Good nutrition is needed for normal growth and development. However, it is not only provision of food that is necessary for energy and nutrients to be consumed, absorbed, and utilized optimally by the body: physical and mental health, emotion, and the overall environment in which children are fed affect what is eaten and how food is utilized. As a result complex interactions involving 'nature' and 'nurture' influence nutrition in children who are essentially healthy and those who are ill.

'Child' and 'children' are not specific terms, as the age at which individuals are defined as adults rather than children varies with the circumstances. Children under 1 year of age, or infants, are considered separately in this encyclopedia, as is nutrition in adolescents. In the following discussion, the term 'children' refers to individuals between infancy and the onset of puberty, i.e., roughly between 1 and 10 years of age.

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