A good and balanced diet is essential for physical growth, intellectual development and defense from various diseases in children. Furthermore children with chronic conditions oftentimes need to have special, adapted additional nutrition.
Many children who come to NPH arrive from very poor backgrounds and due to environmental threats, lack the basic needs to develop properly. This can be absence of emotional and physical care, scarcity of food, lack of hygiene, healthcare or schooling; all conditions and situations affecting the proper child’s development The majority suffer from undernutrition or not an appropriate diet. The most frequent food related problem is anemia and its main cause is iron deficiency but also micronutrients.
NPH takes an important role in solving these issues. Children who are underweight sometimes need calorie supplements for a certain time. Those with anemia, according to the severity, have to take iron supplements for a few months. But it is not always necessary to give supplements to children. It is even more important to provide a balanced diet and treat conditions that cause malnutrition. In the case of anemia e.g., it is necessary to provide treatment against worms, parasites or malaria. Thus the child can recover from these deficiencies and improve their intellectual and physical development as well as their concentration.
- The main source of iron is red meat and viscera, but also black beans, lentils and red fruits contain iron and together with Vitamin C the absorption can be increased.
- The main nutritional components are carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
- The diet must include 55% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 15% protein.
- There are several vitamins and minerals, called micronutrients that the body needs in smaller quantities but which are essential for the metabolism.
- The deficiency of vitamins can cause serious illness, but also some vitamin overdose can cause damage to the body’s metabolism.
So it is always very important to provide a balanced diet and include vitamins in adequate amounts. It is always better to consume vitamins through raw vegetables, milk products or fruit instead of supplements.
Providing good nutrition to children and being a good example from the beginning helps children to develop good nutritional habits and prevent various diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, bulimia or anorexia in adulthood.
A good diet should be
- Complete (containing all the nutrients the organism needs, combining them at every meal)
- Varied (combining all types of food at each meal of the day)
- Balanced (nutrients must be within the correct proportions)
- Enough (covering the energy requirements to achieve an adequate growth and development)
- Harmless (hygienic and free of contaminants or pathogens)
- Adequate (according to the age, sex, body size, activity, culture etc.).
- Distributed in 4-5 times a day, having the breakfast one of the most important meals with almost 25% of the daily intake of nutrients
It is recommended to drink enough water, especially during the summer. Furthermore the sugar ingestion should be as small as possible to avoid tooth decay, overweight and related diseases as well as avoid salt in excess.
Contributed by: NPHI Medical Services Team