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Nutrition During Childhood and Adolescence

Dr. Sunil Jain

The importance of establishing healthful nutrition practices during childhood and early adolescence has been well established. Diet and exercise patterns adopted during these prime development years set the stage for lifetime habits that can spell the difference between health and infirmity in later years. A working daily schedule for infants and young children in given here. A chart with the average height and weight of children of different age groups is also given.


The importance of establishing healthful nutrition practices during childhood and early adolescence has been well established. Diet and exercise patterns adopted during these prime development years set the stage for lifetime habits that can spell the difference between health and infirmity in later years.

Infant Nutrition
From birth to two years, a period characterized by rapid growth, gains in weight and height are the primary indices of nutritional status. Br**st-feeding is encouraged for at least the first four to six months of life for nutritional as well as immunological benefits to the infant. There is no food equal to br**st milk for a newborn baby. Nature has designed it to be a complete food for the first few months of a baby's life.

From birth until 4 months of age, newborns and young infants are not developmentally ready for solid food. They do not have the mouth and tongue movements necessary for effective swallowing of solid food; they could choke. Also, their stomach is not ready to digest food well. In addition, starting solid foods too early may cause the infant to develop allergies.

Among the most common nutritional disorders during infancy is iron deficiency anemia, which is routinely screened for through blood tests of hemoglobin or hematocrit. "Solid" foods are usually introduced at about four-to-six months of age, particularly a single grain, iron fortified cereal such as rice cereal, to help prevent this problem. Other foods such as strained fruits and vegetables and fruit juice are gradually introduced, until by about 12 months of age when most babies are eating small, tender table foods. In addition to age, some additional indications that a baby is ready to begin "solid" foods are as follows:

  • Baby can hold head steady when sitting
  • Baby sometimes opens mouth when food approaches
  • Baby is interested in food when others eat
  • Baby has the ability to swallow baby food placed on tongue
The baby should always be sitting up to eat or drink and positioned so that they can see the face of the person feeding them. Mealtimes provide important opportunities for babies and their caregivers to smile, laugh, talk and enjoy eating together. In addition, babies should not be fed when rushed or pressed for time. In addition, babies' appetites can vary from day to day. Babies will let caregivers know they are full by turning their heads away from the spoon or holding their lips closed. A baby should never be forced to eat after they have indicated fullness.

Feeding Infants
A working daily schedule
Birth to 8 Weeks (Weight 3-4 Kg)
  • Give only mother’s milk, if sufficient. Br**st feeding is very important.
  • If mother’s milk is insufficient, supplement with baby foods, cow milk or buffalo milk (remove fat, dilute with equal amount of water; gradually reduce dilution).
2-3 Months (Weight up to 6.5 Kg)
  • Continue mother’s milk and /or buffalo milk diluted with one-quarter of boiled water.
  • Start feeding a clear soup made from vegetables with added salt or sugar, and gradually change to a thicker vegetable soup.
  • Start diluted fruit juices (orange, tomato, apple) or a ‘tea’ made from drumstick leaves. Begin with two to four teaspoons, go up to 50 to 100 ml by three to four months.
  • Give boiled water several times a day.

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