Child: Nutrition from 1 to 3 years of age

What are the most important nutritional considerations for toddlers (1-3 years of age)? During these years, a child begins to take on its own unique personality and to exert its independence by moving around freely and choosing foods to eat.

Although the child is still growing, the rate of growth is slower than in the first 12 months of life.

At the end of the third year of age, girls and boys will have achieved about 50 per cent of their adult height.

During this period a child becomes able to drink through a straw and eat with a spoon, and frequently they become "fussy" eaters.

The provision of a variety of foods will allow the child to choose from a range of foods with differing tastes, textures, and colours to help satisfy their small appetites.

The most important factor is to meet energy needs with a wide variety of foods. Food intake will be influenced increasingly by family eating patterns and peers.

Early food experiences may have important effects on food likes and dislikes and eating patterns in later life.

Meal times should not be rushed and a relaxed approach to feeding will pave the way for healthy attitudes to food.

4. What are the most important nutritional considerations in school-aged children? After 4 years of age, a child's energy needs per kilogram of bodyweight are decreasing but the actual amount of energy (calories) required increases as the child gets older. From 5 years to adolescence, there is a period of slow but steady growth.

Dietary intakes of some children may be less than recommended for iron, calcium, vitamins A and D and vitamin C, although in most cases as long as the energy and protein intakes are adequate and a variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, are eaten deficiencies are unlikely. Regular meals and healthy snacks that include carbohydrate-rich foods, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes and nuts should contribute to proper growth and development without supplying excessive energy to the diet. Children need to drink plenty of fluids, especially if it is hot or they are physically active. Water is obviously a good source of liquid and supplies fluid without calories.

Variety is important in children's diets and other sources of fluid such as milk and milk drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks can also be chosen to provide needed fluids.

Bibliography * Calvo, E. B.; Galindo, A. C.; Aspres, N. B. (1992). Iron status in exclusively breast-fed infants. Pediatrics, 90(3):375-379.

* Department of Health and Social Security (1988). Present day practice in infant feeding: 3rd Report. Report on Health and Social Subjects 32. HMSO, London.

* EEC Commission Directive on infant's formulae and follow-on formulae (1991). Official J. European Communities No. L175/35-/49.

* Freedman, D. S.; Dietz, W. H.; Srinivasan, S. R.; Berenson, G. S. (1999). The relation of overweight to cardiovascular risk factors among children and adolescents to cardiovascular risk factors among children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Pediatrics, 103:1175-1182.

* Gregory, J.; Lowe, S.; Bates, C. J., Prentice, A., Jackson, L.V., Smithers, G., Wenlock, R., Farron, M., (2000). National Diet and Nutrition Survey: young people aged 4-18 years, vol. 1. Report of the Diet and Nutrition Survey, TSO, London.

* International Life Sciences Institute (2000). Overweight and Obesity in European Children and Adolescents. Causes and consequences-prevention and treatment. pp. 1-22. ILSI Europe, Brussels, Belgium.

* James, J. (1991). Iron deficiency in toddlers. Maternal and Child Health, 16:309-315.

* Stordy, B. J.; Redfern, A. M.; Morgan, J. B. (1995). Healthy eating for infants-mothers' actions. Acta Paed, 84:733-741.

* Walter, T., Dallman, P.R., Pizarro, F., Velozo, L., Pena, G., Bartholmey, S.J., Hertrampf, E., Olivares, M., Letelier, A., Arredondo, M., (1993). Effectiveness of iron-fortified infant cereal in the prevention of iron deficiency anaemia. Pediatrics, 91(5):976-982.

* Wardley, B. L.; Puntis, J. W. L.; Taitz, L. S. (1997). Handbook of Child Nutrition. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

* Weaver, C. M. (2000). The growing years and prevention of osteoporosis in later life. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 59:303-306.

* World Health Organisation (1990). Prevention in childhood and youth of adult cardiovascular disease: time for action. WHO, Geneva.

References: European Food Information Council (EUFIC) Date last updated: 17 November 2006

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