Dr Asif Gani, regional director of Burjeel Hospital and Medical Centers, suggests some simple steps parents must ensure so their little ones grow up in a healthy way
As was stated in the National Nutritional Survey 2017, 11.2 per cent of children in Oman under the age of five are underweight. Why are the numbers so high and can you comment on this issue?
Children are generally found to be underweight in developing countries. This should not be the case in Oman. We need to assess the reasons for a high percentage of children found to be underweight. There could be issues with nutrition or absorption, deficiency of iron, vitamin or minerals; child feeding habits or maternal health; post-delivery training and education of new mothers. We also need to have the previous statistics to understand whether the problem has a rising trend.
What are the parameters used to assess the nutrition status in children?
There are various parameters to understand the nutritional imbalance in children. Apart from weight, the other parameters are height and Body Mass Index (BMI). Weight is the most easiest to measure. The weight-for-age is assessed and if it is less than -2 Standard Deviation of the Standard Median, the child is underweight. Similarly, if a child is +2 Standard Deviation of the Standard Medium, the child is overweight. Height is another parameter used to assess the nutritional status. If the height of the child for the age is below -2 Standard Deviation of the Standard Median, then the child is stunted.
How to raise a child’s Body Mass Index?
- Make sure your child is eating three meals and at least two snacks per day. Keep high-calorie but unhealthy foods, like rich desserts or French fries, to a minimum.
- Add avocado to salads and sandwiches or turn it into guacamole.
- Snack on a handful of nuts, a wedge of natural cheese or some trail mix.
- Top bread with seasoned, mashed avocado or nut butter or dip it in olive oil.
- Make shakes and smoothies with fruit, 100 percent juice and yoghurt or milk.
- Add dry milk powder to foods like mashed potatoes, cream soup and shakes to boost calories, protein and calcium.
- Use milk in place of water in oatmeal, soups and sides.
- Encourage plenty of active outdoor play to stimulate the appetite. Swimming, in particular, makes people extra hungry.