Our nutritional needs change with different life stages. In order to remain fit and healthy, it is important to take into account the extra demands placed on your body by these changes.
Babies below one year
Breast-milk supplies a baby with the required nutrients, fluids and energy up to about six months. It is recommended that babies be exclusively breastfed up to around six months of age.
Amanda Tumwebaze, a freelance nutritionist, says solid foods should only be introduced to babies after six months of age. However, breastfeeding should continue until 12 months of age and beyond, or for as long as the mother and child desire. “Weaned babies should be given foods rich in iron and zinc, such as cereals, meat, poultry and soybeans.Fruits and vegetables are vital but do not add salt, sugar or honey,” she warns
Infants are often picky with food therefore, encourage them to eat a wide variety of foods. However, children tend to vary their food intake depending on their growth and level of physical activity.
Ideally, Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital says, ensure your child has enough fluids, especially water. Fruit juices should be limited and soft drinks avoided because infants often suffer food-related problems such as overweight, obesity and tooth decay.
Pre-teens and teenagers
Growth spurs as children move into adolescence due to excess need for energy. For girls, this generally occurs around 10 to 11 and around 12 to 13 years for boys. “Limit fast foods and replace them with nutrient-dense foods such as cereals, fruits, legumes, nuts, vegetables, fish and lean meats. Low fat milk and yoghurt help to increase calcium intake,” Lutaakome says.
These should concentrate on increasing nutrient intake especially in the first and second trimesters. An expectant woman is expected to gain about 10 to 13 kilogrammes during pregnancy. Amanda warns women not to eat too little as it impacts on the baby negatively while eating too much brings unnecessary weight gain.
Accommodate cravings, but ensure that they do not let them replace more nutritious foods in your diet. Increase intake of nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine.
A breastfeeding mother should eat enough nutrient-dense food because breastfeeding requires more energy. “Drink regularly as breastfeeding may increase the risk of dehydration and constipation,” she warns.
Foods rich in calcium are vital in menopausal women because of the thinning of the bones due to hormone-related changes. “Fruits and vegetables, high fibre foods, low-fat and low-salt diets are recommended. Soybeans, peas and lentils among others are rich in phytoestrogens known to reduce many symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes,” Amanda says.
Dr Lutaakome says since the elderly usually eat less, it is important to be active to boost appetite. Fibre filled foods encourage bowel movements and a good exposure to the sun helps to boost vitamin D synthesis for healthy bones,” he says.
“Energy dense foods such as eggs, lean meats, fish, and cereals as well as fruits and vegetables and wholegrain breads are good options,” he adds.