Can better nutrition help small kids grow faster?

Monday, November 16, 2009 14:50
Comments Off on Can better nutrition help small kids grow faster?

ND_blog_HealthyKids_1109_fin Q.  I have a 10 year old daughter who is small for her age and wants to grow and gain some weight. She eats well when she likes what is on the table, however she is kind of picky. She does not care for meat and doesn't eat many vegetables. She loves fruit and would live on pizza if we let her. She takes a multi-vitamin every day. I don't know what to do that would be healthy for her and help her grow. Should I give her a nutrition drink supplement?

A.  First, don't worry too much about your daughter's picky eating habits. It's very common for kids to shun vegetables in favor of pizza and still grow up strong and healthy.  Keep on doing what you can to encourage healthy eating habits without turning the family dinner table into a battle zone.

The truth is that your daughter's height is probably not a nutritional issue. Severe malnutrition can result in poor growth, but I'm fairly certain that this is not the case with your daughter.  Short of growth hormone injections (highly controversial) there's not too much you can do to affect her height, which is genetically programmed.

If, on the other hand, your daughter is underweight, getting more calories into her will help her gain weight.  Foods that are calorie-dense as well as nutrient dense can help. Whole milk, full fat yogurt and cottage cheese, cheese, peanut butter, dried fruit, and nuts are all nutritious, calorie-dense foods that she might enjoy.

I'm not a big fan of nutritional supplement drinks. They're usually very high in sugar (high-fructose corn syrup) and the vitamins and minerals they provide are all found in a multi-vitamin, which she's already taking. I think she'd be better off getting her calories from real food!  You could experiment to see if you can come up with a healthy "milkshake" to supplement her calorie intake. Try some whole milk, frozen bananas, cocoa powder, peanut butter, and a little honey.

Here are some more resources for you to explore.

Growth calculators. Here are a series of calculators that show you how your child's height, weight, and body mass compare to the norms. And here is a calculator that shows you a healthy weight for a child of a certain age and height.

Nutrition for Kids. Here are some previous posts on getting kids to eat healthy, getting kids to eat more vegetables, a recent episode of my weekly podcast focusing on kid's nutrition, and a n interview I did on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast on the subject of kids, nutrition, and obesity

Calorie-dense foods. When you look up foods on ND, you'll see our Nutritional Target Map, which shows you how nutrient dense and how calorie-dense every food is.  Foods for healthy weight gain are those that are both, and they'll map in the lower right hand corner of the map.

People looking to lose weight usually want to select foods that fall in the upper right hand corner of the Nutritional Target Map. These are foods that are nutrient dense but not calorie dense.

For more on how to use the Nutritional Target Map, see our help page. Here is our Nutritional Map Search Tool.

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