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In this assignment the author will be comparing the components of a balanced diet for babies, children and young people, this will cover what is important when looking at sources and components of food groups and what children need in order to achieve optimum health. Another aspect of this nutrition assignment will be to discuss the short and long term health benefits of optimum nutrition and to explore the factors affecting nutrition in children and young people. Finally the author will be demonstrating consequences of inadequate nutrition and poor health that some children experience.
Stated by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2008) when a women is conceiving a child there are things that should be avoided, things that should be changed and some things that should be taking into consideration and if carried out correctly it will benefit the mother and her unborn child. NICE (2008) propose that there are five main things to consider whilst you are pregnant, they include a ‘healthy start, training, vitamin D, breastfeeding and folic acid, all of which are very important when a mother is planning for the birth of her child. Healthy start (n.d) indicate that they are a programme designed by the government to ensure mothers on a low income will receive the best possible resources for her and her children, healthy start provide vouchers which can be used for cow’s milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables and also vitamins.
Training may include attending antenatal clinics and attending appointments with a midwife so that things can be planned in advance and so that the mother can speak to a professional about any concerns. (NICE 2008). Mothers should be educated on the importance of vitamin D, the consequences of vitamin D deficiency and how it will benefit her and her unborn child, according to NICE (2008) vitamin D supplements can be provided by healthy start coupons. NICE also consider that maternal women should be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and recommend that women should attend breastfeeding support groups to ensure they know everything they need to about the nutritional substance they can give their child. The final key priority which is folic acid should be taken whilst pregnant as it will minimise the chances of birth defects such as spina bifida (The National Health Service 2012).
When focusing on babies we need to think about what is important from the day they are born, and due to the fact that babies receive all their nutrition from one source either breast milk or formula milk it is ‘imperative that the right kinds of nutrients at the right levels are present in that source’ (Infant Feeding and Nutrition N.D). Breast milk is the preferred feeding method for babies according to Bonnie and Rodwell (2000), although they consider that if breast milk is not available cow’s milk- based formula should be given to the baby for the first twelve months of life. The American Academy of Paediatrics (2012, cited in American Pregnancy Association, 2014) strongly recommend breastfeeding for the first six months and that it is continued for at least twelve months.
When focusing on the components of breast milk and the nutrients it provides for the baby the American Pregnancy Association (2014) claims that breast milk contains proteins essential for easy digestion and which are great for infection protection. From tables and evidence found about the Recommended Dietary Allowances for Infants and Children the author can see that at 0-5 months a baby will need the most protein at this age than any other age.
More specific proteins that are found in breast milk are Lactoferrin’s which restrain the growth of iron- dependant bacteria, breast milk also contains Lysozymes which protect against E.coli and salmonella (APA 2014). Larger components of breast milk according to APA (2014) are fats essential for ‘brain development, absorption of fat- soluble vitamins and is the primary calorie source for a baby. Breast milk also satisfies the baby’s requirements of a range of vitamins and carbohydrates which help battle diseases and enhance the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach (APA 2014). For parents choosing not to breastfeed or for those who cannot breastfeed the best alternative supplement is commercially prepared, iron-fortified infant formula and just like breast milk, ‘formula provides the correct nutrients at appropriate levels necessary for a baby to sustain a rapid rate of growth and development, and will not stress the infant’s delicate and developing organ systems’ (Infant Feeding and Nutrition N.D).
Also evident from the tables and evidence found is that children’s recommended fluid intake reduces as when infants grow they start to eat more solid foods rather than just breast milk or formula. Around six months of age the Baby Centre (2014) propose that an infant can be introduced to different foods such as pureed sweet potatoes, squash, apples and bananas and although they cannot have much of these food just yet it will prepare the baby for when they will be eating much more solid food around the age of 8- 10 months (Baby Centre 2014).
As children age their diet will have also changed over the years, it will have gone from being very high in fat to much lower in fat and higher in fibre and should be focused on natural, fresh sources of energy and nutrients (Tidy 2013). Children around the age of 4- 6 will need foods high in energy and foods containing high vitamins and minerals due to them being very active at this age (Tidy 2013). Children at this age also need small frequent meals as their stomachs are not able to cope with large meals at a time suggested by Tidy (2013), he also indicates that foods high in sugar such as fizzy drinks should be avoided due to the damage on their teeth, it can cause diarrhoea and can leave children feeling full meaning they may reject their dinner leading to an unbalanced diet.
At 6- 10 years children are still growing rapidly and their body will becoming even more mature and changing, dietary needs may not vary much from the previous age range although more low fat dairy products should be consumed rather than full fat which are needed during infancy according to the NHS (2013), children at the lower end of this age range are recommended to consume between 1520kcal to 1649kcal and children at the higher end of this age range are recommended to consume between 1963kcal to 2032kcal, these figures also according to the NHS (2013) depend on gender and how much physical activity children are carrying out on a daily basis.
Young children around 10-12 will start to learn more academic skills whilst at school and because of this it is essential for children to receive a balanced diet in order to function at optimum level and to be able to concentrate well (Build Healthy Kids 2011). Build Healthy Kids (2011) also take the view that five fruit and vegetables a day is essential in this age range in order to gain the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals. Children are also still growing physically and mentally at this age and therefore it is important that children are receiving their intake of calcium which will help growth and development of bones and also help children’s teeth to stay healthy, if a child’s intake of calcium ‘before the age of twenty was inadequate, they run the risk of forming softer and more brittle bones which puts them at risk for fractures and osteoporosis later in life, especially for girls’ (Build Healthy Kids 2011). From the research and evidence found from Build Healthy Kids (2011) the author found that from birth to twelve months no dairy products are recommended, from 1-2 years whole milk at 2 servings a day is recommended which is then increased at 9- 18 years to 4 servings a day of low or non- fat dairy products.
For children and young people it is paramount that they are eating the correctly to ensure they are growing and developing at the correct rate and so they can establish a good eating pattern for later life (Cenovis 2012). There are many guides and recommendations for what children should be eating however the eatwell plate is a very good example and is something that children can learn from, the eatwell plate highlights the foods and amounts
that will ensure we are eating a balanced diet (NHS 2013).
This section of the assignment will look at the short and long term benefits of optimum health for children and young people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) (2000) propose that the first 2-3 years of a child’s life is very important when it comes to physical and mental development and therefore gaining optimum nutrition in childhood will have many short and long term benefits. As covered above babies will gain essential proteins, fats and the majority of their calorie intake from either breast milk or formula, therefore a baby will also gain a short term health benefit of having a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome according to Newson (2013), they state that this factor is less common in babies gaining the essential nutrients from breast milk and although this is not fully explained it is believed that due to the anti- bodies breast milk provides babies are more protected again the fatal syndrome. Another short term health benefit of breast fed babies observed by Newson (2013) are that babies are less likely to become constipated and will gain help with the passage of a baby’s first stools which can be very painful, they are called ‘meconium and are sticky, black and like tar’.
Long term benefits proposed by Newson (2013) are that health problems in later life are less common in those who had been breastfed rather than those who had not, health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and eczema have been proven to be less likely in those who received the nutrients from their mother. An emotional bond may also be seen as a long term health benefit which can be gained from breastfeeding, a mother and baby attachment in early infancy could lead to more well-rounded individuals in the future and evidence suggests that breastfed people are less likely to develop mental health issues such as anxiety or depression (Mitchell- Askar 2011).
The NHS (2013) indicate that when children are able to move on from breast milk they will start to receive their essential nutrients from other food sources a little at a time, the process of weaning begins when children are around 6 months old. The NHS (2013) recommend that breastfeeding alongside solid food will continue to protect a baby against infection and will still provide babies with the essential antibodies. When moving from small finger food and pureed food, according to Nutritionist Resources (n.d) children around 2 years can start to eat meals which will provide them with their essential daily needs. The Nutritionist Resources (n.d) also give recommendations on the five main food groups which need to be incorporated within a child’s diet and the health benefits which can be gained from consuming the correct kinds of food at the correct levels.
Research into healthy eating show that children who have had a good start with nutrition will lead a good pathway in later life when it comes to staying on the right path and choosing foods that will be more beneficial for them (Nutritionist Resources n.d). A good start with eating correctly and regular activity could benefit children to develop strong bones, maintain a healthy weight and also concentrate well whilst in school and on a long- term basis healthy eating could help lower the risk of certain health implications such as stroke, joint problems and being overweight or obese (Nutritionist Resources n.d).
Although healthy eating comes with many benefits there are also factors that can affect the maintenance of adequate nutrition for children and young people and if children develop unhealthy lifestyles from a young age they run the risk of health problems in adulthood (Warner 2011). Birch (1998) takes the view that almost all food preferences are learned through early experiences of eating and that children will become familiar with foods they like such as sweet tastes and reject sour and bitter foods.
From experience children may have tried a food they disliked or had a bad experience and will then psychologically dislike the food in later life, it may also be the case that if a child has be forced to eat certain foods such as fruit and vegetables they will refuse to eat them when they have the power to choose what they eat, this could then lead to serious deficiencies if they are not receiving the vital vitamins and minerals their body needs to function (Birch 1998). Birch also stated that children’s preferences are formed by the quality of experiences children have with food and as a result ‘the physiological consequences of ingestion, children come to accept some foods and reject others, shaping their dietary intake’.
As well as psychological factors affecting the maintenance of adequate nutrition for children and young people, there are also the socioeconomic factors which may hinder a child’s nutrition and impact a child’s nutritional status (Ricketts n.d). Socioeconomic factors such as income, environment and education may have an impact on how some children eat, for example if a child was living in poverty they may not have access to fresh nutritional food and therefore they may only have access to more fatty foods such as ready meals which may be more affordable for a family on a low income (Ricketts n.d). Ricketts also considers that environmental factors could be the physical proximity to healthy foods and supermarkets, as those who have access to supermarkets have a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables and those who don’t have a lower intake of these foods.
The government recommend that children should eat five fruit and vegetables daily as part of a balanced diet and to ensure we a protected against illnesses, one portion being the palm of the child’s hand (NHS 2013), however new research carried out has suggested five a day is not enough and we should be receiving at least 7 portions a day which will be additionally beneficial (Stephens 2014). If this evidence shows 5 portions a day is not enough the children who cannot access even 1 portion a day may have serious health problems and suffer from things such as vitamin and mineral deficiency, digestive issues, cardiovascular problems and weight problems (Annigan n.d). One of the final factors that can effect child nutrition is political factors, the NHS spend around 16 million pounds a year on people who are too obese to leave there home (Gayle 2012).
According to the Department of Health (DH) (2008) the government have also spent 372 million pounds over three years on creating healthy schools, workplaces and towns. However the government are still allowing fast food industries to open and to advertise around the country, ‘The government spends £14m a year on the social marketing programme Change4Life. The food industry spends more than 1 billion pound a year on marketing in the UK’ (Izzo 2014). Sifferlin 2013 stated that when research was conducted on food markets and their advertisements 99% of them were aired nationally on children’s TV channels such as Cartoon Network. They also caught children’s attention with a free toy giveaway to promote their product (Sifferlin 2013).
There are no law’s on how old a child needs to be to buy any fast food such as McDonalds or Burger King and therefore if children have easy access to these food chains and restaurants they will continue to consume the foods that will have detrimental effects on their health (Izzo 2014). Gianni (2013) strongly believe that fast food is causing many short and long term health problems for children including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, all of which are serious and are having a huge impact on the NHS. Being able to maintain adequate nutrition in children will be very difficult if parents and the government are allowing young children to purchase foods that will increase their chances of developing obesity, children may also think that it is normal to do so in later life if they have children and therefore a circle that is hard to break will form (Izzo 2014).
For the final part of this assignment the author will discuss the common signs and symptoms a child may experience due to a poor diet or malnourishment. The NHS (2013) define malnourishment as a ‘serious condition in which a person’s diet does not contain the correct amount of nutrients’. There are two types of malnourishment, they include under nutrition when a person is not receiving enough nutrients and is underweight and over nutrition when a person is receiving too many nutrients and is therefore overweight (NHS 2013). The NHS (2013) claim that children who are malnourished may not be able to grow at the expected rate including both height and weight.
At the age of 4 children are at a very important age range, they are growing at a rapid pace, they are starting to learn more academically as they will start at school and they will also create habits and traits which they will take into adulthood (Rochman 2011). Johnston (2009) observes that if a child was to have poor nutrition at the age of 4 they have a much higher risk of developing physical, intellectual, emotional and social problems, physical problems could include obesity, delayed growth and also developing motor skills at a slower rate. Intellectually, Johnston (2009) suggests that if children are consuming the incorrect amount of nutrients it will have harmful effects on the brain and children can lead poor intellectual development and hinder learning whilst at school. Gallahue and Ozmun (2006 cited in Johnston 2009) implies that if children experience inadequate nutrition or malnutrition during the first four years of their life they will never recover the growth milestones for their age range and they will never catch up in mental and physical development.
Over all a balanced diet needs to start when a women becomes pregnant, and continue throughout childhood and adulthood to avoid the consequences that come with a poor diet. And although some bad habits maybe present in a child’s diet, as long as children are led the right way and educated on the nutrition they need they will significantly reduce the chances of many diseases and illnesses (British Heart Foundation 2014). Children on the correct eating path will benefit from optimum health and may also avoid the factors effecting healthy eating such as psychological or political problems. Finally the importance of educating children and ensuring they understand how to eat correctly may minimize the chances of them experiencing the sever symptoms of malnourishment or poor nutrition.
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