In Jordan, the diet is mainly based on wheat, rice, vegetables, and foods of animal origin (milk/dairy products, and meat). Dietary diversification has improved and is currently quite high. Over the last decades, there has been a significant increase in the supply of foods of animal origin, vegetable oils and sweeteners, the latter exceeding the upper limit of recommendations. These changes are reflective of the nutritional transition that Jordan has been moving through, most notably in urban areas, where the diet and food consumption habits are shifting towards a westernized style. The dietary energy supply is well above the population energy requirements and the prevalence of undernourishment is at a very low level.
This largely desert country has very little arable land and water is a very scarce resource. As a result, local agricultural production is extremely low, except for fruit and vegetables, and the country is heavily dependent on imports for most food commodities. Coupled with rising food prices on global food markets, this dependency raises the question of economic sustainability.
Much more efforts are needed with regard to infant and young child feeding practices. Exclusive breastfeeding and early initiation of breastfeeding are not common and although complementary feeding is diversified, it is often introduced too early or too late. Chronic malnutrition has gone down considerably in the 1990s and is currently at a low level. Acute malnutrition is no longer a concern. On the other hand, inadequate young child feeding practices, a diet rich in fat and sugar, and decreasing levels of physical activity are responsible for the emergence of overweight among young children.
Iodine deficiency disorders are no longer a public health problem thanks to the implementation of the universal salt iodization strategy. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) persists as a moderate public health problem and the prevalence of sub-clinical VAD among preschool children tends to increase in urban areas. Although a national action plan has aimed to expand vitamin A supplementation programme in young children, coverage remains very low. Anemia is a mild public health problem in preschool children, and besides iron deficiency, other determinants of anemia have to be taken into account to tackle this problem.
Among women of childbearing age, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is alarming. This high prevalence is to be put in relation with the increasing availability of energy-dense and fat-rich foods, along with decreasing levels of physical activity. Cultural standards also play a role. Vitamin A deficiency is not common among women. Iron supplementation of pregnant women and the fortification of wheat flour with many micronutrients have been developed in Jordan. Long term foodbased approaches should be strengthened.
Jordan faces the double burden of malnutrition, marked by the persistence of micronutrient deficiencies and the increase in overweight and obesity, which requires rapid action.