"NUTRITION : Every child’s right for a healthy life"

Nutrition & balanced diet :

Nutrition is the nourishment required by the body cells to stay alive. It is a science that tells us how nutrients and other substances in food contribute to the growth, reproduction, maintenance, health and disease of any organism, including human beings. It includes not just food intake, but how the food is used by the body.

A balanced diet is essential for healthy growth and development throughout our lives. It wires our brains, builds our strength and muscles, gives us energy and keeps us healthy.

A balanced diet for growing children

Complementary feeding

  • From birth till approximately six months, a child needs only breast milk to grow well. However, after six months, the child starts to grow more rapidly and only breast milk is no longer able to meet their energy and micronutrient requirements. This is the time when infants are given their first intake of food other than breast milk. The food complements breast feeding, hence is known as complementary feeding.

Tiranga Bhojan:

Orange, white and green don’t just represent the Indian national flag, but also signify a balanced meal with representation from different food groups – carbohydrates, protein, vitamin and minerals. The concept of Tiranga Bhojan has helped people inculcate right food habits following colors of the national flag:

  • White for rice, paddy, milk and eggs
  • Green for fresh green vegetables
  • Saffron/orange for ripe fruits, pulses

A combination of all three constitutes a balanced meal. This Tiranga Bhojan guides a child’s plate of food as well.

Ending gender discrimination in nutrition

In India, gender discrimination is one of the most significant underlying factors for poor nutrition.
Gender inequalities in food and nutrition security lie at the root of the cycle of hunger and malnutrition in this country. It is an issue of woman’s own perception of her status. Only when women begin to feel empowered and equal in status to men, will the stranglehold of gender disparities across society weaken and break. Improvements in food availability and in women’s education are the keys for future progress in child nutritional status.

Care of pregnant and lactating (breast feeding) women:

Pregnancy is a demanding physiological state. In India, it is observed that diets of women from the low socio economic groups are essentially similar during pre-pregnant, pregnant and lactating periods. Consequently, there is widespread maternal malnutrition leading to high prevalence of low birth weight infants and very high maternal mortality. Additional foods are required to improve weight gain in pregnancy (10-12 Kg) and birth weight of infants (about 3 Kg). It is hence important to ensure provision of extra food and healthcare to pregnant and lactating women.

Do’s & Dont’s regarding nutrition for pregnant and lactating women

Ensuring girls get adequate nutrition

Adolescents (children from 10-19 years) experience intense physical, psychological, emotional and economic changes as they grow from childhood to adulthood. Growth during adolescence is faster than at any other time in an individual’s life except the first year. A balanced adequate diet along with hygiene practices and physical activity is important for the physical and cognitive growth and development at this stage in life.

Prevalent social norms that subscribe to gender discrimination in nutrition:

  • Men often have priority when it comes to food.
  • They may eat before everyone else and enjoy the most nutritious food.
  • Women and children are often left with smaller portions and less nutritious meals which exposes women and girls to a range of harmful physical and emotional health outcomes.
  • In many households and communities, men make key decisions about what to grow, which animals to raise, what to sell, how much to store, and what foods to buy.

Long term effects of gender discrimination in nutrition:

  • Malnutrition has intergenerational consequences because undernourished women give birth to low birth weight babies.
  • Such children can face cognitive and other limitations all their lives, making it difficult to escape from poverty.
  • When women face food discrimination on a national scale, the human capital of the nation is put at risk.
  • However, many initiatives target women and girls, and ignore men.
  • Women may learn a lot from courses on good nutrition, but excluding men means that women may not be able to act on their improved knowledge.

Role of men and fathers in caring for women and children’s nutrition:

By virtue of their power and privilege, men are in a prime position to tackle malnutrition in their own homes and in the broader community. All it takes is a little change in their attitude and behavior .

Ways to Change behaviour and men’s attitudes for the good of their families and communities.

  • Encourage men to think about the benefits to the whole family of eating nutritious food together with women and children rather than separately.
  • Discuss the special needs of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Emphasise the importance of good nutrition to children’s development.
  • Build trust Engage with men and boys about nutrition, taking time to win their trust and develop their confidence.
  • Develop men-only groups to help men support each other in changing their behavior and challenge concepts and practices related to traditional ways of being a man.
  • Strengthen men’s personal commitment to gender equality and equip them with the nutritional and agricultural knowledge and skills to put that commitment into practice in their own lives
  • Start relating messages to men as fathers.

Myths and misconceptions:





Nutritious food is time consuming and expensive; recommendations for feeding children are complex

Develop a recipe using local ingredients rich in macronutrients and micronutrients which leads to optimal growth and development of children.


Mothers not confident whether the child will eat so many times

Begin complementary feeding along with breast milk, at least three times a day and along with the age increase the frequency of meals to meet the energy requirements.


Children may not be able to easily digest green leafy vegetables

Use only locally grown vegetables; rice, dal, green leafy locally grown vegetables and orange /yellow fruits and vegetables. Foods introduced to the children should be properly cooked and prepared with the right consistency. 


Fruits are expensive, and children may catch a cold eating fruits

Give children fruits at least once a day; use locally grown, seasonal fruits to meet the nutritional requirements of the child which are rich in Vit-A and iron.


Children will not be able to digest non-vegetarian food easily; families may be vegetarian

Give children egg/ chicken/ fish twice a week using easy to prepare recipes. An egg helps in meeting the nutritional requirement of small children and is a rich source for brain development.


Children may not be able to digest thicker consistency food

Give children food with right consistency, not watery, to meet the energy requirement.


Children will not be able to digest the food; ghee is expensive

For children over 6months, add one teaspoon of oil/ ghee in the food


Children cannot eat same quantity of food when ill

During illness, continue feeding the child food in smaller amounts but more frequently along with breast milk; increase helpings after recovery phase will support in regaining the lost nutrients and weight if any.


Washing hands is time consuming;

Don’t wash hands so frequently, as children may catch a cold

Wash hands with soap before preparing food and before feeding the child; clean the child’s hands with soap before and after feeding; feed the child with a clean bowl and spoon to avoid frequent infections.


Feeding children is time consuming

Feed the child slowly and patiently; do not force feed. Responsive feeding practices helps the child to know the taste of all the food items introduced to him/her.


Children like to eat outside food like biscuits rather than home cooked food

Feed children only homecooked food in a clean bowl; don’t use feeding bottle. Avoid fried and salty processed foods.

KALLOLA-5 is the perfect opportunity for you to show your concern on the issue and contribute your bit to the cause of ensuring our children a healthy and safe childhood and future. Come, explore your creativity, and join the campaign!!