Nutrition and Weight Control - Basic daily diets

Everyone should have at least the minimal amount of basic nutrients for resting or basal metabolism. The specific needs of each individual are determined by whether he is still growing, and by how much energy is required for his normal activities. All those who are still growing—and growth continues up to about 25 years of age—have relatively high food needs.

For Infants

That food needs of an infant are especially acute should surprise no one. The newborn baby normally triples in weight during the first year and is very active in terms of calorie expenditure.

For the first six months, breast milk or formula, or a combination of the two, fills the baby's nutritional needs. A baby needs about two and a half ounces of milk per pound of body weight. This provides 50 calories per pound, and in the early months is usually given in six feedings a day at four-hour intervals.

If the baby appears healthy and is gaining adequate weight, and if the stomach is not distended by swallowed air, appetite is normally a satisfactory guide to how much the baby needs to eat. The formula-fed baby should get a supplement of 35 milligrams of ascorbic acid and 400 international units of vitamin D if the latter has not been added to the milk during its processing.

Solid Foods

Between two and six months of age, the baby should begin to eat solid foods such as cooked cereals, strained fruits and vegetables, egg yolk, and homogenized meat. With the introduction of these foods, it is not really necessary to calculate the baby's caloric intake. Satisfaction of appetite, proper weight gain, and a healthy appearance serve as the guides to a proper diet.

By one year of age, a baby should be getting three regular meals a day, and as the baby's teeth appear, food no longer needs to be strained. By 18 to 24 months, baby food should no longer be necessary. For more information, see Ch. 2, The First Dozen Years .

The Years of Growth

A proper diet is crucial during the years from 2 to 18, since this is a period of tremendous growth.

Children should also learn about balanced diets, learn decent manners at the table, and develop a sense of timing about when to eat and when not to eat.

Creating a Pleasant Atmosphere at Mealtime

  1. • Children should never be bribed with candy, money, or the promise of special surprises as a way of getting them to eat properly.
  2. • They should not be given the idea that dessert is a reward for finishing the earlier part of the meal.
  3. • Relatively small portions should be served and completely finished before anything else is offered.
  4. • Between-meal snacks should be discouraged if they cut down on the appetite at mealtime.
  5. • From time to time, childern should be allowed to choose the foods that they will eat at a meal.

Parents should keep in mind that the atmosphere in which childern eat and the attitudes instilled in them toward food can be altogether as basic as the nourishment for their bodies.

Teenage Diet

From the start of a child's growth spurt, which begins at age 10 or 11 for girls and between 13 and 15 for boys, and for several years thereafter, adolescent appetites are likely to be unbelievably large and somewhat outlandish. Parents should try to exercise some control over the youngster who is putting on too much weight as well as with the one who is attracted by a bizarre starvation diet.

Adult Nutrition

The average American adult experiences slow but steady weight gain. For some, this develops into an obesity problem. Since being even moderately overweight can pose health risks, weight gain as an adult should be viewed as a hazard that could jeopardize health. A sensible diet is recommended.

For Older People

People over 60 tend to have changes in their digestive system that are related to less efficient and slower absorption. Incomplete chewing of food because of carelessness or impaired teeth can intensify this problem. Avoiding haste at mealtimes ought to be the rule.

In cases where a dental disorder makes proper chewing impossible, food should be chopped or pureed.

Food for older people should be cooked simply, preferably baked, boiled, or broiled rather than fried, and menus excessively rich in fats should be avoided. A daily multivitamin capsule is strongly recommended for those over 60.

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