13 October 2010

Preschoolers' diet in the spotlight

It's National Nutrition Week. Did you know that stunting and being underweight are the most common nutritional disorders afflicting South Africa's preschool kids?

Stunting and being underweight are the most common nutritional disorders afflicting South Africa’s preschool children, with the National Food Consumption Survey (2005) showing that nearly one out of 10 children (8.6%) aged 4 – 6 years are underweight and four out of 20 (16.4%) are stunted. Conversely, being overweight is also a major concern, affecting nearly one out of 10 (8.3%) preschoolers.

1.    Make starchy foods the basis of a child’s main meals (including pasta, maize meal, bread, rice, potatoes and fortified starches)

  • Most children 1 – 9 years of age consume a diet low in energy, with poor protein quality and micronutrient density. One out of two children had an intake of less than half the recommended level for vitamins A, B6, and C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, and zinc. 
  • A fifth of children 1 – 9 years consumed less than half of their required energy needs and that almost half of the children had an energy intake of less than two-thirds of their daily energy requirements
  • Calcium is one of the nutrients shown to be severely lacking in the diets of children aged 1 – 9 years. The survey showed that half of children were found to have an intake of less than 50% of the recommended level. By consuming three servings of dairy per day (200 ml full-cream milk plus 30g cheese plus 100ml yoghurt), approximately 90 % of the daily requirements of children aged 4-8yrs for calcium , will be obtained
  • Vitamin A is lacking from the diet of many children aged 1-9 years. Vitamin A helps to maintain the health of many types of cells, ensure normal functioning of the immune system, the visual system as well as proper growth and development. 
  • South African children only consume between 41% and 63% of the iron they need.   Low iron intake causes behavioural changes, delayed psychomotor function and impacts negatively on cognitive function and intelligence


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