It is well-known that the maintenance of health is greatly dependent on adequate nutrition. Ensuring adequate nutrition to our expectant and nursing mothers and to our infants and children should receive the highest priority in any public health programme. Extensive diet and nutrition surveys, carried out in different parts of the country, have indicated the wide prevalence of malnutrition in mothers and children, specially of the poor socio- economic group. The improvement of nutrition of our people calls for a coordinated action in many fields. The combating of faulty dietary habits, arising from ignorance and superstition, is obviously an essential part of such a programme.
We have an impressive network of Health Centres and Maternal and Child Health Centres in our country. These are the obvious media through which nutrition education of these vulnerable groups should be attempted. As early as 1957, the Nutrition Advisory Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research recognised the need for the preparation of suitable nutrition education materials for use in the training of the auxiliary health personnel working in these Centres. The present booklet is an effort in this direction and is written in clear and simple language.
The booklet sets out the nutritional needs of the mother during pregnancy and lactation, and of the infant and the preschool child. It contains information regarding the diet for each of these groups and also practical ways of improving the present inadequate diets of the expectant and nursing women, infants and children, at different economic levels. The low-cost nutritious preparations for children, described in the booklet, have been demonstrated to a group of ruralmothers and later tested on their children, for acceptability and tolerance.
It is hoped that this booklet will serve a wider purpose than the training of the workers of the Health Centres, and will prove useful to the average Indian housewife in ensuring better health for herself and her child.
Women in the reproductive age group and growing children continue to be the most vulnerable groups to malnutrition, despite the implementation of several nutritional intervention programmes in the country. The research studies carried out at this Institute as well as in other centres have clearly underscored the need for improving the nutritional status of these population groups. The National Nutrition Policy guidelines also call for active cooperation of all the ministries and departments concerned and direct their activities towards improving the health and nutrition of these women and children.
The booklet deals with many aspects relating to the 'healthy diet' and nutritional needs of women and children. The tenets of sound nutrition during the vital phases of pregnancy, lactation and early childhood are discussed here in simple language devoid of any technical complexities. This booklet will be an effective educational aid for all those personnel involved in imparting health and nutrition education.
The low-cost nutritional recipes discussed in the booklet are easy to prepare and culture-specific. These recipes may also be tried out at the house- hold level to plan balanced meal for the entire family. We hope that the information provided in the revised edition of this popular publication will be useful to improve the nutritional status of young mothers and children.
I appreciate the efforts of Dr. B.A. Ramalakshmi and Dr. R. Hemalatha in updating the information provided in this revised edition.
Body needs certain essential 'nutrients' for its well-being. These essential materials, known as "nutrients" that are derived from food. Good food is indispensable for health at all stages of life and for satisfactory growth during infancy, childhood and adolescence. Wholesome food in adequate quantities is no less important for pregnant and nursing women since their nutrient requirements go up during these periods.
Functions of Food
Food provides energy to keep the body warm, the muscles active for work and play, and the various organs alert to carry out the daily activities. Food supplies body building nutrients needed for growth, while the foetus (unborn child) develops in the mother's womb, new tissues are being continuously built. This proceeds right through infancy, childhood and adolescence. Hence, during these stages of life, there is a tremendous demand for body building nutrients that are essential every day to replace the daily "wear and tear".
Food performs another important function in the body. This function for purposes of convenience is described as the Protective Function. Food is able to perform it by virtue of certain nutrients present in natural foodstuffs and required in minute quantities. There are a variety of these nutrients, each responsible for a specific task in the body. If the diet is deficient or lacking in one or more of these vital substances, it leads to derangement of the normal functioning of the different parts of the body, resulting in ill-health, stunted growth and imperfect development.
Based on the above considerations, foodstuffs may be broadly classified under three heads, viz., Energy-yielding, Body-building and Protective foodstuffs, according to the predominant role they play in sustaining life.
Energy-yielding foodstuffs form the great bulk of the ordinary diet. They supply energy to keep the body warm and are hence known as "fuel-food". A few examples of energy-yielding foodstuffs are cereals starchy vegetables, pulses, nuts, sugars and oils.
Body-building foodstuffs contain a satisfactory amount of the nutrients needed to build the body and replace the worn-out tissues. Milk and its products, meat, fish and eggs are the best representatives of this group of foodstuffs. The other examples are legumes, dals, dried beans, peas and nuts. Cereals also contain some body-building nutrients.
Protective foodstuffs provide large number of the protective substances needed by the body. Almost all natural foodstuffs contain one or most of these protective nutrients. There is, however, no single foodstuff in which all the different protective substances are present in quantities sufficient to meet the daily needs of the body. This is why a combination of different kinds of foodstuffs is essential in a diet. Best examples of this group of foodstuffs are green vegetables, fresh fruits, milk, meat, fish and eggs. These foodstuffs contain sufficient amounts of one or more of the protective nutrients so that a combination of them yields enough to maintain life.
Balanced Diet: In order to obtain adequate amounts of each of the different nutrients, our daily diet should include appropriate quantities of a variety of different foodstuffs. An unvaried diet is not only distasteful but may have serious consequences on health and recovery from disease. A diet in which various foodstuffs are mixed in suitable proportions to carry out adequately the three functions described above, is known as a balanced diet. Thus, a balanced diet provides all the nutrients in required amounts and proper proportions (Appendix 1).
The three food groups: On the basis of the predominant nutrient contained in foodstuffs, the latter are classified into the following Food Groups (Table 1). This grouping of foods may not be the ideal but it is practical and easy to follow. It serves as a general guide to chose a Balance Diet. It also provides information as to which of the different foodstuffs can be substitute for one that may be temporarily unavailable.
Staple food: All people consume one or the other energy rich foodstuffs like whole grain, cereals and millets. The most commonly consumed food is called the Staple Food. This staple food varies from region to region. It is generally observed that individuals and families may concentrate too much on eating large amount of the staple food exclude the foods from the other Sub-Groups. In order to meet their nutrient needs, every one should eat daily at least one food item in sufficient quantity from each of the several Sub-Groups (Table 1).
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