PETALING JAYA: Poor dietary habits could be one reason for the problem of stunted growth among children, and parents need to take some responsibility for this, according to an expert.
Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) president Dr Tee E Siong advised parents to take an interest in the nutritional needs of their children and make an effort to provide them with healthy meals.
“Problems related to under-nutrition are also caused by poor dietary habits among children. Usually, such diets are imbalanced and especially lacking in protein, vitamins and minerals.
“Parents cannot say ‘no time’. They must make time, empower themselves with appropriate knowledge and prepare appropriate meals for their children,” he told FMT.
Tee added that healthy meals do not have to be expensive.
A recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) revealed that 20% of children in Kuala Lumpur’s working-class neighbourhoods, such as low-cost flats, are stunted while 10% are underweight.
The study on urban child poverty and deprivation also revealed that the prevalence of underweight, stunting and wasting among children aged below five in the capital’s low-cost flats is double the city’s average while the number of overweight children is six times higher (23%).
The report noted that malnutrition for children in low-cost flats was worse than the national and Kuala Lumpur average, with the prevalence of malnutrition higher among older children.
It also said a higher income did not mean better health, noting that even in Putrajaya, almost one in four children was stunted.
Last November, the health ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2016 found that one in four children in Putrajaya were stunted due to malnutrition.
Tee said the lack of knowledge on the importance of nutritious food for children had resulted in poor dietary practices.
“Healthy meals refer to meals that are balanced, with a variety of food items, and consumed in moderation.
“Balanced meals are those that have the main food groups, that is, cereals and cereal products, fruits and vegetables, fish/meat/eggs, legumes and milk/milk products.
“Variety means that the daily meals must be made up of different types of food. There are different types of cereals such as rice, tubers, noodles; different types of vegetables; different types of fish, fruits, and more.
“If a meal consists only of a little rice and a piece of meat, with nothing else, then it is not balanced.”
Tee said the way food was prepared or cooked was also important.
“We do not recommend foods to be fried or prepared using too much oil, santan, sugar or salt.”
The timing of meals also played an important role in nutritional well-being, he added.
“We should all have the three meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as nutritious snacks, if required. These are the main principles of healthy meals.”