We all know the importance of staying healthy, eating right and staying on track with our exercise regime, lest we want to spend most of our middle age and old age life paying hospital bills. We work our way up from being kids who spend hours playing to growing up as people with huge bellies, working hours in front of a computer screen. All these are further aggravated with bad food habits and improper diets or incomplete nutrition. This National Nutrition Week let us draw attention of the youth and those busy with their hectic lifestyles towards eating right and staying fit, to lead a more satisfying life with increased productivity.

History of National Nutrition Week in India

The concept of Nutrition Week was started in 1982, to prevent malnutrition from becoming a hindrance to national development. Managing nutrition involves the Ministry of Women and Child Development , Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and various NGOs working for the same. It involves mass nutrition awareness campaigns, food training camps, analysis of the nutritional health of the country’s population in general and using it in turn to analyze the overall HDI.

Need for National Nutrition Week

From the past few years the overall deaths around the world, due to malnutrition have gone up drastically. India has been ranked by World Bank as 160th, in terms of middle-income, in a list of 209 countries. Even though some parts of the world are producing enough to feed the entire world, the other parts lack behind in production or the resources to import the bulk produced in other nations.

People, busy in their toll taking lifestyles are ignoring the food that they put in. In India, 22% of the infants are born with low birth-weight as compared to less than 10% in developed countries. Also, about 33% of the adult males and 36% of adult women have a BMI of less than 18.5, which indicates Chronic Energy Deficiency (CED). Children spend more time living in the e-world, thus not stepping out unlike the olden days when kids of the colony would gather around for hours in the evening, playing and running around. This has increased obesity in kids and adolescents alike. It has also led to decreased Vitamin D and Vitamin A in preschool children. These children have started showing signs of Bitot’s spots and night blindness. Deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals has led to decrease in immunity of today’s kids.

Therefore, while one part of the world is spending time eating more than required by the body, the other part is dying of hunger and lack of proper meals.

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What includes a balanced diet?

A balanced diet is one which provides nutrients in adequate amounts. A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from fat. It also includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fibers. Antioxidants from spices, like cumin seeds, turmeric, garlic etc., protect the human body from free radical damage. Other phytochemicals provide protection against oxidant damage.

The nutrients required are different for different age groups and gender. Also, a person involved in a lot of physical exercises may have to eat more than a person who works from the comfort of a chair. Similarly,  differently-abled are guided accordingly for what constitutes a balanced meal for them.
Widespread malnutrition has resulted due to lack of proper diet plans, poverty resulting from huge family sizes, inadequate health, and sanitary facilities. Those belonging to socially backward classes are the most affected in times of low agricultural productivity, droughts, and famines.

NAtional NUtrition Week

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Government Policies and Programs

90% of the developing world is undernourished while a 20% have a low weight to height ratio. Out of the total population of the developing world under stress, 1/3rd live in India. Also, 28% of the rural population and 26% of the urban population falls below the poverty line. These families don’t have access to a proper diet.
Despite many government initiatives, the actual benefits of PDS and mid-day meal schemes, fail to reach those in need. An average Indian has milk availability of about 245 g/day as compared to the world average of 285 g/day. The most sustainable answer to the problem is ensuring adequate food facilities, improving infrastructure and spreading awareness.

Some of the government schemes in the following direction are:

  1. Promotion of appropriate infant and young child feeding practices. It includes early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months of age and appropriates complementary feeding after 6 months of age.
  2. Management of malnutrition and common neonatal and childhood illnesses at community and facility level.
  3. Treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition at special units called the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers. Presently 875 such centers are functional all over the country.
  4. Specific program to prevent and combat micronutrient deficiencies of Vitamin A and Iron & Folic Acid (IFA) in under-five children, children of 5 to 10 years of age, and adolescents.
  5. Village Health and Nutrition Days and Mother and Child Protection Card are the joint initiatives of the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Woman and Child for addressing the nutrition concerns in children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

Next Steps

It’s a wake-up call for the world! We have to start paying attention to the things which matter in the long run. We have to maintain a healthy and soulful lifestyle. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, thereby improving the overall efficiency of the person. It will also save money and time that may be wasted, running after medications and doctor appointments.

Each individual in the country has to take an oath to stay fit and make efforts every day towards a healthier life. At the same time, the government has to ensure basic balanced meals are made available to those in need. This will improve the overall efficiency of the nation, rightfully satisfy the quote, “Poshtik Ahar, Desh Ka Aadhar”.

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