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Should rations be adapted to provide a protective diet?

This question was posted the COVID-19 and nutrition programming forum area and has 1 replies.

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GTAM Wasting TWG

Emergency Nutrition Network

Frequent user

7 Aug 2020, 13:56

Question escalated to the prevention workstream of the Wasting TWG Should rations be adapted to provide a protective diet? What are the most important messages to put out regarding dietary diversity?

GTAM Wasting TWG

Emergency Nutrition Network

Frequent user

7 Aug 2020, 14:25

The following answer was generated through consultation with the memebers of the prevention workstream of the Wasting TWG.

A healthy diet is important during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the body to prevent, fight and recover from infection. No foods or dietary supplements can fully prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, however healthy diets and good nutrition will support the immune system and can reduce the likelihood of developing obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases (many of which are risk factors for complications in the COVID 19 disease).

Same recommendations before COVID-19 about healthy diets will apply today. There is no new recommendation related to adapting portions/rations sizes nor content, including for nutrition or food assistance programmes, provided those already ensure the necessary nutrients to cover the specific needs of the intended beneficiary. Because of their specific and/or increased needs, there are groups considered nutritionally more vulnerable (i.e. pregnant and lactating women and children under two).

Diets vary greatly depending on eating habits, culture, season, availability, etc. Overall recommendations from FAO and WHO to maintain healthy diets is to eat a variety of foods within each food group and across all the food groups.

Below are the key messages around dietary diversity:
• Eat every day a mix of wholegrains like wheat, maize, oat, millet and rice (better if unprocessed)
• Consume legumes like lentils, beans and peanuts
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
• Eat some foods from animal source when possible and appropriate (e.g. eggs, milk, meat, fish) considering context specific messages (e.g. exemption from fasting: PLW)
• For a healthy diet, limit the amounts of fats (saturated and trans fats like in highly processed foods) and prefer unsaturated fats (e.g. sunflower, soybean, canola, sesame and olive oils, but also avocado and nuts
• Limit the consumption of sugar and salt, be aware that processed food including snacks contain both
• Ensure appropriate hydration drinking plain clean water and avoiding sugary or alcoholic beverages
• Finally, practicing good hygiene and proper food handling is also important for a healthy and safe diet. Remember to wash your hands with clean water and soap before and after handling and storing food purchased and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water specially if you eat them raw

Healthy diets are dependent on enabling food systems, therefore, promoting adequate and healthy diets that meet nutrient needs through ensuring availability, physical access, affordability of and demand for nutritious food should be prioritised.

For more advice FAO has compiled many countries’ Food-based dietary guidelines, you may find your country advice here: www.fao.org/nutrition/education/food-dietary-guidelines/en/

These recommendations should be adapted to the context and national policies.
 

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