Children’s dietary and nutritional requirements differ from those of adults because they are still growing. Nutrients that are essential for growth become more important in children. However, making sure your child receives the proper nutrition on a daily basis can become a challenge, given factors such as allergies and the children's basic likes and dislikes, for instance. Common nutritional problems associated with children include failure to thrive, refusal of foods, allergies and intolerances, iron deficiency anemia, and vitamin D deficiency.
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Failure to Thrive
Failure to thrive is a term that refers to a child whose weight or weight gain is not in line with children of the same age. Children may appear much shorter or smaller than others, and normal development, such as puberty, may be delayed. While failure to thrive can be a symptom of medical conditions such as chromosome abnormalities, chronic infections and low birth weight, poor nutrition can also play a role. To treat failure to thrive that is due to a poor diet, it is essential to encourage a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Food refusal is a big contributor to poor nutrition in children. Whether it is a dislike of certain colors or textures, some children are just picky. When a child refuses to eat a variety of foods and limits herself to only one food or food group, the National Institutes of Health refers to this as a food jag. Making a rule that the child must at least taste each food on her plate is a good way to work around this. Food habits will change with time and, eventually, your child will begin to try other foods.
Allergy and Intolerance
Food allergies can be common in children, with the most typical allergies being eggs, milk and peanuts. Gluten and lactose intolerances can also be a factor. If your child has an allergy, this can affect his ability to get certain nutrients. For example, a milk allergy or lactose intolerance can affect the calcium intake of your child. If he has an allergy, talk to your physician about possible nutrient supplements that may be necessary.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in iron is the most common cause of anemia, and it often occurs in young children, usually between the ages of 9 and 24 months, whose diet consists of a lot of milk and not a lot of iron-rich foods. Cow’s milk reduces the body’s ability to absorb iron and can cause the intestines to lose a small amount of blood, which further reduces the red blood cells. Foods rich in iron include meats, fish, poultry, egg yolks, legumes, whole grain breads and raisins, but many pediatricians will prescribe an iron supplement.