Nutrition can be defined as the study of how the food we eat works in our bodies. Different kinds of food play different roles in ensuring the normal growth both physically and mentally and also the normally day by day functioning of the body. Proteins plays major role in body building, vitamins play role in body defense and Carbohydrates plays a vital role as fuel for the body’s energy requirements etc. Hence there is need for one to ensure proper balanced diet in their diet to ensure optimal growth and development. Proper nutrition has been shown to ensure normal growth and development in children from earlier childhood through of Adolescence to adulthood. It has also been shown from studies that good childhood nutrition plays a vital role in the adulthood productivity of an individual that is people who received proper nutrition during their childhood are more productive as compared to those who did not receive proper nutrition. Hence childhood nutrition has far reaching impact on an individual’s entire life (Dasgupta, 22).
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Since the vital role of proper nutrition is a well known and accepted phenomenon in the medical fraternity, establishment of good and proper feeding from childhood is very important. Teaching children, despite of their young age on the importance of avoiding foods rich in sugars, high fat foods and encouraging them to take foods rich in fibers, iron , vitamins, calcium and other mineral rich diets is of great importance and the benefits of this are everlasting. Different studies have also shown relationship between physical size of an adult individual and his earlier childhood nutrition. That is apart from the genetical factors, nutrition in the earlier childhood years of an individual play a vital role in the determination of an individual’s final height (Dasgupta, 43).
Nutrition forms a very essential and most important part in the wellbeing or health of young children, and nutrition that is not good may confer negative effects on many aspects childhood development and health including the child’s learning process. Under nutrition, which normally is normally as a result of hunger and poverty, can lead to energy or protein malnutrition, or mineral and vitamin deficiencies (Dasgupta 76). Despite of the fact that several efforts on nutrition are mainly focused on under nutrition most countries are now faced with the challenge of the other face of nutrition- over nutrition. Children with the problem of over nutrition and life style behaviors that are poor and associated with over nutrition have high chances of developing modern day disease that result from nutrition. These conditions range from cardiovascular complications, obesity and other chronic complications like diabetes. Studies on the global trend in obesity and childhood overweight have indicated that by 2010, by referring to the international obesity task force definitions, forty six percent of children of school going age in the United States of America will become overweight and 1 in 7 will become obese. This problem is not limited to the United States of America alone. Forty one percent of Eastern Mediterranean’s children, thirty eighty percent of European children, and twenty seven percent of Western pacific children and twenty percent Southeastern Asia children will become overweight by 2010 and 1 in 10 European children and eastern Mediterranean children will became obese in the same year that is by 2010(New and Cochran, 564).
According to recent research through survey indicated that 66 percent of children between the ages of two to four years were fed on the diet that “required improvement” while eight percent utilized poor diet that is diet classified as “poor”. The percent of children who used diet classified as “good” was found to be approximately twenty six percent (New and Cochran, 565)
The present eating patterns among children have been under the influence of several factors. Both limited and lack of knowledge on food storage and preparation, and financial difficulties have been mentioned by different researchers as the main barriers to proper nutrition or health feeding. The kinds of foods that families can afford to buy are influence by the family’s socioeconomic status. Poor families are unable to purchase both the right quantity and quality of food for the proper development and growth of their children (Dasgupta, 154). For example lower socioeconomic families are unable to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits because they are perishable and most of these families see them as more expensive. Due to the high sugar and fat content of fast foods, restaurants dealing on fast foods have become under focus and at the same time becoming a serious issue in the food culture of the United States of America. Since they are a source of cheaper and quick food sources, restaurants dealing in fast foods have attracted majority of American parents purchasing food for their children. Another factor contributing to the prevalence most parents turning to fast food restaurants is the fact that most of these foods from these restaurants are enjoyed by their children due their high sugar content. Studies have also indicated that the cultural identity of an individual plays a role in the kind of food an individual feeds on. For example the consumption of milk among Mexican, Asian, and African American is very low. Cultural identity has also been shown to play a role in influencing the outlook of an individual for example Native Americans and Latinos relate thinness to disease and overweight with beauty and health (Dasgupta, 56).
The American Dietary Guidelines (2005) and Young children’s Food Guide Pyramid (1999) give recommendations on how children between the ages of two to six years should feed for their proper growth and development. The basis for healthy diet is made up of fruits, whole grains and vegetables with consumption of low-fat and dairy products without fats, beans and lean meat (New and Cochran, 565).
On top of the serving recommendations, addressing the best way of giving food for children is of paramount importance. Individuals working with children should give children different healthy options. For example if a child provided with chips and cooks only, it is what the child will feed on. However if the same child is given options that are healthier, that will uphold a diet that is healthier. According to New and Cochran (566) the responsibility of a caretaker is provision of food options to child and the child’s responsibility is the choosing what and how much to eat. He also points out that the best way to prevent over eating among child, caregivers should either provide these children with small serving sizes or allow them to serve for themselves. Adults are encouraged not to force children to eat health foods but to encourage them. Research has indicated that children are naturally born “wired” or attracted to salty and sweet foods hence those foods with other forms of flavors may take some time before being accepted by children. Since children are naturally born with apprehension to strange foods it may take a minimum of five exposures before they accept the new food (Falker, 144).
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