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Addressing childhood undernutrition by promoting healthy food habits

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An appropriate diet is a critical component for the proper growth and development of children. According to the NFHS 5, in NCT Delhi, 30.9% of children under 5 years are stunted, and 21.8 % of children under 5 years are underweight. When we talk of the adequacy of diet, then the total number of children aged 6-23 months receiving an adequate diet is only 16.8% and the number is abysmal for non-breastfeeding children i.e., 9.4%. Further, about 69.2% of children of age 6-59 months are suffering from anemia. These numbers show a sorry figure for the national capital and these numbers go on to be worse in several other states.
For optimal growth and development of a child, suitable semi-solid nutritious food needs to be introduced as part of the child's nutrition plan as he/she completes 6 months of age since breastmilk alone can no longer provide adequate nutrition.
  • That a child has diverse types of foods so that his/her nutrient requirements are adequately met.
  • That Minimum Dietary Diversity (MDD) is provided to children, which means the consumption of four or more food groups from the seven food groups to meet daily energy and nutrient requirements.
  • That there are different food combinations, with different tastes and textures.
  • That it should be easily digestible and nourishing food.
  • That hygiene is maintained before preparing and eating the food.
  • That the food’s consistency is not too thick or thin (watery).
Suboptimal complementary feeding practices play a significant role in child malnutrition and can affect growth and metabolism, which has long‐term programming effects on organ development and health.
  • There are issues of delayed initiation, inadequacy, and lack of dietary diversity of complementary foods.
  • Exaggerations made by branded products claims ‘providing better nutrient and energy-rich food’ (magic food) owing to growing aspirations.
  • There is a lack of knowledge on the fact that most packaged and preserved commercial foods have high sodium and sugar content, and a possibly sub-optimum fatty acid profile.
  • There is insufficient time for the caregivers to ensure optimal food for the child.
  • Apart from the above, there are myths and conceptions which prevent parents to provide adequate and nutritious diets to their children; for instance; costly products are better than cheap, local ones.

Hence, PCI India saw the need to educate the parents and caregivers of children 6-23 months to highlight the importance of adequate and safe nutrition to ensure proper physical and mental growth of children.

The focus is on the emerging issues of unsuitable and unhealthy commercial foods, e.g., chips, biscuits, pastries, chocolates etc. by replacing it with home cooked or easily available nutritious replacements like grinded nuts, milk-based cereals, sprouts, pulses, legumes, vegetables, pulpy/ mashed fruits etc. The aim is to help children change their eating habits.

The campaign talked directly to parents and/ or caregivers of children in the age group of 6 to 23 months through a Facebook campaign in five states of the country- Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand.

Join us to pledge to avoid packaged commercial food and move towards nutritious, balanced, and healthy food.