Recent global data indicates that 25% of children under the age of five (i.e. 161 million) have stunted growth. But fear not! A study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics has shown that slowed growth doesn’t have to be permanent, with kids as old as three and four years successfully catching up through nutritional intervention and dietary counseling.

You can spot signs of slowed growth in your child and help them catch up to their potential through a balanced diet that includes important nutrients to support growth.

Here are some nutrition tips to practice in order to keep your child healthy and active.

Growth requires energy – herein lies the first tip. A child needs to consume foods rich in calories to fuel the energy they spend on a daily basis and underweight children need extra calories to catch up.

Increase your child’s iron intake. In periods of growth, the body is highly dependent on iron. Iron intake both through foods and nutrient supplements can help an iron deficient child and jumpstart his growth. Iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, peas and fortified cereals.

Proteins, proteins and more proteins! Proteins play a crucial role in several of body functions and are very important for a child’s physical and cognitive development. They can be found in dairy products, meat, beans and more.

Zinc plays an important role in cell growth, and in children, deficiency can slow overall growth and may also reduce resistance to infections. Zinc should be added to a child’s daily diet; foods containing zinc include beef, spinach, cheese and wheat.

Lastly, Vitamin D also known as the sunshine vitamin may not sound like much but it is actually critical for the body’s absorption of calcium and healthy bone formation. Bolster your child’s vitamin D intake with extra outdoor playtime and if supplements are needed add vitamin rich foods like dairy products and mushrooms to his diet.

Nutrition and child development are closely connected, and though it might be easy to fall behind, it can be just as simple to catch up again with these tips in mind.

Stay tuned for more health and nutrition tips!