July 27, 2021
CHICAGO – “My, how you’ve grown!” will be a common exclamation from friends and family who haven’t seen a child in some time. Many children will hear these words from friends and family this summer as well as teachers once they return to school for in-person learning in the fall.
As children’s bodies grow, so do their nutritional needs. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages parents and caregivers to help children establish healthful habits that can last a lifetime.
In August, the Academy and its Foundation celebrate the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and their families during its annual Kids Eat Right Month™.
"Major growth spurts traditionally take place between the pre-teen and teen years while children go through puberty." said registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Reed, a Cincinnati-based national spokesperson for the Academy. “Pre-teens and teens may grow at least 2 inches per year and gain up to 6.5 pounds per year during this time. As their bodies grow in size and proportion, so do their appetites."
"Registered dietitian nutritionists, the food and nutrition experts, can provide guidance to help children meet their nutritional and physical activity needs." Reed says. “If your child is an athlete, then it is important that they not only eat to grow, but to support their increased activity."
Reed encourages parents to consult with their child’s health care provider about their child’s growth and if they have any nutritional deficiencies.
"Offer your child a wide variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, lean protein foods, whole grains and dairy or fortified soy alternatives to promote growth." she says. “Pre-teens and teens may not always eat the foods that a parent serves, but the more they are offered these foods, the more likely they are to eat them."
"Children going through a growth spurt may need at least two snacks a day. Teen-friendly snacks are easy-to-reach and easy to eat." Reed says. "Simple items such as fruit, whole-grain crackers with peanut butter and low-fat string cheese can usually satisfy those hunger pangs. Encourage them to drink plenty of water because sometimes thirst can be misinterpreted as hunger."
Keep consistent family mealtimes to discourage snacking too close to meals, Reed says. “Discourage mindless snacking in front of the television or while playing videogames. Encourage them to get active by walking or playing sports."
"Parents should be sure to ‘walk the talk’ by eating nutritious foods, participating in regular physical activities and conveying a positive body image to their children." Reed says. "Children emulate their parents, so it’s important for parents to set a good example with healthful habits of their own."
Kids Eat Right Month™ was created in 2014 to mobilize registered dietitian nutritionists in a grassroots movement to share healthful eating messages to help families adopt nutritious eating habits.
See the Kids Eat Right Month Media Materials for the 2021 campaign graphic, infographics and more information. To find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, use the Academy’s online Find a Nutrition Expert service.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated exclusively to supporting nutrition and dietetics professionals by empowering them to help consumers live healthier lifestyles. It makes an impact with Academy members and throughout the profession with its scholarships, awards, research grants, fellowships, public education programs and disaster relief efforts. Through philanthropy, the Foundation empowers current and future food and nutrition practitioners to optimize global health. Visit the Foundation at www.eatrightFoundation.org.