Assessing Your Child's Growth
Should I monitor my child's weight and height?
Childhood is a time of growth both physically and mentally. After infancy, growth in children slows down and occurs in spurts. Weight and height measurements plotted on a growth chart are used to determine the growth pattern of a child compared to other children with typical growth patterns.
You may have heard the term "percentile" and wondered what the word actually means. Percentile is the ranking of a child among 100 other children of the same age and sex. If a child is in the 50th percentile for weight or height for age, this means that 50 children will weigh more or be taller than this child and 50 children will weigh less or be shorter than this child.
- Growth is a good indicator of a child's nutritional status. A child's growth is assessed by a health professional to determine if the child is keeping up with his or her growth pattern.
- Children who are between the 25th and 75th percentiles are considered to be growing appropriately. Children who are between the 10th to 25th percentiles may also be growing appropriately but their food intake needs to be evaluated. Children who are less than the 10th percentile may also be growing appropriately but are considered to be at risk for growth failure and need to be closely evaluated.
What are some causes for under nutrition in children?
- Too much Juice: Too much juice in the diet often replaces milk and other important food groups that the child should be eating. Juices often contain more sugar and fewer vitamins than fresh, canned, or frozen fruits.
- Low-fat diets: Some parents become concerned about heart disease and obesity and may decide to offer their children only non-fat or low-fat food products such as skim milk, or they may decide to reduce calories. It is recommended that children under 2 years of age not be put on a low-fat diet or eating plan as they need adequate fat for growth and brain development. Fat is important for storing energy, protecting and insulating the body and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins in the body.
- No breakfast: Children who skip breakfast eat less calories and nutrients than those children who eat breakfast. If there is little time for preparing breakfast, choose foods that are easily prepared or are ready-to-eat such as yogurt, fruit bars, milk and leftovers.
- Diets that restrict food groups or diets that are inadequate: A vegan diet consists of only plant foods and may not provide the recommended amount of calories, vitamins and minerals required for growth. A vegan diet requires careful planning to ensure children receive nutrients from other sources of food.
Weight Gain Strategies:
Childhood is a time when eating behavior changes. Since the child is not growing as fast as when he/she was an infant, his/her appetite has decreased. Since less food is being taken in, parents or caregivers should offer nutrient dense foods and energy dense foods.
What makes a food nutrient dense? A food is nutrient dense if the vitamin and mineral content is more than its energy or calorie content such as lean meats, beans, oranges, carrots, broccoli, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain breakfast cereals.
Energy dense foods contribute more calories than they do nutrients such as chips, sodas, cookies and ice cream. Remember to balance healthy nutrient dense foods with energy dense foods. Here are some examples of weight gain strategies:
- Provide small frequent meals with nutrient dense foods and energy dense foods and drinks.
- Add fat to foods such as margarine on mashed potatoes and toast, mayonnaise and cheese on sandwiches.
- Offer whole (not reduced) fat products such as whole milk, cottage cheese, cheese, creamed soups, pudding and yogurt.
- Add calories to foods such as canned fruit in heavy syrup and vegetables with cheese sauce.