Did you know that your nutritional needs continue to change as you age? The nutritional needs of an infant vary from those of a 50 year old. With the passage of time, our bodies need less of certain nutrients and more of others. Here are some general rules of nutrition for all stages of life.
Infancy through Childhood (0 to 10 years old)
A newborn is rapidly developing and growing during its first year of life. Weight and blood will triple in volume, and height can increase by nearly 50%. Due to this rapid rate of growth, infants require frequent feedings. Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns since its nutrient composition is well suited for the infant’s growth rate. Breast milk also contains anti-infective and anti-allergenic substances.
Infants are typically able to eat solid food between the fourth and sixth months of life. Infants and young children cannot consume as much food as adults at one time. Therefore, they get hungry more frequently and need to eat more than the standard three meals a day in order to meet their nutritional needs. It is important to encourage healthy in-between meal snacks like fresh fruits, bite-sized vegetables, and food made from whole grain cereals such as oatmeal.
Adolescents (10 to 18 years old)
Adolescents have higher food demands than younger children, especially during periods of rapid growth. Unfortunately, they also typically have poor eating habits, turning to high-fat fast foods and high-sugar convenience foods instead of healthier alternatives. Since adolescents snack often, snacks high in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and fortified whole grain cereals are a great way to ensure they are consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients.
In order to help avoid osteoporosis later in life, adolescents—females in particular, need to consume enough calcium to help achieve as dense a bone mass as possible. They should drink plenty of low or non-fat milk, eat other low-fat dairy products, and use calcium-fortified foods when needed to meet the recommended calcium intake.
Adulthood (20 to 65 years old)
Adults should strive to maintain good nutrition and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. It is during the adult years that nutrition-related problems such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease may surface due to poor nutrition earlier in life. Adults should therefore eat a well-balanced diet from all of the food groups, and maintain an active lifestyle. Middle-aged adults should limit their intakes of saturated fats and sodium. Less than 10% of daily calories should be derived from saturated fats, and less than 30% should be from total fat. Adults should fill their diets with, whole-grain, fiber containing foods, such as Quaker Oatmeal, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy product.
Older Adults (65 years and older)
The primary health concern for many older adults is to reduce calorie intake while maintaining a healthy diet. This is important to avoid excessive weight gain due to decreased activity levels. Older individuals should limit their fat intake to no more than 30% of their total calories, but still consume a wide variety of foods to maintain their health. Foods like lean meats, dark leafy greens, whole grains like Quaker Oatmeal and legumes are all excellent food choices. Other nutrients of particular concern in older adults include calcium and vitamin D, to support bone health. A significant number of older adults have trouble utilizing vitamin B12 from food and should consume foods fortified with this vitamin, which helps support a healthy nervous system.