As a parent, your infant’s health and well-being is of utmost concern to you. You try to provide your baby with the most-healthy food in appropriate portions. However, what you may not realise is, that this food might be lacking in certain essential micronutrients which include iron, zinc, iodine, folate and vitamin A. This can have long term negative impact on your infant’s cognitive development and immunity. A good way to overcome the deficiencies is by complementing an infant’s diet with nutrient dense foods or complete foods that are fortified. This ensures that your child will not have any micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiencies.
While introducing solids to an infant, we, as parents, tend to feed the child home cooked meals. It has been observed that infants who are given foods that meet the nutritional requirements of the rest of the household are more likely to have inadequate amounts of micronutrients. Children less than 2 years of age require vitamins and minerals in higher quantities than what is required by adults. For example, per 100 kcal of food, an infant at 6-8 months needs 9 times as much iron and 4 times as much zinc as an adult male.
Micronutrients, although required in small quantities, act as the building blocks for an infant’s mental and physical development. Parents want to give their infants as much nutrition as possible and for this, they rely on home cooked food. However, there are times when home cooked food is not enough to provide the baby with all the nutrition. Micronutrients are often overlooked while feeding the child and in such cases, food fortification becomes important. The food cooked in Indian homes are mostly grain and plant based and although they are rich in macronutrients, they lack essential micronutrients like iron, zinc and calcium.
The lack of right kind of nutrition may lead to irreversible damage to a child’s brain development as well as make him more susceptible to illness when he/she grows up to be an adult. This is especially true for infants between 6 and 12 months of age and particularly for iron and zinc. Thus, it is recommended that infant meals should include a variety of food items ensuring adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. This can be done in several ways like improving dietary plans and fortifying the standard food. Nutrient dense foods or complete foods that are fortified is an effective way to address the deficiencies in your child.
Although home cooked food is considered the best for an infant’s overall growth and development, it might be lacking in certain essential micronutrients, especially iron and zinc. There is a growing realisation that infants and young children should have complementary foods that are nutrient dense. The right kinds of food have the power to ensure your baby reaches their full potential and thus, you need to adopt several options for improving dietary adequacy for your infant