Offering healthy choices early helps your child's physical development.

Influence of Nutrition on Physical Development in Early Childhood

by Tamara Runzel

Does your day revolve around trying to figure out easy yet healthy snacks and meals for your child? This planning might seem like a hassle, but making the right decisions has a huge positive influence on your child’s physical development. It’s okay to give your son a sweet treat every once in a while, but if you’re looking out for his physical development, you’ll stick to healthy nutrition choices otherwise.

1. Benefits

Healthy nutrition early in your daughter’s life helps her make healthy choices later. Good meal choices have a positive influence not only on her physical development but also on the development of her cognitive abilities and immune system. A healthy diet also helps prevent obesity, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, poor self-esteem, and bone and joint problems. Offering your daughter healthy food choices in her toddler and preschool years help her enjoy those types of foods throughout life.

2. Considerations

How do you know your son is eating the right amount of food? It’s important not to compare your son’s eating habits to his friends' habits or even another sibling's. The amount of food he needs depends on a number of factors including his height, activity level and metabolism. Offer your son three healthy meals a day and two or three healthy snacks throughout the day. It’s okay if he doesn’t eat a ton at the meal because he snacked as long as he is getting the nutrition at some point in the day. A good rule of thumb as to whether your son is eating enough is if he enjoys eating and has an appropriate amount of energy to play throughout the day.

3. Toddler Nutrition

Don’t be surprised if your daughter eats less than you expect. Children grow rapidly in the first 12 months of life, but that growth slows in the second year. The average toddler needs about 900 – 1,000 calories a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Twelve to twenty-four months is a time of transition for children as they begin eating more table foods and exploring new tastes. To make sure you meet your daughter’s nutritional needs, try to offer the following amount of foods throughout the day: 3 ounces of grains such as whole wheat bread, rice or pasta; 1 cup of vegetables; 1 cup of fruits; 2 cups of milk, which includes yogurt and cheese; and 2 ounces of meat and beans. A child under the age of two might eat a little less than these recommendations.

4. Preschooler Nutrition

Preschoolers require the same nutritional choices as toddlers but may need larger amounts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, preschoolers need from 1,000 -1,400 calories a day. Offer your son 4 - 5 ounces of grains, 1 - 1 ½ cups of vegetables, 1 - 1 ½ cups of fruits, 2 cups of milk and 3 - 4 ounces of meats and beans daily. Remember, the amount required depends on his size and activity level.

5. Tips

You know what your daughter needs to eat, but getting her to eat it isn’t always easy. Keep some tips in mind to help encourage her. Offer a variety of healthy choices, but let your daughter decide how much she is going to eat. From 12 - 21 months, toddlers put everything in their mouths including food, so offer lots of new foods during this stage. Don’t offer a rejected food over and over again. Wait and try again in a few days. You’ve heard “Monkey see, monkey do”; well, it’s true. Your daughter is more likely to eat what she sees you eating. That means you have to have a healthy diet as well.

Photo Credits

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