Nutritional requirement of a person is related to a one’s age, profession and state of health. There are several stages of life such as early childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and illness when nutritional needs are of special importance. A balanced diet, therefore, has to be formulated keeping in mind the specific situation. Now, let us study the additional requirements of diet during these stages.
1. Nutritional Needs for Different Age Groups
Energy and proteins are needed for building of new tissues. In stages of life when new tissues are being formed the need for proteins and energy rich carbohydrates much more. The two periods of special need are from birth to 2-3 years and during adolescence. The rate of growth in the period from birth to six months is very rapid and nutritional requirement of the body is very high in this period. During this period, an infant requires more than double the amount of energy per kg of body weight as required by an adult man doing heavy work.
Similarly, a 12-15 year old girl requires about 1000 kJ of energy from oxidation of carbohydrates and fats and about 50 g of protein per day. Therefore, during this period that is the early childhood and adolescence (12-15 years), the diet should contain sufficient amounts of protein and energy supplying nutrients.
On the other hand, a healthy adult needs protein only for maintenance. Therefore, he does not require much protein. Growing children also require large amounts of minerals like calcium and phosphorus for the formation of bones. Milk is a food source of both calcium and phosphorus. Therefore, growing children should take sufficient amounts of milk. Growing children also need iron for red blood cells. They also require vitamins such as vitamin A for healthy eyesight and vitamin C for general health.
2. Nutritional Needs For Persons in Different Occupations
Persons involved in heavy work such as rickshaw-pullers, construction workers, coolies, milk workers, etc. require food, which is rich in energy supplying nutrients that is carbohydrates and fats. Such person may not require large amounts of protein in their food. On the other hand, person doing lighter works require less energy. Athletes also need energy and protein rich food.
3. Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy and Location
As already, mentioned energy and protein are needed for building new tissues. During pregnancy growth of tissues takes place at very fast speed. Extra protein and carbohydrates are needed in the diet of the mother to produce about 8 kg of body tissue during pregnancy. As growth is more rapid during last three months of pregnancy, the demand for protein and energy is greatest at this stage. During pregnancy, the need for minerals such as iron, calcium and iodine increases. The expectant mother also has an increased need for vitamin A, C and B2 (Riboflavin).
When a mother is nursing her baby, her requirement for protein is also high. It is the body protein, which is converted into milk protein. The requirement of protein varies with the stage of lactations and the amount of milk produced.
4. Nutritional Needs for Patients and During Recovery
Patients and the persons recovering from diseases need additional energy and proteins for building new tissues. If a person suffers, from some ailment that involves loss or degeneration of body tissue then his need for protein may be more. For example, loss of blood due to some accident or surgery results in increased need of protein to make for the loss of blood.
Mother’s milk is the best food for infants
Besides having excellent nutritional value, it is always clean. In most of the cases, mother’s milk is sufficient to satisfy the needs of the baby during the first 4-6 months. Mother’s milk is rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin sand other nutrients and is easily digested. During the first two or three days after the birth of the baby the breast does not secrete milk but secretes yellowish fluid called colostrums.
Colostrums is rich in nutrients and also contains antibodies which protect the body against infectious diseases. The baby milk powders available in market have many drawbacks. Chances of infection are more during bottle-feeding. Breast-feeding is especially important where people live in unhygienic environments. After the six months volume of the mother’s milk decreases. At the same time baby’s, need for various nutrients increases. At this stage, his food may be supplemented with cow’s milk, rice, potatoes, banana, fruit juices and other cereal gruels.
From the above discussion, it must become clear that while formulating a balanced diet for a particular individual we have to keep in mind the age, sex, state and nature of the work of the individual. Most of the time we do not eat a proper balanced diet. This is not due to unavailability but because of prevalent food habits. For example, eating only rice and potato is not enough because it does not provide the necessary protein required for growth and maintenance of the body. Similarly, eating only fish and meat cannot keep one healthy because it may not supply necessary minerals and vitamins. Vegetables, milk and fruits, which provide minerals and vitamins, have therefore to be included in our diet.