Our food needs change through our lives. In the first few years of life, plenty of foods for building and protecting the body are necessary to build strong healthy bodies. Older children and adults who lead busy, hard-working lives, need larger amounts of staple foods for energy.

We will look later at the special needs of babies and young children. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers are eating not just for themselves but for their baby too. They need plenty of all kinds of foods. Women also need plenty of iron, vitamin A and calcium throughout their lives.

Elderly people become less active as they grow older. They need fewer staple foods, but need plenty of foods to repair the body to help them resist infection.

Sometimes they find it difficult to eat well, because they have little money, are unable to cook, have lost their teeth or suffer from ill health.

People who are sick or have HIV or AIDS, need plenty of nutritious foods to help them fight off infection. However, they often do not want to eat. This is why people who are sick often lose weight. They need encouragement to keep eating. Provide small portions of tasty food regularly. Give foods that are easy to eat, like soup.


  • As babies develop, both inside their mothers and while breast-fed, they need a lot of calcium and iron to build strong bones and blood. What kind of foods are rich in calcium and iron (look back to pages 6 and 16)? Which are easily available in our area?
  • What problems do elderly people have in providing food for themselves in our community? How can their families help support them?
  • What foods are traditionally given to people who are sick? Are these helpful in strengthening them?
  • How do people care for and feed children who are sick in our community?
  • Diarrhoea is very common in young children. It is very important to keep feeding a child who has diarrhoea, as well as giving plenty of liquid. How can we encourage people to do this?


A simple guideline to encourage good nutrition is to give everyone the same amount of relish (whether vegetables, meat or pulses) but to vary the amount of staple food provided. Children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, sick people and older people all need the same amount of relish as a working man.