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Nutrition is vital in laying the foundation of a healthy child. Here's how a poor diet impacts a child's health

Dr Mansi Patil Dr Mansi Patil 4 Mins Read

Dr Mansi Patil Dr Mansi Patil

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Nutrition impacts children in more ways than you can think of. We show you how an inappropriate diet can harm your toddler's health

Nutrition is vital in laying the foundation of a healthy child. Here's how a poor diet impacts a child's health

Nutrition is important in laying the foundation of a healthy child. It plays a vital role in the mental, social, physical and behavioral development of toddlers. Today, children are subject to an imbalance of nutrients. They consume fats, sugars and salt in excess while the intake of proteins, vitamins and minerals is compromised. This imbalance in diet reflects both short-term and long-term ill effects on health, ranging from poor growth to obesity, mood swings to reduced concentration spans, and increased tantrums to mental and physical sluggishness.

Effects of poor nutrition on children

Nutrition plays a vital role in either preventing or managing these issues in your toddler. Let's look at how an inappropriate diet can harm your toddler's health and how this can be prevented.

1. Impaired growth

Each nutrient is important for the growth and development of a toddler. The rate at which the nutrients are absorbed and utilized in a young child is very high. Inadequate care in planning her diet can impair her growth. Her muscle strength and acuity of eyes improve rapidly, so does the development of her bones and teeth. Hence, it is imperative to provide her with the right quantity of the required nutrients in each meal. Nutrients like essential fatty acids, proteins of high biological value, calcium-magnesium-rich foods, fat and water-soluble vitamins, and iron play a crucial role in aiding optimum growth.

2. Dental caries, muscle cramps

Consuming food rich in sugars and fats like wafers, bakery products, aerated drinks, packaged juices and ready-to-cook foods leads to poor health. Early Childhood Tooth Decay (ECTD), malformed bones (e.g. knock knees and bow knees) and regular muscle cramps are the most common repercussions of foods low in calcium and magnesium and increased consumption of simple carbohydrates.

3. Childhood obesity

High intake of nutritionally poor foods causes obesity leading to long-term diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

4. Poor memory and cognitive skills

Toddlerhood is a time of rapid brain development when the brain develops the capacity to learn and builds cognitive skills (working memory and attention). This requires specific nutrients like choline, folic acid, iron, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, vitamin A and some special fats like gangliosides, sphingolipids and docosahexaenoic acid. Poor intake of these nutrients can lead to deficiency in your toddler's brain development. It is important to monitor the mental developmental milestones of a child to assess the growth of the brain.

A few indications of a well-developed brain are:

Age: 1-2-year-old

Mental development expected: Achieves object performance, uses telegraphic sentences-2-4 word sentences and has a 250-word vocabulary, uses objects to imitate, etc.

Age: 2-3-year-old

Mental development expected: Uses longer sentences, develops a strong ego, uses pronouns, turns pages carefully, identifies photographs, etc.

5. Learning disabilities caused by malnutrition

A toddler's brain is growing rapidly, and is, at the same time, sensitive to an insufficient supply of nutrients.

'Junk food is not food' goes the old adage as it is full of additives like artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, sugar and bad fats, which can decrease focus and slow down the thought process. These foods intensify the bouts of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), increase dyslexia, reduce concentration, increase dysgraphia and hamper visual sensations.

If your toddler shows symptoms like excessive running around in the house, destructive behavior, inability to sleep at night or concentrate during the day, it may be due to nutritional deficiency. He may even show visual and muscular incoordination and an inability to cope with simple problems and find solutions to them.

Nutrition is important for proper growth and development. Check out nutrition books, healthy snacks, and healthy cereals that will ensure your children get proper nutrition.

Healthy snacks for kids

Healthy cereals for breakfast

Nutrition books for children

It is best to inculcate good habits and healthy eating in children, at an early age. Imposing too many restrictions is not advisable.

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