Underweight is a condition when the body weight is 10 –20 % less than the average expected for one’s age, height and sex. There are several causes for one being underweight:
Inadequate food intake, both in quantity and quality.
Increased physical activity without an increase in food intake leading to energy deficit.
Pathological conditions like fevers, cancer, tuberculosis in which appetite is poor and energy needs are greatly increased.
Hormonal imbalance like hyperthyroidism increases the metabolic rate and hence the energy needs of the body.
Eating disorders due to obsession for slimming may be a cause as in cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Health problems related to underweight
Underweight results in growth retardation in growing children.
Lowered resistance to infection and poor general health.
Decreased work efficiency.
Increased chances of complication during pregnancy.
Increased risk during surgery.
Increased susceptibility to certain infections like tuberculosis.
Objectives of dietary management
To restore body weight to normal
To rebuild body tissues and nutrient stores and restore health
To maintain desirable weight
To maintain good nutritional status
Energy: An increase of about 500 kcal per day results in a weight gain of 0.5 kg per week. If a higher weight gain is desired, daily intake may be increased by 1000 kcal.
Proteins: A high energy intake is accompanied with a high intake of proteins to build up the muscle mass. Easily digestible foods like milk, eggs, and a combination of cereals and pulses should be included in the diet.
Carbohydrates: A high carbohydrate intake helps meet the high energy needs. Sugar, honey, cereals, starchy vegetables and fruits must therefore be included in plenty in the diet. The bulk of the food should, however, not be increased as it cuts down the food intake.
Fats: Fats must be used in moderation so as to partly meet the energy needs but not exceed the tolerance.
Minerals and vitamins: The diet should contain enough minerals and vitamins. Vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and pulses, particularly in sprouted form, help in ensuring an adequate intake of minerals and vitamins.
Sample diet plan
Corn flakes porridge Bread with omelette / fried egg Apple / any other
Sprouted moong dal chat / fruit chat
2 chapatti Rice Rajmah curry / lobia curry / black chana curry / any other
dal Brinjal bharta / any other vegetable Curds / raita Salad
Banana milk shake / any other shake / cold coffee with ice cream Cheese and
Vegetable soup / chicken soup 2 chapatti Paneer kofta curry / chicken curry /
fish curry / any other dal Cauliflower sabzi