Children today are exposed to so many food choices and generally have a mind of their own regarding food preferences. And we are constantly wondering if today’s children are over nourished or undernourished. As parents, it is our duly to steer them towards good eating habits and proper food choices, in order to set the basis of a healthy adulthood.
Malnutrition – Overnutrition & Undernutrition
Wrong food habits and improper nutrition leads to malnutrition. The whole world today is reeling under the dual burden of malnutrition i.e. undernutrition and overnutrition. Both of these have serious health consequences.
Overnutrition is a result of overfeeding / overeating, wherein the child ingests more than what is required for his/her age. Overnutrition leads to childhood obesity, which is turn increases the risk of lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Undernutrition is a result of eating less that what is required by the body. It can lead to deficiencies of important nutrients which in turn have serious health implications.
Most of the times we assume that if our child is eating the right portions, he/she is eating healthy. But it is possible that the child looks healthy and still has deficiencies. Hence, a closer look is required to judge whether the child is getting enough of all the nutrients required for proper growth and good health.
Signs of Malnutrition
While the signs of overnutrition, like being overweight, are easy to spot, the signs of undernutrition are a bit difficult to spot. It is important to remember that a child can suffer from both at the same time i.e. he/she can be overweight and have deficiencies too.
Here are some tell tale signs to look out for –
- Failure to thrive
- Weight loss
- Low energy levels / fatigue
- Muscle wasting
- Dull skin and hair / Brittle nails
- Improper dental and bone development
- Recurrent and frequent infections
- Vision problems – night blindness / dryness
- Pica (eating/craving of non-edible/nonnutritive items like chalk, clay etc.)
- Depression / anxiety
Be observant and intervene if you see any of these signs in your child.
To ensure that our children grow up healthy, we need to ensure that they eat right. Having balanced meals with adequate amounts of carbs, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, fibre and water are a must for proper growth and development. Avoiding junk and processed foods and maintaining hygiene are also very important. Mealtime rules like chewing properly, no gadgets / distractions and food is not for reward / punishment should also be enforced to inculcate healthy eating habits.
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