Nutrition for Healthy Children and Adolescents Ages 2–18 Years

Authored by: Suzanne Domel Baxter

Handbook of Nutrition and Food

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781466505711
eBook ISBN: 9781466505728
Adobe ISBN:


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A child’s first year of life is marked by rapid growth, with birth weight tripling and birth length increasing by 50%. After the rapid growth of the first year, physical growth slows down considerably during the preschool and school years, until the pubertal growth spurt of adolescence. Birth weight does not quadruple until 2 years of age, and birth length does not double until 4 years of age. A 1-year-old child has several teeth, and his or her digestive and metabolic systems are functioning at or near adult capacity. By 1 year of age, most children are walking or beginning to walk; with improved coordination over the next few years, activity increases dramatically. Although increased activity in turn increases energy needs, a child’s rate of growth decreases. Growth patterns vary in individual children, but each year children from 2 years to puberty gain an average of 4.5–6.5 lb (2–3 kg) in weight and 2.5–3.5 in. (6–8 cm) in height. As the growth rate declines during the preschool years, a child’s appetite decreases and food intake may become unpredictable and erratic. Parents and other caregivers need to know that these changes are normal so that they can avoid struggles with children over food and eating behaviors.

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