New Delhi: The very basic aims of complementary feeding are to provide balanced nutrition to ‘complement’ the breastfeeding in meeting the fast increasing growth and developmental requirements of otherwise healthy infants beyond 6 months age. It should be homemade, fresh, hygienic, clean, affordable, free from toxins, and locally available foods. All communities have their own staple diet available locally (e.g. wheat in north and rice in south India). To make them nutritionally balanced, a staple diet has to be enriched with food groups which can complement it by supplying the nutrients deficient in the staple diet. Hence, scientifically UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), WHO (World Health Organisation) and all IYCF (Infant & Young Child Feeding) organizations recommend daily consumption of foods from at least four or more foods groups amongst the seven groups that are:
1. Grains/millets and roots/tubers
2. Legumes and nuts
3. Vitamin-A rich fruits and vegetables
4. Other fruits and vegetables
5. Dairy Products
7. Flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry and organ meats).
Locally grown or produced foods of different varieties can meet the diverse requirements.
It has been observed that when the cost of food increases, communities divert towards using lesser amounts of diverse varieties of food which is very important for balanced nutrition. Thus, they avoid micronutrient-rich and protein-rich foods. Locally produced foods affordable by the poor also; they can be procured fresh and prepared in recipes by households. Many locally grown foods are free products of backyard or kitchen gardens. Most of them are available immediately and are most often pesticide-free. That would ensure the continuous consumption of adequate amounts for a long time without taxing the pockets and health.
Fresh seasonal, locally available fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, micronutrients and antioxidants needed by the community in different seasons too. Locally grown foods are harvested when they are ripe which adds to its acceptability due to its flavor, taste, color and consistency. Thus, they are very acceptable to children as complementary foods.
Locally grown foods score very high over foods that not locally produced. Non-local foods are usually made available with preservatives in the form of frozen or packed foods. They are costlier also due to transportation, preservation and business margins. Preservatives and chemicals are very well known to be toxic or allergenic. Unfortunately, now-a-days children are highly exposed to non-local foods in form of junk foods most often available as packed foods and drinks full of salt, sugars and harmful fats. At the same time, they have very low fibers, proteins and other micronutrients. They are costly and have an addictive potential equivalent to that of cocaine. Ignorant parents misguided by false claims, advertisements portraying eminent people and other gimmicks, thus fall prey to feeding their children with such foods as complementary foods. They include biscuits and bakery products, health drinks, chips and wafers, fried salted packed foods, tea, coffee, chocolates, toffees, among others. In the long run, such foods cause malnutrition, obesity and secondary problems of heart, joints, diabetes, allergies, attention and learning problems and others. Thus, locally produced foods have numerous advantages as complementary foods.
Consumption of locally grown foods by the community is beneficial to the local economy and environment also. People around have correct information on the growing and processing procedures and hence chances of better fidelity and related peace of mind. As an indirect benefit, locally grown foods improves community cohesion.
Hence, it is very important to highlight the consumption of locally grown nutritious foods along with nutrition education to tackle the long-standing problem of malnutrition in an effective and permanent way.
Dr Ketan Bharadva is a President of the Infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IA) and Human Milk Banking Association of India. He is also the author of Indian Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding; Human Milk Banking; Micronutrients for young children; Early Childhood Development.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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