Healthy Diet Starts with Nutrition


FEATURE STORY


Ensuring that the baby’s first 1000 days are given the right attention is just a start of a lifelong journey towards a healthy life. Adults need also proper nutrition, and this can be an issue these days with many people going into fad diets, or indulging in unhealthy foods, which can produce some degree of malnutrition.

Consuming a healthy diet throughout the life-course helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions. However, increased production of processed food, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns. People are now consuming more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and salt/sodium, and many people do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.

The age, gender, lifestyle, and degree of physical activity may vary from one person to another but having a healthy diet remains a basic principle.

The best way to start off a life that is healthy and well is through changing the way we look at our food intake. Here’s a healthy diet guide from the World Health Organization for adults and children so they can make the most out of the food they take:

For infants and young children

In the first 2 years of a child’s life, optimal nutrition fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development. It also reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life.

Advice on a healthy diet for infants and children is similar to that for adults, but the following elements are also important:

• Infants should be breastfed exclusively during the first six months of life.
• Infants should be breastfed continuously until 2 years of age and beyond.
• From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient-dense foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.

For adults

• Eat fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice).
• At least 400 g (i.e. five portions) of fruit and vegetables per day, excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots.
• Less than 10 percent of total energy intake from free sugars, which is equivalent to 50 g (or about 12 level teaspoons) for a person of healthy body weight consuming about 2000 calories per day, but ideally is less than 5 percent of total energy intake for additional health benefits. Free sugars are all sugars added to foods or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
• Less than 30 percent of total energy intake from fats. Unsaturated fats (found in fish, avocado and nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) and trans-fats of all kinds, including both industriallyproduced trans-fats (found in baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods, such as frozen pizza, pies, cookies, biscuits, wafers, and cooking oils and spreads) and ruminant trans-fats (found in meat and dairy foods from ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep, goats and camels). It is suggested that the intake of saturated fats be reduced to less than 10 percent of total energy intake and transfats to less than 1 percent of total energy intake. In particular, industrially-produced trans-fats are not part of a healthy diet and should be avoided.
• Less than 5 g of salt (equivalent to about one teaspoon) per day. Salt should be iodized.

Source: World Health Organization

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