Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

A mother’s call

Al-Ahram Weekly

A mother’s responsibility for her kids’ health starts at pregnancy. “A mother who is iron-deficient through her pregnancy risks giving birth to an iron-deficient infant,” Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, who is medical director of Nutricia Middle East and Africa, told Nesmahar Sayed. One of the main goals is to raise awareness among mothers of the importance of iron and the idea of balanced nutrition for children and toddlers. “As for breast-fed babies, healthy nutrition for the mother is a must, in addition to avoiding giving children under three any cow milk,” he said.
According to Egypt’s Demographic and Health Surveys, two in three infants aged 6-12 months in Egypt suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. “Iron deficiency leads to hyperactive kids and kids who suffer from lack of concentration,” according to Sanna Youssef, a professor of paediatrics at Ain Shams University and the founder of the first clinical nutrition unit at an Egyptian university in the late 1990s.   
Youssef believes that the high frequency of iron deficiency among children in Egypt comes from unhealthy nutritional habits especially among the young generation. Many working mothers are also used to eating fast food, which affects the iron levels in their bodies. As a result, their breast-fed babies are at a high risk of iron deficiency. For toddlers, the problem is compounded by a culture of appeasement in Egypt that relies on giving them sweets and unhealthy food. “We should really try to limit how much sweets we give our children during any given day or week,” Youssef added.  
When we contemplate the shocking statistics that the highest prevalence of cancer among children under the age of two is in Egypt, we can see how crucial it is to focus on healthy nutrition. One way to do this, according to Youssef, is to make it a point for families to eat together at specified times like in the good old days. She emphasised that iron should be supplemented when the kids begin eating.  
Healthy food:
· A plate should be divided into four quarters; half for vegetables and fruits and half divided into two parts, one for carbohydrates, such as rice and pasta, and the other for meat.  
· Dairy products daily: one cup of milk and yoghurt or custard or pudding.
· Nuts and dried fruits.
· Orange juice.
· Green leafy vegetables (spinach-broccoli).
· Alfalfa and molasses (the best sources for immunity).
Foods to avoid:
· Packed juices.
· Sweets, biscuits, chocolate (except for once or twice per week).
· Processed foods (sausages, hamburgers).
· Excessive saturated fats.

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