Nutrition & Diet for Children: Simplified Meenakshi N Mehta, Nitin J Mehta
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IntroductionCHAPTER 1

Meenakshi Mehta
The importance of association of nutrition and health has been well known since ancient times. In Vedas—“Taittiriya Upanishad,” Annam Brahma has been quoted as meaning that the universe or life originates, subsists and merges with “Anna” —the food. In Ayurveda, the science of nutrition has been explained in detail with advice for proper food to be taken by individual for optimal health, growth and development.
Health is vital to the satisfaction of human needs and to an improved quality of life. The nations of the world have set the goal of a level of health of all citizens that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life. For this, good nutrition plays a pivotal role. Good nutrition forms the basic foundation of health and in particular for growth, development, survival and maintenance of health throughout life.
The first years of life are crucial in laying the foundation of good health. At this stage certain specific biological and psychological needs must be met to ensure the survival and healthy development of the child and future adult, which can be achieved only by good and optimal nutrition of the mother and child.
India has celebrated 65 years of Independence and we have to be proud of her achievements. The vital statistics although have improved considerably, the quality of life of almost one third of population is deplorable especially that of our children. The nutritional status of a sizable number of children is a cause of concern. More than half the children are malnourished and the most crucial period of malnutrition is 6 months to 2 years, as the first 6 months are usually protected by breastfeeding. This is due to poor understanding and lack of knowledge of the young child's food requirements during this period of rapid growth, and the common foods that can make up the intake deficit. The nutritional status, which means the condition of 2the body resulting from the use of food, good, fair or poor, depends on 3 factors (1) the kind of food one eats (2) the amount of food of one eats and (3) the body's ability to make use of these foods.
In poor families, rural and of urban slums, this is compounded by nonavailability of even daily required foods. Further in children nutrition, growth and development and inter current infections are intricately interlinked-aberrations of one aspect tend to significantly influence the others, resulting in poor optimal growth and development. To overcome this, good nutrition plays an indispensable role. There have been rapid advances in the medical knowledge of pediatric nutrition in epidemiological, biochemical, clinical and immunological and in particular commercial aspects yet there are wide gaps in their practical application of this knowledge by the health care professionals and practitioners in the developing world. The family physicians, the paramedics and nursing personnel who usually care for the welfare of the children are either unaware of this knowledge or unable to advice the proper and correct feeding practices from locally available, affordable yet nutritious foods to the most needy group—the children and their mothers, the women folk who are involved in the care of their children.
India is a country of villages in which about 70% people reside. Their income levels are low and about 1/3rd of population lives below the poverty line. It is well known from national surveys that a large number of people are able to eat less food and of suboptimal quality than they need, the worst sufferers being young children, and their pregnant and lactating mothers. The child in womb and the child at breast is affected by his/her mother's nutrition. The preschoolers and weaned infants from breast are the worst sufferers. Besides, over 30% of school children are malnourished. Next group of affected children are preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from nutritional deficiencies including that of micronutrients. This situation is worsened by gender bias for girls. Besides female feticide, infanticide and killing after birth, depriving them from food and nutrition, education, health care and medical care and early marriages lead them to vicious cycle of malnourished adolescent girl, young undernourished wife, young malnourished mother unequipped physically, nutritionally, sexually and mentally to care for her low birth weight baby or premature offspring or face still birth.
Malnutrition is more than a medical problem, it is related to the conditions of families and women; it has social, economic and political roots and it is closely associated with poverty. Differences in health status of mothers and children within and between countries are among the most telling, indicators of the socioeconomic disparities of today's world. Global development efforts as well as specific national and international policies and programs are urgently needed to deal effectively with the problem.
The future of any community or nation depends on the care given to the children. The government of India has placed high priority on improving the health and nutrition of children and national programs are being constantly improved. Although, good nutrition care requires more than just producing more food, food is the most important part of economy in a country like India.
Two important approaches are possible solutions to overcome this problem. The first is suitable literature which can be understood and followed by the basic cadre 3of health practitioners and the second is simple diets with recipes from locally available, affordable yet nutritious foods suitable for various states, communities and cultures of India as well as some other developing countries. An attempt is made to present these approaches in this book for use of those who need them the most, healthcare professionals and mothers who care forthe welfare of the children of our country.