portion sizes will vary depending on age, rate of growth and energy needs. Optimal nutrition can be received in 3 meals and several snacks.
Food is converted in the body into energy. It is needed for activity and to develop new body tissues as a child grows. Protein and fat are converted into body tissues as a child grows. Minerals are also components of body tissues. Vitamins and minerals are also used to make new body tissues.
A newborn infant loses approximately 5% to 10% of his or her weight immediately after birth. By 2 weeks of age, an infant should have regained the lost weight and started to gain additional weight. For the first 6 months of life, most infants will gain about 1 ounce per day and grow in length by about 1/3 to 1/2 an inch per week. By the time an infant is 4 to 6 months old, his or her birth weight will have doubled. From 6 to 12 months old, the rate of weight gain slows to about 1/2 an ounce per day.
From 1 until 5 years old, weight gain will have slowed to about 5 pounds per year and height will increase by 3 to 5 inches per year. At this age, toddlers appear to lose their "baby fat" and thin out. During this time, a child starts to develop muscle control and uses this ability to try new things.
From 6 to 10 years of age, growth speeds up. A final growth spurt happens around age 11 with the onset of puberty. Girls usually begin their adolescent growth spurt 2 to 3 years earlier than boys do. Growth in height usually occurs before sexual maturation.
Children need more calories and nutrients when they are growing. Infants and adolescents need more calories for their body size than do preschoolers and school-aged children. Generally, when quality food is available in the right amounts, a healthy child will make good food choices. Appetite will control the amount of food needed to meet energy needs and meet growth curves. Day-to-day nutrition may vary, but overall, the body will get what it needs.
Undernutrition will result in delayed growth. It can also result in delayed intellectual development. An undernourished child tires easily, may have a short attention span, and can have a hard time learning. Undernutrition can lead to more frequent illnesses and infections. Eating breakfast helps school performance. Children who eat breakfast tend to have better attention spans and learn better than those who skip breakfast.
Adults must make sure a child gets healthy foods. Adults should also decide when meals and snacks are eaten. Children can decide how much food they want to eat. A nutritionally balanced diet includes choices from all food groups including grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat and meat substitutes.