Why Is a Healthy Diet Important for Child Development?

Infants are expected to triple their weight by age one, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, making it the most rapid period of growth in human life. In addition, early childhood is an important period for cognitive, behavioral, and physical development. A healthy and nutritious diet is one of the most important factors for ensuring that a child reaches optimal development.

Two children are eating their breakfast. (Image: Stewart Cohen/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Promotes Optimal Growth

During early childhood, the body is growing at an alarming rate. This rate slows down after age 1, and may occur in spurts throughout childhood, adolescence, and puberty. A child needs adequate dietary intake to provide enough nutrients and energy for him to grow, without reducing his body's ability to stay healthy. In addition, almost half of the adult skeletal mass is built during adolescence. A healthy diet, rich in calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals, will enable optimal skeletal and physical growth.

Enhances Brain Development

Brain development can be affected by the quality and adequacy of your child's diet. Poor nutrition during fetal development and early life can lower IQ scores and lead to learning disorders, according to Dr. Reynaldo Martorell, professor of International Nutrition at Emory University. Furthermore, attentional issues, as well as behavioral and social problems, could occur. Providing adequate energy, vitamins, minerals and macro nutrients is necessary to provide enough nutrition for brain development, while still allowing for the rest of the body to grow and mature.

Prevents Childhood Obesity

Just as it is important to provide children with enough nutrition, it is also important to assess how much they're eating -- and what they're eating. Nearly one in three children are overweight or obese, according to HealthyChildren.org, which places them at a higher risk of developing obesity and other chronic diseases in adult life. Caloric intake and nutrient needs will vary, depending on your child's age, size, activity level and on his overall health status. Providing your child with healthy food choices and demonstrating healthy eating habits is one important way to prevent your child from becoming a statistic.

Encourages Healthy Choices for Life

By introducing your child to a variety of healthy food choices, you can teach him how to live a healthier lifestyle that can ensure proper growth and development for the rest of his life. If you are concerned about your child's growth and development, contact your child's pediatrician.

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