A child’s height and build are dependent on their genetic makeup. It means that not all kids can grow as tall as they want to, no matter how healthy they eat. But it is essential to give your children the right kind of food to support their growth and promote an average height for their age.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the foods that could aid in the child’s overall physical development, which also includes a healthy increase in height.
Can A Child’s Height Be Increased?
A child’s height mostly depends on the height of their parents and other close relatives.
Children grow at their own pace, and the rate of their height growth can significantly increase during puberty. After puberty, both boys and girls are likely to gain two inches (five centimeters) in height every year (1). However, the final, adult height of the child can depend on several factors, including genetics that plays a significant role (2).
However, the lack of nutrition could hinder the child’s growth and prevent them from attaining the average height for their age (3). Therefore, providing nutrient-rich foods is essential to help the child attain the right height.
Nutrients Required To Help A Child Grow Taller
During growth years, children need a well-balanced diet and exercise for their overall growth. However, there are some specific nutrients that are required in increased amounts to ensure an increase in height.
- Protein: The reference value for protein intake is 0.9 g/kg/day for boys (3-18 years) and girls (3-15 years) (4). Ensure to provide the recommended amount from a variety of sources, especially those with high protein content.
- Carbohydrates: Increased calories are required for children to grow. Thus, a balanced carbohydrate intake from complex carbohydrate sources must be consumed. Whole grains and millets are some of the healthy sources. Avoid simple carbohydrates, like those from sugary food items, since it could increase the risk of childhood obesity.
- Vitamins: All vitamins are essential for growth and sustenance. However, some specific vitamins, such as vitamin D and vitamin B-complex, can impact your child’s height directly. Thus, ensure to meet the recommended intake of all the vitamins.
- Minerals: Minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, and fluoride are essential for the growth of your child. Several fruits and vegetables are rich in minerals, along with meat and dairy products. An adequate intake of minerals helps regulate healthy growth and height gain.
In case, the daily requirement for these nutrients is not met, then the chances of growth stunting increases. Growth failure could occur in extreme cases of nutritional deficiencies.
Best Foods To Increase A Child’s Height
A balanced diet with enhanced intake of certain nutrients is important to promote growth in children. Below is a list of some foods that you could add to your child’s diet on a regular basis to ensure optimum growth in height (and weight).
An egg provides almost 6.5 grams of protein and has almost all the essential amino acids in it (4) (5). This makes egg a source of complete protein that is required for skeletal growth of children (6). Besides, it has several other nutrients like vitamin D, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and iodine that helps in overall growth and development of children (7).
The protein, vitamins such as vitamin-D and minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in whole milk support bone development (8). Whole milk has more nutrients than the skimmed versions. Thus, children should be served whole milk or products made of whole milk unless they are advised otherwise due to weight issues such as childhood obesity.
Consider including products made from soybean in the child’s diet. A few examples of soybean products are soy flour, soy chunks, tofu, and soy milk. Soybeans are high in protein that is considered equivalent to animal protein (9). This makes an excellent protein source for vegans. Regular consumption of soy may help improve bone health (10).
4. Red meat
Red meat is rich in protein and several micronutrients, including iron (11) that is essential to prevent anemia. Anemia, in turn, can cause weakness and may affect a child’s growth. However, red meat is also rich in saturated fat, so it is good to limit its consumption to a moderate level. Trim all the visible fat before cooking to lower the total fat content in red meat further.
5. Lean meat
Fish and skinless chicken are ideal options for lean meat, which is rich in protein but low in saturated fat. Other lean meat options such as turkey can also be served to children.
Beans are also rich in protein while being low in fat content (12). Most beans also contain a good amount of calcium and dietary fiber, which is essential for a growing child. Some of the high protein beans that you can try for your children are pinto, kidney, pink, red, blak, and cranberry.
7. Leafy vegetables
Leafy vegetables are a good source of calcium for children who do not consume milk due to lactose intolerance or dietary choices (13). Leafy vegetables are also a good source of vitamin K that is essential for bone health (14). Some of the calcium-rich leafy vegetables that can be added to your children’s daily diet are turnip greens, bok choy, kale, amaranth, collard greens, and watercress.
Nuts contain a mix of protein and calcium (15). Besides, they provide good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that may improve bone and joint health (16). You can consider adding an assortment of nuts to the child’s diet. A few examples of nuts that contain the right amount of protein are almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
Most seeds contain protein, and some of them even contain minerals such as calcium. For example, chia seeds contain calcium (17). Other seeds like sesame seeds can be roasted or used raw in salads. You can also include seed oils in the child’s diet for a healthy increase in height.
Grains may not contain much calcium but can be a source of magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in promoting bone health (18). Include an assortment of grains in your child’s diet. Use whole grain that comes with the husk, a good source of fiber. Some of the whole grains that are a good source of calcium and magnesium are oats, barley, and pseudocereals like buckwheat and quinoa.
11. Mineral-rich fruits
Fruits are not often associated with minerals, but some fruits contain an adequate amount of calcium and other minerals required for the healthy growth of the bones. Examples of fruits with calcium content are oranges, apricots, kiwi, and pineapple (19) (20) (21) (22). Include a wide variety of fruits into your children’s diet to attain optimum growth.
A well-planned, balanced diet, and regular exercise could help your child to grow in length. Moreover, it would also help keep chronic conditions like childhood obesity at bay. However, in case you do not see any results, visiting a doctor would is advisable.
Reasons Why A Child Is Not Growing In Height
Your child’s height is an important marker of nutritional status and physical development (23). Besides genetic makeup and diet, there could be several other reasons for a child to exhibit delayed growth. Below are some possible reasons that are worth a check.
- Constitutional growth delay: Children with this condition grow at a normal rate. However, they are shorter than average. They usually exhibit delayed bone growth and tend to reach puberty late. Due to this, such children have a below-average height in the teenage years, but then they tend to catch up with their peers in adulthood (24).
- Growth hormone deficiency: Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone that helps in normal growth and development. In cases where a child has partial or complete GH deficiency, stunting is observed (25).
- Hypothyroidism: It is a common endocrine disorder caused by an underactive thyroid gland. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient thyroid hormone, thus leading to conditions such as fatigue, weight gain, decreased growth, etc. (26).
- Turner syndrome: It is one of the common genetic conditions in girls caused by a complete or partial absence of the X chromosome during embryonic development. The most prominent features of the condition are short height and premature ovarian failure (27).
Besides some of the most probable reasons mentioned above, certain less likely causes are Down syndrome, skeletal dysplasia, and certain types of anemia, like sickle cell anemia.
The food that your child eats significantly influences several components of their health, including their ability to grow tall. However, it is not the only factor to determine their height. Rather than focusing on foods to help them grow tall, focus on giving them nutritious food that keeps them healthy at all times. When the child gets enough nutrition and adequate physical activity, they will grow into healthy adults with ideal weight and height.
What foods have you added to your child’s diet to increase their height? Do share with us in the comments section below.
2. Is height determined by genetics?; U.S. National Library of Medicine
3. Short stature; U.S. National Library of Medicine
4. Agneta Hornell et al.; Protein intake from 0 to 18 years of age and its relation to health: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations; National Center for Biotechnology Information
5. Yes, It Really Is Incredible – The Induspitably Potent Protein Eggs Supply; American Egg Board
6. Jamie I. Baum et al.; The effect of egg supplementation on growth parameters in children participating in a school feeding program in rural Uganda: a pilot study; National Center for Biotechnology Information
7. 5 reasonHow to increase children’s heights to add eggs to the menu; University of Utah
8. S. Rozenberg et al., Effects of dairy products consumption on health; National Center for Biotechnology Information
9. Soy; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. A. J. Lanou, Soy foods: Are they useful for optimal bone health?; National Center for Biotechnology Information
11. Macronutrients & Micronutrients; Pomana College
12. All about beans nutrition, health benefits, preparation and use in menus; North Dakota State University
13. Calcium: What’s best for your bones and health?; Harvard T.H. Chan
14. Hip fractures and leafy vegetables; Tufts University
15. How to eat nuts the healthy way; Harvard Medical School
16. Naroa Kajarabille et al.; A New Insight to Bone Turnover: Role of ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids; National Center for Biotechnology Information
17. Nature’s best seeds; Bastyr University
18. Osteoporosis facts & recipes; University of Illinois
19. Oranges; United States Department of Agriculture
20. Apricots; United States Department of Agriculture
21. Kiwifruit; United States Department of Agriculture
22. Pineapple; United States Department of Agriculture
23. Fafard St-Germain and Siddiqi; The Relation Between Household Food Insecurity and Children’s Height in Canada and the United States: A Scoping Review.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
24. Constitutional Growth Delay; National Center For Biotechnology Information
25. Growth Hormone Deficiency Symptoms & Causes; Boston Children’s Hospital
26. Hypothyroidism; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
27. Kateri McCarthy and Carolyn A Bondy; Turner syndrome in childhood and adolescence; National Center For Biotechnology Information
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