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Growth Spurt and Nutrition!!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Zubeda Tumbi 89% (213 ratings)
MSc.PhD Nutrition & Diete, Jr. Research Fellowship for PhD, M.Sc - Dietitics / Nutrition - Dept. of Post Graduate Studies
Dietitian/Nutritionist, Mumbai  •  30 years experience
Growth Spurt and Nutrition!!

Teenage girls usually hit puberty between 8-14 years and boys a little later at about 10- 13. This is a time of a lot of changes. Sexual maturity of the body happens along with a spurt in height. Needless to say, this special time requires special care from parents like you. Extra nourishment of the body is also required so that your teen can develop optimally.

Let’s take a quick look at how you can support your teen’s growth spurt -

Nutrition is the first block facilitating the optimal growth of teenagers. The other blocks are sleep and play.

Sleep: All teenagers need 8-9 hours of sleep every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, America. This is because our pineal or master gland produces growth hormone during this time. And exposure to maximum quantities of growth hormone is crucial if you want your child to grow optimally and not remain stunted. Less sleep usually means less exposure to the growth hormone and less height than was written in your child’s DNA. However, you must also know that puberty causes a change or shift in your teen’s sleep- wake cycle. This means that he or she will usually go to bed late and wake up late too. The thing to do is to let your child sleep longer.

Food and nutrition: All praises sung for good nutrition during puberty will still not be enough. Teens, as we know, love to eat junk food these days. They love processed foods, hate greens and veggies and the scary part is that this could throw a spanner in their growth.

  • Great nutrition is essential to optimal growth of your teen and there’s just no getting around that.
  • During the growth spurt of puberty, your teen requires the maximum calories and nutrients in his or her entire life span.
  • The ‘Growing’ or healthy foods should form at least 90 % of your teen’s total food intake every day.

And these ‘Growing’ foods are:

Proteins:

  • Protein is the most required food group for growth and development of the body.
  • This is so because it is the building block of all tissue, including muscles and bones.
  • Teens need at least half grams of protein per pound of their body weight to grow optimally.
  • Good sources of protein are eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, legumes and veggies.

It’s not scientifically right, however, to ply your teen with proteins. Why? Because it will not help her grow, but may actually leave her dehydrated.

Calcium and vitamin D:

  • What happens during a growth spurt? The bones grow vertically. Arms and legs grow longer.
  • And we all know that calcium is very important for bones and, so is vitamin D as these are both bone-forming nutrients.

If your teen eats enough foods containing calcium and vitamin D, her bones will be strong for a lifetime…

But what happens usually is that kids do not like foods rich in calcium and vitamin D like milk, greens and nuts, and beans.

So, make sure your teen has enough of the above in her daily diet.

Eating habits:

  • Teens don’t usually eat on time. They hem and haw during mealtimes and stop their bodies getting the nutrition it needs to grow.
  • Skipping meals also only feeds bingeing on junk food and stops the absorption of nutrients.

Your teen, thus should eat three square meals per day without skipping a meal. Snacking is not bad, as long as it’s healthy. ‘Growing’ foods like nuts and seeds can be consumed.

Exercise:

  • Activity is crucial to growth too.
  • Regular exercise is good because it keeps your teen’s metabolism healthy and supports digestion and appetite. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Dietitian/Nutritionist.
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