FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has recently issued guidelines on making nutritious foods available to school children. To implement this, one of the ways suggested by FSSAI is for the schools to ban the sale of HFSS (High Fat, Sugar, Salt) foods within 50 meters radius of the school. The underlying principles for such a ban is that a) children are not the best judge to choose healthy foods, b) schools are not the right place to promote HFSS foods, c) benefits of traditional nutritious foods cannot be replaced and d) school children need to have better dietary habits.
Although the intention of FSSAI is very good and this is a positive step towards making the children healthier, the implementation might have many hiccups. This method not only requires the school authorities to improve their food / canteen facilities, but also requires regular inspection of the children’s lunch boxes. There are a few schools that are already checking the students’ lunch boxes regularly but this needs to be done at every single school in our country. Secondly, the parents need to play an important role in ensuring that their children carry and eat nutritious foods while at school and at home. Careful planning of meals and buying healthy foods from the grocery shop can go a long way in making meals nutritious. Lastly, children’s participation in shopping, chopping and cooking can also help in increasing awareness and making healthier decisions in food choices.
Yesterday, the popular television channel – News 9, aired a documentary on the rising problem of childhood obesity in India. This was followed by a panel discussion which had health experts and students participating. I was one of the panelists in this interesting and lively 2-hour discussion. Several viewers also called in with their comments and queries.
We all know that the major cause for obesity is a combination of poor food habits and lack of exercise. Other influencing factors are stress, hormonal changes, maternal health, genetic predisposition, and so on. Food intake itself has a lot of influencing factors particularly in children and teenagers. Availability, accessibility, familial habits, convenience, time (or the lack of it), etc. Additionally, advertisements in the media, celebrities promoting unhealthy foods, peers bringing junk to school / college, educational institutions providing only high fat / high salt / high sugar options in their canteens, parents not caring enough about health, have a great influence on a youngster’s food choices.
Can we blame a single person or give a single reason for the rise in the number of overweight / obese people in India? No. There are multiple reasons for this problem but there is a solution. Take responsibility for your health and weight! If each one of us takes care of our health and weight sincerely by making positive lifestyle choices, 75% of the battle is won! The remaining 25% can be won with the help of qualified experts. If you are overweight / obese, don’t lose hope. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
Somebody once remarked “When blackberry and apple were fruits, the world was a much better place”.
Similarly, when children ate fresh, home-cooked food, their health was far better. New research has found that in children, type 2 diabetes (adult diabetes) progresses much faster and the complications related to diabetes appear much sooner in life. This means we might see heart disease, kidney disease and other diabetes-related problems in younger adults in future. An excess of junk foods, processed foods, refined foods, eating out frequently, coupled with physical inactivity is leading children to adult diseases in their teenage years. It is not uncommon to see obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes in school or college going children these days. A preventive measure will certainly help.