Optimal nutrition during the first 2 years of a child’s life supports healthy growth and improves cognitive development. It also reduces the risk of being overweight or obese and developing noncommunicable diseases later in life.
Healthy eating recommendations for babies and children are similar to those for adults, but the following elements should also be considered;
Babies should be fed with only breast milk for the first 6 months.
Babies should be fed with breast milk continuously until the age of 2 years.
After 6 Months, breast milk should be supplemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutritious foods. Salt and sugar should not be added to complementary foods.
How to encourage healthy eating?
Diet evolves over time, influenced by many social and economic factors that interact in a complex way. These factors include income, food prices, individual preferences and beliefs, cultural traditions, and geographic and environmental factors. Therefore, encouraging a healthy food environment, including food systems that promote a diversified, balanced and healthy diet, requires the involvement of multiple sectors and stakeholders, including government, public and private sectors.
Governments have a central role in creating a healthy food environment that enables people to adopt and maintain healthy eating practices. Effective actions by politicians to create a healthy food environment include:
Increasing incentives to grow, use and sell fresh fruit and vegetables to producers and retailers
Reducing incentives for the production of processed foods containing high levels of saturated fats, trans fats, free sugars and salt/sodium
Encourage reformulation of food products to reduce saturated fats, trans fats, free sugars and salt/sodium content to eliminate industrially produced trans fats
Implementation of WHO recommendations on the marketing of foods and soft drinks to children
Establishing standards to promote healthy dietary practices by ensuring the availability of healthy, nutritious, safe and affordable food in pre-schools, schools, other public institutions and workplaces
Implementing regulatory and voluntary tools (e.g. marketing regulations and nutrition labeling policies) and economic incentives or deterrents (e.g. taxation and subsidies) to promote healthy diet
Encouraging international, national and local catering and catering services to improve the nutritional quality of their food – ensuring the availability and affordability of healthy choices – and reviewing portion sizes and pricing
Promoting consumer awareness about healthy dietary habits
Developing school policies and programs that encourage children to adopt and maintain a healthy diet
Educating children, adolescents and adults about nutrition and healthy dietary practices;
To encourage culinary skills by involving children through schools;
Supporting point-of-sale information, including nutritional labeling that provides standardized, accurate and understandable information on nutrient content in foods (in line with Codex Alimentarius Commission guidelines), adding front-of-pack labeling to make it easier for the consumer to understand
Providing nutrition and dietary counseling in primary health care services