Increasing evidence points to a fundamental role of early nutrition on rates of growth and development, and later health. We may identify three major fields of scientific interest and clinical application. (1) In developing countries poor growth is associated with greater risk of morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, mainly lower respiratory infections and diarrhea. In these settings, failure to promote compensatory growth may have negative short-term consequences, and the nutritionist's task is the primary prevention of nutrient deficiencies to promote the full expression of the individual genetic potential, while allowing for recovery of early secondary functional deficiencies. (2) A second challenge for nutritionists is represented by the approach to growth impairments in rare disorders, ranging from congenital disorders to chronic infections. Most disorders are favorably influenced by improved nutritional status and better growth, and patients may satisfactorily reach adolescence, pubertal and reproductive age, up to ageing. Even for the less positive conditions, an improvement in the quality of life for families is in any case a rewarding aim. (3) A third challenge is represented by the definition of the role of nutrition on growth in physiological conditions for all individuals. Concern has been raised about the potential adverse long-term consequences of accelerated child growth rates, possibly resulting in a predisposition to develop non-communicable chronic diseases in the adult age. Accordingly, this hypothesis might explain the benefits of breastfeeding in terms of slower early growth, and the fetal origins hypothesis in terms of adverse postnatal catch-up growth in infants born small. Therefore, growth as viewed by a pediatric nutritionist perspective is a complex matter, ranging from the early stages of intrauterine development up to adult ages and ageing processes. Cost/benefit analyses of interventions on growth such as cost per DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) or QALYs (quality-adjusted life years) should be expanded on population basis and extended also to congenital and invalidating disorders to identify the most effective and economic sustainable strategies of action.