National Nutrition Week: What foods should we eat according to our age
- Our nutritional needs may vary according to our age and the stage we are in. So are we eating right?
Are we eating right as per our age? This question probably first crops up in our mind at the age of 30 and becomes more and more frequent as we cross the threshold of 40. Do our nutritional needs change as per age? If so, how can we suitably modify our diet as per age, from childhood to old age?
The food we eat largely remains the same but the way we eat it may change depending on the age or stage we are in. A child likes to see more colours on plate with tiny portions, while an old person with weaker teeth needs a softer but nutrient-dense food. A pregnant woman's body demands certain nutrients for the growth and development of foetus.
What you are eating now can have an impact on the quality of your life in the later years. Our balanced diet requirement starts as early as we turn 1. The food we have can even determine the number of years we live.
"Nutrition safeguards our health and wellbeing at each and every stage of human cycle. Right nutrition plays a very important part on the quality and quantity of one's life cycle. Nutrition needs and concerns vary at different ages and different stages of life," says Priya Palan, Dietitian, Zen Multispeciality Hospital.
What should a child eat?
It is not easy to feed balanced diet to a child as some of them can be fussy eaters. But their food can be made interesting as nutrients can be introduced in the form of interesting-looking and colourful food.
"In childhood, there is rapid physical, social and developmental changes that occur in a child. In the early phases of childhood, there is an increased requirement of energy because the child is growing and requires protein, essential fatty acid, which helps in better brain development. We must add to it the essential minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc as we reach to the adolescent stage," says Palan.
Food for children
We can try to put finger food in the plate to attract the children. The plate should be decorated with colourful fruits and vegetables. A pinwheel sandwich with layers of cabbage, green chutney, cheese can be made which includes everything that a child requires. One can add nutrients to rolls, patties and make the food interesting for children, says Palan.
What should people from 20-40 age group eat?
Nutrition in adult years emphasises the importance of diet in maintaining our wellness and preventing diseases. We must aim to achieve quality in our future years. This is the period where there are different nutritional requirements for males and females because the latter might be in their reproductive stage and there is always a high demand of iron as compared to males.
"Females have a phase of pregnancy and lactation where various nutrients and micronutrients is needed. They need more protein, fatty acids, calcium, phosphorous, iron and folic acid. For men, the energy requirements tend to be higher than women as their physical activity, body structure or metabolic rate may differ," says Palan.
What should 40+ people eat?
40 is the time to strike the right balance. It's a transition period and the nutritional demands change as per metabolism changes. Healthy fat has to be added to the diet and the right food must be picked.
"We must make sure to maintain good health using good phytonutrients, good antioxidants in our diet which will help optimize our digestive system as well as boost our immune system," says the Dietician.
Because of hormonal changes, we are at risk of developing osteoporosis, high blood pressure and heart diseases. To keep these diseases away, we have to make sure to consume balanced diet that optimizes all nutrients together. This is the time when one may see mood changes also. "To take care of that nuts can be added to the diet as they are excellent sources of good fatty acids. Fruits and veggies including avocado and berries can be added to diet for antioxidants and phytonutrients, while green leafy vegetables are good source of iron," adds Palan.
Food for elderly (60 and above)
This is the age when a person may see deterioration in body and may be unable to perform day-to-day activities as before. Some people may find it unable to prepare their meals by themselves or may not be able to chew food properly due to dental issues or swallow it. There are digestive issues too apart from psychosocial issues that could affect their eating habits.
"The diet or food should be aimed at overcoming the deficiency of nutrients. Some people may skip their meals due to the discomforts old age bring. There is always a risk of micronutrients deficiency occurring at this age. Protein intake becomes low which can lead to muscle loss, and deficiency of protein which increases risk of fractures from fall," says Palan.
Vitamin D and calcium must be included in the diet to strengthen bones along with proteins. One can try combining foods or aim to make them soft to avoid chewing problems. One can make soup, or combine a vegetable or dal together. Ragi can be added to the regular flour being a good source of calcium while nuts can be added to chutneys for packing a nutritional punch. In essence, the nutrient density of a food must be increased even if the portions are smaller.