Nothing wrong with being short, but when you’re 12 and your friends tower over you, calling you “shorty,” and rest their elbows on your head, at some point it grates. I remember hanging on to the may pole at school, hoping it would stretch me and magically make me grow taller.
Then somehow, the height Gods listened and I grew a few inches. It definitely made me feel several feet taller! And relieved. What I didn’t know was I had just experienced my final growth spurt.
Fast forward to decades later, my husband and I, who are both 5’3”, wondered whether our son would also follow in our footsteps. To our surprise, he was the tallest in his class at school, and at the age of 12, he was just a bit taller than us.
In the meantime, his classmate’s mom worried over her son apparently not growing at all. He was thin and shorter than average.
While we know that good nutrition is critical for growing children, worrying about a child’s healthy growth is part of the parenting job description. From the moment the child is born, her growth and nutrition is the number one priority, and this continues long after she’s an adult well able to care for herself.
I remember how, when I dropped my son at school, the favorite topic of conversation with other parents was . . . you guessed it . . . children’s fussy food habits. They would ask me, “What do you feed your son? He’s so tall”. Some quick research englightened us about “growth spurt” and the role of protein during this phase in a child’s life.
My son wasn’t a fussy eater. However, when he was approaching his “second growth spurt” I did worry about his health drinks’ protein content. Of course, it was a reputed brand; but was 7.6 g or 11 g of protein per 100 g going to be enough? After all, the second growth spurt is the critical last growth opportunity in a child’s life! I wanted to make sure he had the best nutrition. I was aware there are high Protein/ Protein rich health drinks with delicious flavors.
While most parents stress over their toddler achieving the necessary growth milestones, they often underestimate the importance of major growth spurt, or the second growth spurt—the last one—that occurs between the age of 8 and 15. Did you know that protein requirement is double in 8-15yrs as compared to 4-6yrs?
As a Mom, you should be concerned about this, too!
I hear you asking: what is a “growth spurt”?
Growth spurts are a rapid rise in height and weight in a short span of time and most obviously apparent during the first year of life and around puberty. Growth spurts can also occur at other times, but in not so obvious way.
During one’s lifetime, there are two major growth spurts.
In the first growth spurt, from birth to 12 months, the birth weight increases to almost three times, with a 50% increase in height.
In the second growth spurt, between 8 and 15 years of age there is a rapid increase in height and weight gain.
In girls, this happens when they are around 10 years old and in boys, around 12 years.
What is the big deal about the second growth spurt?
It is your child’s last chance to reach optimal growth, and since growth at this time is faster than any other time in the individual’s life, , it is the ideal time to prepare to grow, and also make up for any nutritional shortcoming during childhood.
The truth is, children often fall short of their daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vital Nutrients like Protein, Calcium & Iron during this phase. Protein requirement doubles and if there is a deficiency, it affects growth. When protein intake is consistently low, there is a reduction in linear growth and reduced accumulation of lean body mass. Hence, the quality of protein is also important.
The only way is to make sure that the nutritional demands are met during the second growth spurt is to give them a health drink has at least 50% more protein than other leading health drinks.
Importance of nutrition during second growth spurt
As I said earlier, a child’s nutrition needs are more during the second growth spurt, as it plays a critical role in growth, development, and physical fitness. In particular, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and Iron are crucial. Here is why:
- Protein supports increase in muscle mass and promotes the concentration of hormone IGF-1 (Insulin like Growth Factor 1) which aids growth. Protein has a primary role in developing the immune system and brain, along with the growth and maintenance of the body’s supporting system, which includes the bones, muscles, skin and hair.
- Calcium is necessary for bone growth
- Vitamin D helps the bones absorb the calcium
- Iron helps in making healthy blood. Together, these influence the child’s physical performance.
Did you know there are at least 10000 types of proteins to hold us together? Therefore, getting enough protein from birth to second growth spurt is very important as protein builds, maintains and replaces tissues in the body, and protects the body from disease.
Is your child getting enough protein?
That’s the next obvious question! Here are the approximate protein requirements, age-wise:
- Babies need about 10 grams a day.
- School-age kids need 19-34 grams a day.
- Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
- Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
- Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
- Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)
If you know the child’s weight, you can figure out the protein requirement. Children must eat about 0.5 grams of protein for every 0.5 kg weight. That’s one gram per kg. These needs grow and level off by the time adult size is reached.
How can you ensure your child gets enough protein?
A balanced diet must include protein, calories, iron and calcium. To begin with, educate them on the health advantages of eating healthy, and why it is the best way to get the fuel to accomplish their goals in life.
If you fret over your child getting all the required nutrition with each meal, here are some excellent sources of protein for children:
- Dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese
- Legumes and lentils
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts,
- Tofu, tempeh and soy products
- Turkey, chicken, fish, seafood, lean beef, lamb, pork
The good news is, even if your child is fussy, it is possible to make sure she gets enough protein daily.
So I know what you’re thinking. Now that we have the facts on why protein is crucial for growth, how to make sure your child gets her quota? There are excellent protein rich health drinks available in yummy flavors, especially for the fussy eater, or for children always in a tearing hurry!
And of course, while preparing your child for her second growth spurt, never forget that besides a healthy, nutritious meal, children also need lots of exercise and sleep to stay healthy!