NUTRITION CORNER: Proper nutrition is essential during childhood

Children who consume foods that are low in nutrition suffer negative consequences that greatly affect their lives. Nutrition is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development that have crucial ties to their level of health as adults.

From birth to age 5, the child’s body goes through its most rapid growth. The child’s body transitions from crawling to walking and then to running and playing sports. This is the time when he has to develop strong bones and muscles, obtains a healthy height and weight, and does not have nutritional deficiencies.

Good nutrition should be inculcated in the child during childhood because this is the time period when life long habits are formed.

Calcium from milk, cheese and yogurt helps to strengthen the child’s bones as they grow bigger and taller. Protein from foods like eggs and peanut butter fuels the muscles so kids play without damaging muscle tissue. Good nutrition habits like eating fruits and vegetables every day and limiting sugar intake prevents childhood obesity related problems that can last an entire lifetime for the child.

Parents who understand how important healthy foods are can give their children a head start in making a healthy life for themselves. If children are taught early good nutrition practices by their parents, they are less likely to be over-nourished and become obese.

Foods that are considered to be of poor nutritional quality are those that are high in fat, calories, salt, sugar and cholesterol. This includes fast food, processed snacks, candy, cake, cookies, soda, and frozen meals. If the child is raised to eat freely these low nutrient foods, he is at risk of being deficient in nutrients that may result in inadequate physical growth that may hamper his potential for future achievements. Poor nutrition limits the body’s ability to resist infection and adds to the risk of developing chronic illnesses later in his life.

Results of the 7th National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2008 by the FNRI-DOST showed an increase in the prevalence of undernutrition.

There was a significant increase in the proportion of 0-5 year old children who were underweight, from 24.6 percent in 2005 to 26.2 percent in 2008. Among 6-10 year old children, underweight prevalence rose significantly from 22.8 percent in 2005 to 25.6 percent in 2008.

It is therefore of great importance to achieve nutritional well-being among children but this requires broad action on many issues, such as access to food, clean water, food safety, promoting healthy diet and lifestyle, regular monitoring of nutritional status and incorporating nutrition objectives into development policies and programs.#