Being a mother I am always concerned about my child’s food intake. I strongly believe that the eating habits that children pick up when they are young will make them healthy adults and help them in leading a healthy lifestyle. My child being a picky eater every meal is a task in itself, on top of it making sure she eats healthy is another challenge. It’s like preparing for a war. However, at home I make sure she eats the freshest of ingredients but while travelling, there’s little we can do, so have to make peace with whatever we can. A little indulgence like maybe a burger once in a while is fine, when we are out of healthy options but I try not to make it a regular thing.
I try to limit her processed flour and sugar intake; try to include seasonal fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Aerated drinks are a strict no. Her school too propagates healthy eating and because of it she herself avoids pizzas and fries. I take efforts to feed her healthy but I often wonder am I doing enough.
With today’s ever changing world our children are exposed to so many new challenges every day, be it at school or at the many extracurricular activities they are involved in. To excel in these they need to be physically as well as mentally healthy. Thus a healthy diet plays a very important role in the overall development of a child.
Normally we only focus on the weight and overall physical growth of the child. We lose our sleep wondering whether they are meeting their physical growth milestones and for this we do our best to provide them with healthy and hygienic food. But is this enough. Are steps like cutting down on sugar and processed flour and replacing them organically grown foodstuffs enough in meeting the child’s nutritional needs?
It is said that 30%of the world’s malnourished children live in India. We normally associate malnourished with rural India but Micro–Nutrient Deficiency in urban India is steadily increasing due to nutrition ignorance, time limitations and over exposure of junk food around. Urban adults usually spend long hours at work to lead a better life but in the process succumb to the charms of packaged goods since its easily available, takes no efforts and less time-consuming. This results in malnutrition and Micro–Nutrient Deficiency in urban India.
Our body is complex and it needs a lot of nutrients to meet the daily need to function. Nutrients are essential for energy, growth and other functions of the body. Nutrients are of two types: Macro-nutrients and Micro-nutrients. Macro-nutrients are basically carbohydrates, proteins and fats that are required in large quantities for growth and for carrying out all the body functions. Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals that are required in small quantities but are as essential as micro-nutrients for both physical and mental well being.
Micro–Nutrient Deficiency poses a health risk that the urban children face today. It’s known as “Hidden Hunger” as it affects the body slowly but leaves irreparable damage. Since our main aim is that the child should look healthy we often overlook the mental well being of the child. Signs of micro-nutrient deficiencies like cognitive delays and weak immunity are generally ignored. Our diet largely stresses on – neglecting the Micro-nutrients causing Hidden Hunger in children. This goes on to say that a child with normal height and weight can also suffer from nutrition deficiency.
Micro Nutrients like Vitamins (A, B, B12, C) and minerals like Iron, Calcium, Iodine, Zinc if not consumed in required quantities causes micro-nutrients deficiency. Micro–Nutrient Deficiency affects more than 2 billion people worldwide and its only increasing.
The onset of Hidden Hunger can be seen in infants also who are fed with food lacking micro-nutrients. These infants can develop serious complications when they grow up. Hence proper nutrition intake is essential right from the early years. We think the child is eating healthy. But we need to ask ourselves whether the food is meeting the vitamin and minerals requirements of the child. If no, then serious nutrition planning needs to be done as malnutrition can affect the overall development of the child.
Regular screening and monitoring the child’s development should be carried out to detect early signs of Micro–Nutrient Deficiency. The nutrition planning should be done accordingly. More micro-nutrient fortified foods available easily at low rates can be helpful in curbing the deficiency. But the deciding factor I feel is awareness. Ignorance about micro-nutrient deficiency is the main reason why Hidden Hunger is rampant in urban India today. Once we know our enemy and ourselves, we can fight any battle.