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