The Adolescent Growth Spurt

Good nutrition takes on particular importance during the growing years for many reasons. Growth is an energy and nutrient requiring process. It will not proceed normally unless the diet supplies enough of both.

Children are born with regulatory processes that help them to decide how much to eat. There are internal cues that signal when they should eat and when they should stop eating. However parents are required to decide what kinds of foods to offer to the children. Parents need to make sure the required nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water are provided to the children and also combined in the right ways at every meal or snack time.

Eating well and learning the right lessons about food and health have implications that go beyond the growing years. Early diets may have long term effects on the risk of developing a number of diseases later in life.

Characteristics of Growth

Growth is very rapid in the first year of life. Between age 2 to age 10 growth is slower. Children usually gain 2-3 kgs and 5 to 8cms in height per year. Gains in weight and height occur in spurts, rather than continuously and gradually. Just before a growth spurt the appetite increases and the child asks for more food, will store some fat, look plump for a short period of time and then suddenly grow 2-3 cms. At this time that stored fat is used up as energy needed for that growth spurt.

The Adolescent Growth Spurt

The adolescent growth spurt usually occurs in girls between age 10-15. Boys have this happening usually between 12-17. One boy may start his growth spurt at 11 and reach his full adult height by 15, while another may start his growth spurt at 14 and reach his full height by 16-17. This variation will be seen from child to child. During the growth spurt period the child may ask for a lot more quantity, be eating at the table longer than others and may get very irritable if she/he has missed a meal or the meal is delayed for some reason. Parents must take time and trouble to see that a lot of carbohydrate foods like bread, chapathi or rice is provided in combination with plenty of milk, curds, dhals, pulses and eggs. Besides this, fruits like apples, oranges, bananas and both cooked and raw vegetables must be available. Care must be taken to avoid deep fried snacks, sweets, pastries, chocolates and fatty meals like burgers, pizzas and deep fried nonveg foods. These must not become a part of the daily menu. They may be eaten only on special occasions and not more than once a week. If we are not very strict about the consumption of fatty foods then there will be an accumulation of excess fat in the body and the formation of high number of fat cells which will pave the way for obesity in adulthood. This can also lead to the development of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer later.

Can we Predict or Influence Adult Height

On an average children tend to achieve adult heights that are between the heights of their biological parents. How ever Chinese and Japanese children fed on diets with higher calories and protein and more nutrient dense food have been seen to grow an average 2 inches taller each generation.

  1. A healthy diet during the growing years
  2. A good amount of physical exercise
  3. Freedom from frequent bouts of illness

Are the key factors that support growth in height. There are no supplements, powders or special diets that can be used to increase growth rate.

The menu plan should include 3 carbohydrate plus protein balanced meals.

Breakfast-2-3 slice Bread with Jam/Egg plus one glass (200ml) Milk
                   Or 2-3 Idli/Dosa with Sambar plus one glass Milk
                   Or 2 Stuffed Paratha plus one glass of Milk.
                   Or 1 cup Cereal plus one glass of Milk

10am 1- Fruit/2 Biscuits

Lunch: 1 cup Rice/2 Roti
           + cup Dhal/Sambar/Pulses,
                         + cup Cooked Vegetables,
           (Nonveg 1-2 piece/Curd)

4 pm: 1 glass Milk plus 2 slice Bread Sandwich
          (vegetables or jam or cheese may be used)
          Or 1 glass Milk plus 2-3 Biscuits.
6pm:   Fruit

Dinner: 2 Rotis
            1 cup Dhal/Pulses
             cup Vegetables
            1-2 cups Salad

Bed Time: 1 glass (200ml) Milk.

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