Humans need a wide range of nutrients to lead a healthy and active life. For providing these nutrients, good nutrition or proper intake of food in relation to the body’s dietary needs is required. An adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity is a cornerstone of good health. Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.
A healthy diet consumed throughout the life-course helps in preventing malnutrition in all its forms as well as wide range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. But rapid urbanization/globalization, increased consumption of processed foods and changing lifestyles has led to a shift in dietary patterns. Visit https://www.outlookindia.com/outlook-spotlight/best-nootropic-supplements-top-6-nootropic-stacks-in-the-us-news-243814.
People are consuming more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars or salt/sodium, and many do not eat enough fruits, vegetables and dietary fibers such as whole grains. So, these all factors are contributing to an imbalanced eating. A balanced and healthy diet will vary depending on the individual needs (e.g. age, gender, lifestyle, degree of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods and dietary customs but the basic principles of what constitute a healthy diet remain the same.
A balanced diet is one which contains variety of foods in such quantities and proportion that the need of all nutrients is adequately met for maintaining health, vitality and general wellbeing and makes a small provision for extra nutrients to withstand short duration of leanness.
The major food issues of concern are insufficient/ imbalanced intake of foods/nutrients. One of the most common nutritional problems of public health importance in India are low birth weight, protein energy malnutrition in children, chronic energy deficiency in adults, micronutrient malnutrition and diet related non-communicable diseases. Health and nutrition are the most important contributory factors for human resource development in the country.
Healthy dietary practices begin early in life. Recent evidences indicate that under nutrition in utero may set the pace for diet related chronic diseases in later life. Breastfeeding promotes healthy growth and improves cognitive development, and may have longer-term health benefits, like reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life.
Since a healthy diet consists of different kinds of foods, the emphasis has been shifted from nutrient orientation to the food based approach. Foods can be categorized according to the function as-
- Energy rich foods (Carbohydrates and fats)-whole grain cereals, millets, vegetable oils, ghee, nuts and oilseeds and sugars.
- Body building foods (Proteins)- Pulses, nuts and oilseeds, milk and milk products, meat, fish, poultry.
- Protective foods (Vitamins and minerals) – Green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk and milk products and flesh foods.
Diet during different stages of Life
Nutrition is important for everyone. However, the requirement is different for every individual may it be an infant, growing child, pregnant/lactating women and elderly people. The diet varies from person to person depending upon various factors like age, gender, physical activity, nutritional requirement during different physiological stages of the body and other various factors. Body weights and heights of children reflect their state of physical growth and development, while weights and heights of adults represent steps taken towards good health.
Diet for an Infant:
If you have an infant or kid at your place, make sure that they get enough nutrition in their growing years of age. Babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Breast feeding should be started within an hour after delivery and do not discard first milk (colostrum), as it boosts the immunity of the baby and protects baby from several infections. Exclusive breast-feeding ensures safe nutrition to the infant thereby reducing the risk of infections and also helps in the overall development of the baby Breast-milk is the most natural and wholesome food for growth and healthy development of infants. Breast –fed infants do not need additional water. After six months, you can feed your baby with complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed. Complementary food should be rich in nutrients. These complementary foods can be prepared at home from commonly used food materials such as cereals (wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, etc.); pulses (grams/dals), nuts and oilseeds (groundnut, sesame, etc.), oils (groundnut oil, sesame oil etc.), sugar and jaggery. You can feed your baby to variety of soft foods like potatoes, porridge, cereals, or even eggs. According to WHO,
- Infants should be breastfed exclusively during the first 6 months of life.
- Infants should be breastfed continuously until 2 years of age and beyond.
- From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient dense complementary foods.
Infants cannot eat large quantities of food at a single time so they should be fed small quantities at frequent intervals (3-4 times a day). Also, the food should be of semi-solid consistency so that the infants can swallow it easily. A balanced diet is the key to protect your child against nutritional deficiencies. Protein Energy Malnutrition more commonly affects children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Malnutrition is defined as “a state of poor nutrition caused by insufficient or unbalanced diet”.
Points to Remember:
- Start breast-feeding within an hour after delivery and do not discard colostrum.
- Breast-feed exclusively (not even water) for six months.
- Continue breast-feeding in addition to nutrient-rich complementary foods preferably up to 2 years.
- Breast-milk alone is not enough for infants after 6 months of age. Complementary foods should be given after 6 months of age, in addition to breast-feeding.
- Feed low-cost home-made caloric and nutrient rich complementary foods.
- Observe hygienic practices while preparing and feeding the complementary food for infants.
- Read nutrition label on baby foods carefully as children are most prone to infections.
- Avoid junk foods.
Diet for a Growing Child:
Children who eat a balanced diet lay the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle and this further lowers the risk of long term health issues. Childhood is the most critical time for growth as well as for development of the mind and to fight infections. So, it is very essential that the children get a good dose of energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is very important to follow that hygienic practices are followed while preparing and feeding the complementary food to the child; otherwise, it might lead to diarrhoea. A well formulated balanced diet is necessary for children and adolescents to achieve optimum growth and boost their immunity. Balanced Diet, playing outdoors, physical activities of child are essential for optimum body composition and to reduce the risk of diet related chronic conditions later in life and to prevent any sort of vitamin deficiency. Adolescence has various other factors attached to it: rapid increase in height and weight, hormonal changes and mood swings.