The young and the old celebrate during the month of October! It is child’s month and the month of the elderly. What an opportune time to focus on nutrition throughout the life cycle.
Energy and nutrients needs change over the life cycle being greatest during the body’s period of growth (pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence). The need for energy declines after growth spurts while some nutrients may increase or decrease. In older adults the need for some nutrients (e.g Vitamin D) increase, while others like iron or energy decrease. Compared to adulthood, the need for nutrients are higher relative to body size during infancy.
Food choices also vary across the life cycle being influenced by social, economic, psychological, physiological and leisure changes. For example children may be influenced by the foods advertised on the television and ask their parents to purchase these foods.
A teenager on the other hand may be more concerned with the opinion of their peers and body image, while adults are more likely to make choices based on their health needs.
Pregnant women should ensure that they eat well to guarantee positive birth outcomes. Since the critical periods for the development of important organs like the central nervous system, occurs even before a woman may know she is pregnant it is important to start well.
Lifestyle and poor nutrition habits during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight babies (less than 5½ pounds) that are more likely to have medical complications.
Generations ago, breast milk was the preferred feeding method for babies. As formula became readily available, and more mothers work outside of home, formula seem to have replaced breast milk. Research shows that breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby.
Child month, is a good time to return to exclusive breast feeding. Breast milk is custom made to meet your baby’s nutrient needs in the correct proportions.
As the child grows older introduce a variety of nutritious local foods. Respect the small stomachs and feed them small frequent meals, with snack between long breaks. Encourage good eating habits and avoid using food as a reward.
Poor or inappropriate eating habits during adolescence increases the risk of obesity, and obesity related conditions, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as micronutrient deficiencies like iron deficiency anaemia. So it is important to make wise food choices during those years.
Overall health does not depend on a single food or meal, but on making good nutritional choices at every stage of the life cycle. At each stage in the life cycle it is important to adjust diet and physical activity to meet these changing needs. Remember
*eat a variety of nutritious foods with plenty of vegetables;
*limit the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in the diet; and exercise regularly.
Celebrate this month by investing nutrition. Help your school-aged children and adolescents make right choices by being a good role model. Be mindful of the choices you make and how those choices affect your health both now and in the future.
Grenada Food and Nutrition Council