Nutrition Through the Years: Children

2 Minute Read

Before entering the stages of puberty, the years of childhood are filled with growth and development. Though children at this stage are progressing more slowly compared to their formative years of being a toddler, there still is great physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development happening. For proper development to happen, nutritionally a child must be supported to make sure that they don’t fall behind on the CDC growth chart, but while not having them get too far ahead in the overweight and obesity percentiles.

It is common for school-aged children to match their food intake with their growth patterns. A simple equation that can always be easily remembered is growth spurt = more calories needed to grow at a healthy rate. This also relates to the level of physical activity that is being done daily. Ideally, in this stage of life, the body is storing nutrients in preparation for puberty and the rapid development experienced during adolescence so providing as many healthy choices as possible will support the health and growth of a child.

Unsplash / Mieke Campbell
Unsplash / Element5 Digital

However, in 2019 alone Arkansas was in the top 10 states with the greatest number of obese children. Yet Arkansas is also in the top 10 states with the greatest food-insecure households. How can a child be obese yet face food insecurity at the same time?

Well simply put food-insecure doesn’t mean hungry. Now it could, but most of the time the most food-insecure households live in communities that don’t have access to grocery stores, or if they do, some households might not be able to afford healthy food when other living expenses also are involved. This results in a higher intake of energy-dense foods (higher in calories and more processed) just to make sure that children don’t go hungry.

 

Children who eat poorly are more likely to develop certain long-term health problems later down the road like impaired growth, dental carries (fancy name for cavities), poor memory, lack of cognitive skills, falling behind in school, and the irregularity of blood sugar.

Children who eat poorly are more likely to develop certain long-term health problems later down the road…

Well Fed / Peter Heil

The good news is there is hope for families facing food insecurity and that participate in the Well Fed program! The foods offered at Well Fed’s mobile markets or in food boxes can support the healthy development of a child. The top 5 essential nutrients a child needs to grow and develop properly are protein, iron, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3s. Foods like eggs, tuna, broccoli, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and great northern beans (to just name a few) are all products that are common to be seen at Well Fed’s mobile markets that can support a child’s growth. 

Former CEO Anne M. Mulcahy said “Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high.” Supporting healthy growth and development now will reap the benefits of this generation’s future. Ensuring that they will be set up for success and live a long and healthy life with a reduced risk of chronic diseases is part of Well Fed’s vision and mission!

Anna Polo, Dietetic Intern

Diet and Your Organs: We’re Not Kidney You

When was the last time you thought about your kidneys? Unless you’re one of the 37 million people in the US with some form of chronic kidney disease, you probably haven’t given them much thought.

Make two fists with your hands right now. Don’t worry if you’re in a public space, pretend like you’re stretching.

Did you know that those two fist sized organs under your ribcage on either side of your spine filter 200 quarts (that’s 50 gallons if you’re counting) of blood a day? You might recall someone reminding you to drink 8, 8-ounce glasses of water a day and finally you know why! Only 2 quarts of the 200 quarts a day is sent out as waste (again, for you mathematicians that’s exactly 64 ounces, or 2 quarts).

Here’s some other things your kidneys do:

Unsplashed / Robina Weermeijer
  • Hormone production for your blood
  • Converts vitamin D from a non-usable source like the sun into a usable form. Vitamin D helps retain calcium and phosphorus which builds bones, reduces inflammation, and reduces tumor growth!
  • Filters out minerals your body doesn’t need to maintain healthy blood

We would submit to you that poor access to healthy food, a reality for 1 in 5 food insecure individuals in Arkansas, leads to many diet-related illnesses that have seriously negative consequences for the health of their kidneys, and ultimately their lives.

Your kidneys are important. Lose even a portion of their function and life gets hard. So, what inhibits the correct function of these fleshy powerhouses?

Unsplashed / CDC

Without getting too scientific, your kidneys filter toxic and unnecessary minerals out of your body to maintain healthy levels in your blood. When there is an overwhelming amount of something in your bloodstream, your kidney must work harder to process it, leading to kidney disease.

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease (1). A person with diabetes either lacks the insulin to process sugar or their blood rejects insulin, so sugar builds up in the blood, damaging the filters in your kidneys.

High blood pressure is kidney killer number two. High amounts of sodium in your diet cause your body to retain more water. More blood flowing in your veins, higher blood pressure. The extreme force of blood pumping through your kidneys can cause damage to its tiny blood vessels and lead to kidney disease or failure over time.

There is no single reason why certain communities in Arkansas are more at risk for kidney disease, but food insecurity plays a huge role for many rural and minority communities. 

African Americans are 4 times more likely to develop kidney disease, while Hispanic people and Native Americans are at 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively (2). Much of their risk is due to their risk for diet-related illnesses like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure)

Our mission is deeper than simply providing healthy food. Diet is the major determinant of our participants wellbeing, but empowerment and education are vital to see change.

Good news is kidney disease is reversable. With the correct diet, help from a nutrition or doctor, a support system, and a good nutritional plan, a kidney disease patient can return to good health in time.

Check your kidneys health here and find resources to avoid or manage kidney disease here.