Costa Rica launches dietary guidelines for children under 2: only 39.7% have an adequate diet
On 11 August, during World Breastfeeding Week 2021, Costa Rica launched dietary guidelines focusing specifically on nutrition during the critical first 1,000-day window of opportunity, from conception until a girl or boy is two years old. These guidelines aim to improve eating habits and reduce malnutrition in children because, according to the Ministry of Health, only 39.7% of girls and boys receive a minimum acceptable diet for their development.
Targeting children is one of the best investments a country can make, to address health issues in girls and boys that can last a lifetime. In Costa Rica, it is estimated that 27.5 per cent of children under 2 years of age are exclusively breastfed, and 22% of girls and boys from 6 to 24 months suffer from anaemia.
The guidelines encourage exclusive breastmilk in the first six months of life, as breastmilk gives children the best start in life and is considered he only food a baby needs during this period. Also, they establish recommendations for the different stages covered in the first 1,000 days. For example, during pregnancy, it is essential that women have access to and consume fresh, natural foods – with little salt, sugar and fats – for health reasons. The guidelines encourage the consumption of varied and locally produced food, without restricting any food group, in a bid to maintain a healthy weight.
The Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for the first 1,000 days of life were prepared by the Ministry of Health, the Intersectoral Commission on Dietary Guidelines, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement.
For their development, an adaptation of the methodology proposed by FAO headquarters was used. This consisted of 4 stages each, with its respective steps therein:
- Food and nutrition situation analysis
- Technical recommendations
- Construction of key messages
SUN Movement Coordinator and UN Assistant Secretary-General, Gerda Verburg, stresses the importance of investing in adequate nutrition so that everyone can reach their full potential in life, not just physically, but also cognitively.
“Nutrition is not independent of other issues: it is part of many aspects of our lives, such as human and planet health, the economy, conflicts and other elements. The right to food and good nutrition begins at the smallest place to the best of my knowledge: where a boy or girl is conceived,” she argued.
Costa Rica’s Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, stresses that the document will guide and influence people’s behaviour to promote better health and prevent chronic diseases from childhood.
“This instrument serves as the basis for the formulation of public policies on food, nutrition, health, social protection, agriculture and nutritional education programmes to promote healthy eating and living habits,” he said.
FIND OUT MORE
- Watch SUN Focal Point Cecilia Gamboa, Director of Strategic Planning and Evaluation of Health Interventions, Ministry of Health of Costa Rica, explain why these guidelines are needed.
- Take a look at food recommendations for the first 1,000 days, with different graphic and audio-visual materials, here: ministeriodesalud.go.cr/guiasalimentarias.
- Learn more about nutrition in Costa Rica, please see their 2020 country profile.
- Want to beef up your knowledge about World Breastfeeding Week? Take a look at how SUN countries are scaling up efforts here.