By Dr Anjul Dayal, MBBS, DNB (Pediatrics), FISCCM ( Fellowship in Ped Crit Care)
Senior Consultant Pediatrician & Pediatric Intensivist, Ankura hospital for women & Children
Just as a small plant requires an adequate amount of manure and water to gradually burgeon into a tree so also the human body requires adequate nutrition for the development of overall health, and physical and mental development from childhood days. But unfortunate as it may sound a sizeable population mostly children suffer from malnutrition due to a lot of reasons.
Nutrition plays a vital role in developing a child’s health and in turn, developing him or her physically and mentally. Healthy youngsters learn better. People who eat well are more productive and can help to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.
Malnutrition, in all its forms, poses serious risks to human health. Today, the globe faces a twin burden of malnutrition, including both undernutrition and obesity, particularly in low- and middle-income nations. Malnutrition can take several forms, including undernutrition (wasting or stunting), a lack of vitamins or minerals, being overweight or obese, and the consequent diet-related noncommunicable diseases. The global burden of malnutrition has substantial and long-term developmental, economic, social, and medical consequences for individuals and families, communities, and governments.
According to the 2016-2025 nutrition strategy, WHO uses its convening power to help set, align, and advocate for global nutrition priorities and policies; develops evidence-informed guidance based on robust scientific and ethical frameworks; supports guidance adoption and implementation of effective nutrition actions; and monitors and evaluates policy and program implementation and nutrition outcomes.
Children require the proper nutrition at the proper times in order to grow and develop to their maximum potential. The 1,000-day period from conception to a child’s second birthday is the most crucial for optimal nutrition.
Early Diet: Focus on breastfeeding
Breastfeeding saves lives, protects infants from disease, promotes brain development, and provides children with a safe and healthy food supply during their first two years of life. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that infants begin nursing within one hour of birth, that they be exclusively breastfed during the first six months, and that they continue breastfeeding until they are two years old or older.
Introduction of first foods:
At the age of 6 months, children need to begin eating their first foods. Young children should be fed frequently and in adequate quantities throughout the day, and their meals must be nutrient-dense and comprised of a variety of food groups. Caregivers should prepare and feed meals with clean hands and dishes, and interact with their child to respond to his or her hunger signals.
Incorporating different food groups for a balanced healthy diet and variety for kids
Children’s first diets are frequently bland and lacking in energy and nutrition. One in every three children aged 6-23 months worldwide consumes the minimum diversified diet required for optimal growth and development. Grains dominate young children’s diets, with little fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy, fish, or meat. Many people are being fed sugary drinks and packaged snacks that are heavy in salt, sugar, and fat, this is not healthy.
Poor diets in early childhood can result in vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin A deficiency, which weakens children’s immune, increases their chance of blindness, and can lead to mortality from common childhood ailments such as diarrhoea.
Nutrition for kids is based on the same ideas as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of things, such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are called nutrients. Children need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages.
The best eating pattern for a child’s growth and development considers the child’s age, activity level, and other characteristics.
Ankura Hospital recommends the consumption of nutrient-dense foods with the required amount of nutrition for the overall development of both mind and body as they grow up. The food items should have limited sugar, saturated fats, or salt added to them. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods helps kids get the nutrients they need while limiting overall calories.
The nutrients that the doctors of Ankura Hospital recommend both parents and kids focus on are listed below:
Protein: Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Fruits: Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits. Look for canned fruit that says it’s light or packed in its own juice. This means it’s low in added sugar. Keep in mind that 1/4 cup of dried fruit counts as one serving of fruit.
Vegetables: Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried vegetables. Choose peas or beans, along with colorful vegetables each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for ones that are lower in sodium.
Grains: Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread or pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice.
Dairy: Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Fortified soy beverages also count as dairy.
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Meeting a child’s nutritional needs in childhood can be difficult, and many parents experience challenges in providing healthy, safe, economical, and age-appropriate meals for their children. These difficulties are exacerbated during conflicts, natural disasters, and other humanitarian emergencies.
Therefore, to conclude it must be said that a healthy childhood with proper nutrition is the order of the day and ultimately it is this healthy childhood that works as the foundation for a stronger and reliable tomorrow.