Nutritional needs

Publication:Sakal Times

Date: 29th Aug, 2016

Spoke Person: Ms. Shivani Balvalekar, Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Pune

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With National Nutrition Week (Sep 1-7) coming up, we take a look at different types of diets needed for different age groups.

Ahead of National Nutrition Week from September 1 to 7, Shivani Balvalekar, nutritionist, Cloudnine group of hospitals, gives you the lowdown on nutritional requirements in different age groups, maternal nutrition and more.

Nutritional requirements vary between men and women. Even within people of the same gender, caloric requirements vary according to body size and activity level. Balvalekar says, “On an average, men need more calories than women because of their larger body size in terms of weight and height. While the proportion of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the diet is about the same for both genders, men need to consume more nutrients because of their larger body size.”

Typically, an average-sized male needs about 2,800 calories per day and an average-sized female needs about 2,000 calories per day. “Women need more of certain types of vitamins and minerals such as calcium because they are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men; iron because they are at increased risk of anaemia due to menstruation; and folic acid because of its benefits to a growing foetus,” adds Balvalekar.

Maternal nutrition

A woman should get the right nutrition much before conception, ideally when she starts planning a family. Current evidence indicates that folate supplementation and salt iodisation before pregnancy, and calcium and protein supplementation during pregnancy helps improve maternal nutrition and reduces neonatal mortality and stunting in childhood.

She explains, “During pregnancy, weight gain of about 12 kg is acceptable for a woman with normal body mass index (BMI). In addition to her normal daily calorie intake, she needs an additional 150 calories during her first trimester and an additional 350 calories during her second and third trimesters. A pregnant woman also needs several nutrients in higher quantities than before. For example, a pregnant woman requires 82.2 gram protein, 1200 mg calcium, 35 mg iron, 500 mcg folate and 200 mcg iodine daily.”

Blend of exercise and diet

Exercise increases energy levels, improves muscle strength and brain function, reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and strengthens the immune system.

“Regular physical activity is extremely important to maintain a healthy body weight. Physical activity also stimulates the release of endorphins which can make people feel better and relaxed. One must balance calorie intake with the right amount of exercise. Growing children and adolescents should engage in about 60 minutes of high intensity physical activity daily such as swimming, running, dancing, cycling, or playing any sport. Adults should engage in at least 30 minute moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, jogging or yoga,” she remarks.

Nutrition needed in different age groups


Up to six months of age, breastfeeding is strongly recommended because the composition of breast milk continues to change during this time to help meet the baby’s changing nutritional and growth needs.

As per the recommendation by World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding can be continued up to two years of age.

When the baby is around six months old, solid foods can be introduced in small quantities to complement the breast milk. Highly nutritious foods such as eggs, cereals made of wheat, rice, ragi; and homecooked Dal, Roti, Idli, green vegetables can either be mashed or pureed and fed to the baby.


Growing children require a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, lean meats and fish. The right combination of all these foods will provide the child with all the necessary nutrients needed for growth and development.


Teenagers require more calcium so they should have a dairy-rich diet. Iron is must for both teenage boys and girls, especially, to replace what they lose during menstruation.


Adults should maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Salads are a great way of incorporating a range of fruits and veggies in your diet. Milk and dairy products can be consumed but adults should go for low fat options. Breads and cereals should preferably be wholegrain.


While elderly people need less food than young adults, their nutritional requirements are greater. Older people need more protein in the form of lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. They also need calcium and Vitamin D for their bones, folate, which reduces the risk of heart disease, and Vitamin B12, which is needed for normal blood and brain function. Constipation is a common problem in old age that can be prevented through high-fibre foods.

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