From infancy to late life, nutritional needs change. Children must grow and develop, while older adults must counter the effects of aging. The importance of age-appropriate nutrition during all stages of the life cycle cannot be overlooked. Making sure that you are getting what you need at your particular stage in life can help to ensure that you will remain healthy as you grow older.
Newborns require minerals for strong bones and immune systems. Breastfeeding is the ideal way to ensure that a newborn is getting what he needs. If for some reason you can’t breastfeed, formula can provide sufficient nutrients. Vitamin D is important for bone formation, and breast milk is sometimes deficient in it. Check with your pediatrician to see if supplements are required.
Baby and Toddler Nutrition
Children should be eating some solid foods by the time they're 6 months old. Although many parents give their babies cereals first and then vegetables, fruit and meats, pureed meat or poultry might be the best food to introduce early, as it provides iron and zinc. Introduce one food at a time, and stop giving your baby any new food if you see signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash or diarrhea. As your baby grows older, he can experiment with an increasing number of finger foods until he is primarily eating what the family has at mealtimes.
Childhood and Teen Nutrition
Nutrition for children and teens should focus on a balanced diet, with activity levels factored in. Children and teens tend to be active and usually require more calories than infants and the elderly. Some children and teens, however, may not get the exercise they need and run the risk of becoming obese. For these children and teens especially, a healthy diet that downplays fast and prepared foods is important.
Adults, both young and older, need to focus on preventing diet-related health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Getting essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein while limiting unhealthy fats and excessive sugar are important. Limiting fast and processed foods are just as important at this stage of life as they are during childhood. Exercise also plays a crucial role in remaining healthy. If you have developed any diet-related health conditions, make sure you adhere to your doctor's recommendations.
Metabolism slows as you age. Appropriate exercise to maintain metabolism remains important, as does adequate nutrition. Choose foods high in nutrients, and keep sugar and fat consumption minimal. See your doctor regularly. Blood tests may reveal the need to modify your diet. You may require some supplementation. If you have developed type 2 diabetes, you may need to further restrict your diet or take medication.