The importance of nutrition starts even before we are born. Our prenatal body takes its share of nutrition from the mother’s body. After birth, our development which includes physical and mental both largely depends on our nutrition and diet. As we grow, the need for nutrition and content keeps changing. It is important to understand those changes in order to have appropriate growth and healthy aging.
Age 0 to 1 year
Breast milk is extremely important for this early period. Breast milk contains all essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as required. Infants can easily digest it. After six months one can start with infant formula. Start with solid food mostly mashed fruits, cereals, or vegetables in the latter part of the year. Adjust the quantity as per the child’s growth and need.
Age 1 to 2 years
Solid food is essential although breastfeeding can continue at this age. Solid food should be full of energy and balanced. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein source foods, and dairy.
Age 2 to 8 years
We can divide the plate into essential food items. Between 2 to 8 years, it is essential to consume as required. Understand the child’s hunger and fullness needs well to avoid over and under-eating.
- Fruits : 1 to 2 cup
- Vegetables : 1 to 2 cup
- Grains : 100 grams to 150 grams
- Proteins rich food : 50 grams to 70 grams
Apply the following points:
- Child must get a good activity time of 30 min to 1 hour.
- Vegetables and fruits must be varied so that all color food is consumed. Different color foods has different nutrients.
- Half of the grains eaten should be whole grains.
- Set good example to kids by eating a balanced diet.
- Allow child to interact with food selection.
- Avoid processed food.
Age 9 to 18 years
This age group needs different quantities for boys and girls. Although essentially the contents of the plate remain the same however quantities will increase with age
- Fruits : Girls 1.5 cup/ Boys 1.5 cup to 2 cup
- Vegetables : Girls 2 to 2.5 cups/ Boys 2.5 to 3 cups
- Grains : Girls 50 grams to 125 grams/ Boys 70 grams to 140 grams
- Proteins : 1 gram equivalent to body weight in kg for both
Apply the following points:-
- Child must get at least 1 hour of good physical activity.
- More active children have higher need of proteins and other nutrients.
- Variety is the keep to balanced diet.
- Promote healthy eating as that will become a lifetime habit.
- Low fat, sodium and added sugar diet is important.
Adults from 19 to 30 years
This age group is the period of youth wherein the growth graph initially goes up and then slowly flattens. It is essential to maintain a good nutritional diet in order to slow down or delay the setting of the degenerative growth period.
- Fruits : 2 cups
- Vegetables : 2.5 cups to 3 cups
- Grains : 160 grams to 200 grams depending on weight and height
- Proteins : at least 0.8 to 1.0 time equivalent to body weight in grams.
Active individuals need higher protein which can go as high as 2.5 times the value
Adults from 30 to 50 years
This group starts to see a decline in both muscle mass as well as bone density. You can slow down the aging process by having a nutritional diet and an active life.
- Fruits : 1.5 to 2 cups
- Vegetables : 2.5 to 3 cups
- Grains : 160 to 200 grams
- Proteins : at least 1 time equivalent of body weight in grams.
Active individuals will need more.
The following points need to be applied for the age group 19 to 50 years:
- Recommended physical activity of 30 minutes per day must be practiced.
- Processed food, sodium, saturated fat and sugar should be reduced to negligible values.
- Home cooked food should always be preferred.
- Eat food slowly and give time to the system to send signal of fullness. Overeating is very dangerous.
- Avoid stress and practice yoga or meditation. Reading or any other hobby is also beneficial.
Age 50 years and beyond
It is most important to have a healthy, stress less and active aging. This ensures that quality of life remains high till very late. The importance of nutrition and a balanced diet is vital. The requirements of the plate are similar to the age group between 30 to 50 years as mentioned above although the quantity of intake may reduce. It is important to maintain muscle mass and bone density in healthy brackets. Hence physical activity is a must. Among physical activity, running/ walking, weight training, and yoga are the most recommended ones.