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13.1: Introduction to Lifespan Nutrition (Pregnancy to the Toddler Years)

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    Learning Objectives

    • Describe the physiological basis for nutrient requirements from pregnancy through the toddler years.

    I maika‘i ke kalo i ka ‘ohā

    The goodness of the taro is judged by the young plant it produces

    fig 13.1.1.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    The Human Life Cycle

    Human bodies change significantly over time, and food is the fuel for those changes. For example, for Native Hawaiians, expecting mothers were encouraged to eat greens like the lu‘au (young taro leaves) and palula (young sweet potato leaves) to encourage a healthy, strong baby. These beliefs and customs practiced in the early stages of life were done in hopes of building a firm foundation and setting up lifelong health[1].

    People of all ages need the same basic nutrients—essential amino acids, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and twenty-eight vitamins and minerals—to sustain life and health. However, the amounts of nutrients needed differ. Throughout the human life cycle, the body constantly changes and goes through different periods known as stages. This chapter will focus on pregnancy, infancy and the toddler years. Chapter 14 will focus on childhood through adolescence and Chapter 15 will focus on the stages of adulthood. The major stages of the human life cycle are defined as follows:

    • Pregnancy: The development of a zygote into an embryo and then into a fetus in preparation for childbirth.
    • Infancy: The earliest part of childhood. It is the period from birth through age one.
    • Toddler years: Occur during ages two and three and are the end of early childhood.
    • Childhood: Takes place from ages four to eight.
    • Puberty: The period from ages nine to thirteen, which is the beginning of adolescence.
    • Older adolescence: The stage that takes place between ages fourteen and eighteen.
    • Adulthood: The period from adolescence to the end of life and begins at age nineteen.
    • Middle age: The period of adulthood that stretches from age thirty-one to fifty.
    • Senior years: or old age. Extend from age fifty-one until the end of life.
    fig 13.1.2.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Ultrasound image of a four-month-old fetus.


    1. Pukai MK, Handy ESC. The Polynesian Family System in Ka-‘u. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company; 1958.
    2. Polan EU, Taylor DR. Journey Across the LifeSpan: Human Development and Health Promotion. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company; 2003, 81–82.


    This page titled 13.1: Introduction to Lifespan Nutrition (Pregnancy to the Toddler Years) is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by The University of Hawaiʻi.

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