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Nutritional Deficits A Teachers Lesson

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Nutritional Deficiency is caused by the absence of an essential nutrient (e.g. iron) in the body.

Physical Characteristics

The child may have:

  1. A pale complexion; skin that looks dull/rough.
    Could be a previous conditions of extreme deprivation, such as a refugee camp
  2. A body build/structure that deviates from the norm (bulging, bloated stomach; rib cage that protrudes; legs that are badly bowed; and so).
    Could be inherited (genetic)
  3. Poor posture; poor muscle tone; and/or poor coordination.
    Could be lack of exercise, problem with muscle development
  4. Poor or no appetite.
    Could be swollen adenoids (cannot smell; no sense of taste)
  5. An increasing loss of energy; lethargic reactions.
    Could be a stomach disorder or parental attitudes about food
  6. Frequent illness and infection.
    Could be tension/stress/lack of sleep, exposure to illness at home
  7. Frequent constipation or diarrhea; nausea.
    Could be chronic illness, infection or lack of immunity
  8. Upper respiratory infections; wheezing; stuffiness of the nose; sneezing; or eyes that look red or infected.
    Allergies, Leukemia, Diabetes


Behavioral Characteristics

The child may:

  1. Refuse to eat; be a selective, pick eater or have a depressed appetite
    Child may have inexperience with certain foods, or a different time pattern for eating meals.
  2. Have a short attention Span
    Attention Deficit Disorder
  3. Have hyperactive/hypoactive behavior.
    Learning Disabilities
  4. Lack motivation; have a poor self-concept
    Abuse/Neglect, metabolic imbalance
  5. Be sluggish or withdrawn; sleepy or irritable.
  6. Have poor visual motor coordination.
  7. Be frequently absent from school.


  • Check the child’s medical records; try to determine the possible cause of the observed condition.
  • Contact physician, nutritional specialist/health clinic, or child welfare organization if you are unable to communicate your concerns to the parents.
  • Provide nutritional snacks (cheese, fruit, vegetables).
  • Include nutritious foods in dishes that the child likes (sauces, puddings, casseroles). Try different methods of food preparation.
  • Serve the child small amounts of each type of food.
  • Encourage the child to taste everything but do not force or bribe.
  • Try to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the parents. If the parents are non-English speaking, you might try to obtain some nutritional information in their native language.
  • Do not punish or reward the child for eating; for instance, withholding dessert until she finishes a particular dish.
  • Try to make eating time relaxed and happy.
  • Encourage participation in noncompetitive games and physical activities that do not demand a great amount of physical energy.
  • Try to help the child extend the amount of time she spends at an activity (including meal time) – conversing, counting, discussing color, texture, and other aspects of the activity.
Ask Dr. Susan