This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
Too much attention cannot be given by teachers to the diet of the pupils under their care in boarding schools, and they should exercise some supervision in regard to the matter in day schools as well, for the subject is often ill understood by parents.
The age for training most school children is from the tenth to the seventeenth or eighteenth year. During the entire time both mind and body are undergoing development, which in many instances is exceedingly rapid, and in the midst of this period the condition of puberty is attained, which in itself requires additional care and watchfulness, especially in girls.
With the present system of kindergarten training the attendance at school of most children begins much younger than the age mentioned. Throughout the whole school period the growth of the body is continued until almost completed. The individual organs and structures increase in actual size, and there are unusual demands, therefore, upon the functions of absorption and assimilation. The food must be abundant and of the proper character to furnish new tissue and to yield energy in the form of heat and muscular activity. The former condition is met by a proper allowance of animal food in the diet, and the latter by sufficient hydrocarbona-ceous material. The food should also contain salts of lime, to meet the requirements of formation of the bones and teeth. While the material or structural development of the body progresses, there is also a marked development in the functions of the various organs; the muscles are trained to act with vigor and with proper co-ordination, and the nervous system is constantly receiving and storing new impressions and regulating their transmission and the proper relations of inhibitory and reflex actions. The metabolic processes of the body are extremely active and the digestive secretions are vigorous.
To maintain the proper standard, therefore, of growth and development requires care in the selection of the right quantity and quality of "fuel" or food for the body, and the lack of such care too often lays the foundation for future disease, or results in an enfeebled constitution with greatly diminished resisting power of coping with emergencies which may arise.
Many children inherit feeble constitutions or diatheses, such as the tuberculous, which must be combated throughout the whole period of childhood. Such children are better kept at home, where they can be under constant observation and proper dietetic treatment, or country schools can be found for them where such matters are made the subject of special consideration.
Many cases of anaemia and chlorosis, which are so commonly seen in young girls during or shortly after the attainment of the condition of puberty, are directly traceable to malnutrition from faulty diet. Girls take much less exercise than boys, as a rule, and are more apt to become constipated. This difficulty may be enhanced by a lack of sufficient fresh vegetables or fruit in their diet, and if prolonged it is enough in itself to cause anaemia. The latter may also be brought about by insufficient good animal food. It should be the imperative duty of every head master of a school for children to realise the responsibilities of rightly developing the physical constitutions of those entrusted to his care, and to make a thorough study of the questions of dietetics involved. He should remember that the mind keeps on developing long after the body, and that the period under discussion is one in which the constitution of the individual is established for the remainder of life, and success in digestion and assimilation is of greater importance than success in mental attainments.