Legumes, eggs out of reach for most Karnataka toddlers

Inadequate diet

Healthy diet

Only one in 10 toddlers in Karnataka gets to eat legumes and nuts while only one in five consumes eggs and meat, says one of India's biggest nutrition surveys.

Children in the 2-4 age group in the state are fed adequately on grains, roots and tubers but when it comes to dairy products, only half of them are given milk or curd. The numbers fall further with meat and eggs.

The situation improves a bit for children of 5-9 years but the short supply of animal proteins remains a problem area even for them. Only 21% of them get to eat fish, 41% chicken and 57% eggs, according to the Union Health Ministry's Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS).

As a part of CNNS, researchers interviewed 1,12,316 children from 30 states and Union Territories, and analysed more than 51,000 blood, urine and stool samples to generate baseline data on malnutrition that has been identified as a key limiting factor for India to achieve its economic potential.

Dietary diversity

In the country, 42% of children aged 6 to 23 months were fed the minimum number of times per day for their age, but only 21% were fed an adequately diverse diet and just 6% received a minimum acceptable diet.

"Dietary diversity is a proxy for nutrient adequacy of diet. Insufficient dietary diversity and meal frequency play a key role in nutritional deficiencies among infants and young children, leading to increased risks of childhood morbidity and mortality," says the report.

Among school-age children and adolescents, more than 85% consumed dark green leafy vegetables and pulses or beans at least once in a week, but only one-third of them consumed egg, fish, chicken or meat once a week. Only 60% consumed milk or curd in the same period.

For children of 6-23 months age, the complementary food (besides breastfeeding) should come from grain, roots and tubers, dairy products, eggs, legumes and nuts, other fruits and vegetables and flesh foods.

Only 21% of children (18.3% in Karnataka) aged 6-23 months were fed an adequately diverse diet containing four or more food groups.

State-wise variations are significant. In Karnataka, only 11.2% of children of 2-4 years of age (India, 31.6%) eat legumes and nuts while 19.1% get eggs (India, 19.6%). In both categories, the numbers are better for Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala.

When it comes to chicken or meat, only 21.9% of kids in 2-4 age group (India, 18.7%) in Karnataka get them. The number doubles to 40.7% in the 5-9 age groups (India, 28.4%).

While vegetarianism rules many northern states, southern states fare better in making the diets diverse for their kids.

On the positive side, pre-school and school-going children in Karnataka have no dearth of grains, tubers and vegetables. But they are not provided all the necessary vitamins, proteins and micro-nutrients required to tackle malnutrition.

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