Before we discuss the signs of malnourished preschoolers, let’s first clarify what malnutrition means.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition doesn’t just refer to nutritional deficiencies; it also covers excesses and imbalances. Essentially, below are the 3 broad groups of malnutrition:
- Undernutrition, which includes underweight, wasting, and stunting
- Micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies and excess
- Overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related non-communicable diseases like diabetes
The bottom line is, malnutrition is not confined to underweight children or those with short stature. If your preschooler has a higher-than-normal weight, and if they are experiencing signs of a specific micronutrient deficiency, they might also be malnourished.
Malnourished Preschoolers: Signs to Watch Out For
Below are the signs that parents must keep an eye on to spot malnutrition in their kids:
A common sign of malnutrition is unintentional weight loss, which is usually more than 10% of their weight.
The best way to check if your child is losing weight is by getting their weight and plotting it monthly in their height-for-weight growth chart. Additionally, you can check if their clothes are getting loose, such as when they now need to use belts when they didn’t need to before.
A decrease in percentile for weight-for-height in the growth chart usually means your child is suffering from acute malnutrition or low body mass index (BMI); it typically happens when the child doesn’t consume enough healthy foods or develops illnesses or infections.
Too much weight gain
If your child’s weight is more than the expected weight for their height or age, it might also be a case of malnutrition.
Some overweight and obesity cases happen because the child overeats on a regular basis, doesn’t exercise enough, or both. Consider setting mealtime schedules to avoid unnecessary snacks, avoiding high-calorie diet, sugary foods and sweets, and consumption of fatty foods, and help them exercise by engaging them in fun, physical activities.