Nutrition is also about integrating good hygiene, preventing food wastage and adopting healthy food habits. Six experts share best practices that help in maintaining good health.
Please share with us foods and tips for a healthy and balanced diet.
Dr Ushakiran Sisodia: The most important thing is to change our lifestyle and food habits. The ages old principle of early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise holds good even today. With our life revolving around gadgets, we stay awake till midnight and miss the sunrise. These late nights slow down our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and lead to weight gain. It’s best to avoid heavy meals after sunset. No food is unhealthy if it is consumed in the right portions.
All the food groups should be included in our diet such as cereals, pulses, leafy vegetables, milk and milk products. When we follow the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), we get a balance of all the nutrients. Around 60-70 per cent of calories should come from carbohydrates, 15-20 per cent from proteins, and the remaining 10-15 per cent should come from healthy fats. Of course, if there are clinical conditions, then the portions vary. For instance, people with diabetes will need more fibre than carbs. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences will also need to be balanced.
How often can we eat ready-to-eat meals?
Dr.Jnanadeva Bhat: Let me reiterate that no food is unhealthy; we only need to have balanced meals. Ready-to-eat food has some preservatives as it needs a longer shelf life. There are also additional flavours to enhance the taste. We are all aware that we can’t leave fresh food around for long as that is not sustainable.
We can safely consume ready-to-eat meals once in a while, if we are unable to cook for some reason, but on a long-term basis we should opt for fresh food. When food is cooked properly, it gives more nutrition and is healthier. It maintains the freshness and flavor as well.
Please suggest ways to change food habits and eat healthier food.
Tiana Rodrigues: The main thing is to not go overboard with packaged foods. We need to understand the right food combinations as well. For instance, when we order chips or pizza, we also order a cola. This is due to the excess salt in fast food. So, we should prefer water over soft drinks. Portions are also very important. Moreover, reading food labels goes a long way in understanding what you are eating.
It’s best not to fall for advertisements, for instance a label telling you that the product is diabetic friendly, may actually have sugar in it. I look at the label, and if calories are about 100-150 from that snack, then it is fine. You have to read the serving values too--the per 100 gm value might actually be just 50 gm or could be 200 gm, and then you would be eating double the calories.
The next thing I will check out is the sugar content. If anything is above 10 gm per serving, I wouldn’t take it. Then I will look for the fat content, not more than 3%. Lastly I will look at the sodium content, anything up to 120-150 mg per serving is not so bad.
You can experiment with leftover food and turn it into exciting snacks. If you do have a craving for fries, then boil the potatoes, make sure they're cooked well and fry in just a tad bit of oil for a nice, crispy edge.
Meals for children are all about colour and presentation. As they wouldn’t just like eating the same chapatis and veggies for all the meals; innovation is the key to get them to eat all the nutrients. Turn the chapati into a taco with palak, corn and cheese.
Can children be given probiotics? And how can the probiotic benefits reach more people?
Anurag Chadha: Traditionally, we have a lot of good fermented foods. But they are not probiotics as probiotic is primarily coming from specific clinically proven strains. Probiotics are perfectly safe for children. The good part is that probiotics are coming up in a variety of food products such as yogurt, buttermilk, flavored milk with fruits and less sugar, chocolates, ice creams. So, there’s a unique combination of health and indulgence. People will see the difference if they consume it for a few months, six to eight weeks and then going to a few months. The immunity will go up and digestive systems will become much stronger.
There is always a minimum requirement, prescribed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Probiotics should be in the range of 10 to the power eight CFU per 100 grams. The brands which make these probiotic products follow international guidelines and FSSAI standards.
As to spreading more aarwreness about probitoics, we have done a good job of taking certain aspects of nutrition to the population. We have talked about the benefits of iodized salts. Everybody understands the importance of vitamins and minerals.
I think the companies will have to bring the probiotics into products which are very widely consumed by larger sections of the population. Then there can awareness sessions in the vernacular medium for the benefits to get widely accepted.
How can we minimize food wastage?
Chef Kunal Kapur: There is a lot of wastage of food on a daily basis that happens across the world, more so in an industrial setting. But it’s far less at home and we can minimize it further with some changes.
The change begins right from the time we buy the veggies and fruits. If we press the fruit a little and it gets a bump, then it starts deteriorating in a few hours and is wasted. In stores, we find veggies and fruits in single-use plastic bags. The lack of circulation spoils the fruit fast, so we shouldn’t store these in sealed bags.
It’s also important that we measure the food while cooking, so that there is less wastage. My mother does it with a ladle. And there’s always fresh and healthy food on the table. Looking back at the days of our grandmoms, they never wasted a single part of the vegetable. And then the peels were left for the cows which had an ecological balance. My mom still has this practice.
We also need to invest in our kitchens with the righ equipment and utensils. This way we don’t waste energy and lose the nutrients. Inculcating good habits early on is the best way. We should invite children into the kitchen to show how food is made. Yes, it has to be in safe boundaries and needs some babyproofing. But the ages old practice of eating in the kitchen ensured that there was less wastage and healthier eating.
Best practices, hygiene and nutrition seem to be an inclusive approach.Please share how the sanitation project by Nayara Energy in Devbhoomi Dwarka has helped in the nutrition journey.
Deepak Arora: When it comes to food, there is a strange paradox. If we observe the poorer communities, they tend to eat coarser foods, as compared to the richer ones. But we find malnutrition more pervasive among the richer communities because we have lost the good, traditional food habits to modernity.
A large percentage of the population is suffering from malnutrition in a country which has traditionally been a food surplus country. The prevalence of malnutrition is widely seen in three forms: stunting, wasting or anaemia, and these need clinical treatment. So there are multiple paradoxes which one needs to look at from a nutrition perspective or a nutrition value chain perspective and then seek an overall solution.
Before the pandemic, nutrition indices in India show that the country was improving. But now, in the last couple of years, there has been a decline. WASH- water, sanitation and hygiene-is an integral part of nutrition. You cannot eat good food if you are not living in a hygienic habitat. You have to make the effort to keep your basic hygiene, even if it is just washing hands prior to eating. As this needs an integrated approach, we have been putting in our efforts to keep the integrated approach in our programmes in Gujarat.
Nayara Energy does many more things in WASH, starting from waste collection to disposal, along with plastic disposal.