It is no secret that the food choices we make affects our health and is responsible for how we feel today, tomorrow and in the coming future. Food is the essential to life and thus the quality and quantity of food you ingest in turn affects your body functioning, the way you think, how you feel, your energy levels and thus plays a crucial role in life expectancy. Good and adequate nutrition sets the foundation of a healthy living. A balanced nutrition when coupled with required physical activity and salutary lifestyle helps keep diseases and disorders at an arm’s length. With so much being talked about on the importance of healthy eating, where do we stand at as a nation?
Let’s have a look at the statistics
Almost 20% of adults in India are overweight and about 20% of the school going children are obese, according to a study published by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. According to UNICEF, one in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. Around 46% of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47% are underweight and at least 16% are wasted. The Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations has estimated that ‘modern life’ diseases such as heart diseases, strokes and diabetes could cut national income by $US200 billion ($214 billion) in the period 2005-2015.
What caused this shift that led us to this catastrophe? The last two decades saw a change in the landscape of food, what we eat, the way we eat and the sedentary lives we lead. Yes, something as simple as unhealthy eating and wrong lifestyle habits has cost us our future. In the past two decades, the way we look at food has changed. We have forgotten the real meaning of food and its power. The country is hit by a health paradox and we are at the ‘tipping point’ of this progression.
What could it mean for us?
A healthy diet provides your body with essential and adequate nutrients that are required for the proper function, growth and development of your body. An unhealthy or insufficient diet that lacks all the essential nutrients, in contrast, has delirious health hazards. A diet lacking in optimum nutrition can severely affect the growth and development of a child. It makes children more prone to various infections, diseases and disorders and reduces life expectancy and quality. On the other hand, the rise in the consumption of simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, processed packaged food and excess of preservatives and additives have caused our waist lines to expand. We are gorging on fast food more than ever and snacking has become a religion. Our expanding waist lines and increasing body weight predisposes us to a spectrum of diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, asthma, kidney disorders, fatty liver and innumerable disorders.
We are hit by this health paradox where malnutrition and obesity coexist and we need to realise the importance of this grave situation. The masses need to be educated about food and nutrition. Yes, that’s how we need to start! Awareness about the need of eating adequate and healthy produce is to be inculcated and brought up. We need to stop looking out for the fast food and highly processed packages and put our heart and soul in preparing a meal at home with fresh produce. Awareness about various existing national and state level health policies that fight malnutrition should be spread. A community based approach has been suggested to fight this consequential issue where parents, teachers and the society needs to teach children about the impact of food, nutrition, physical activity and good lifestyle practices and serve as good role models. Teach them that French fries are not vegetables!
Here is how we can all start and bring about changes in the way we eat, one bite at a time
- Start slow and make one tiny change in your dietary pattern at a time
- Eat fresh and healthy meals made at home whenever possible
- Say no to processed food
- Simplify your eating habits and choose basic ingredients
- Get to know about the basic food groups and what do they provide our bodies with
- Eat mindfully and choose judiciously
- Indulge in an hour of physical activity everyday
- Modify your current lifestyle and switch to a healthier one
- Eat a balanced meal to gather all the nutrients that your body needs
- Learn to read a nutrition label
- Try getting optimum nutrition from food and not pills
- Minimize food wastage
- One mantra you need to remember- moderation is the key
- Keep a check on your portion sizes
- Limit screen time
- Be patient and stay calm