Let’s think back to our childhood. Do you remember a specific time when you learned about the concept of food? If you were asked about the nutritional content of what you ate for the last meal, would you know? What about the last time you checked the expiry date on a packet of snack before eating it?
If your answer to the above questions is “I don’t remember” or “not really”, is it because we don’t always pay attention to this fundamental part of life? Also, more importantly, what are we teaching our children? Are we teaching our children the importance of healthy eating?
Is a treat only an ice-cream or chocolate but never a mango or a melon?
All these questions can illuminate what and how we think about food. This is important because we teach our kids those things that we believe in and hold sacred. So, let’s look at some common beliefs we might hold in our society about food and examine them closely:
Belief No. 1 – Sweets are good
As a society, we love sweets. We have them for every possible occasion – to celebrate birthdays, India winning a cricket match, before sitting for a test, to celebrate the results on that test, in every single event in our fun-fest of wedding ceremonies, and even when someone dies (as a final goodbye to our loved one we eat their favourite foods including sweets that they liked). While sugar played an important role in the early decades of 20th century as a low-cost dietary supplement, its role in today’s society is that of as a major cause of obesity, and it is time we started to look at this with far greater seriousness. An occasional sweet can be fine, but how many do we eat in a week?
Belief No. 2 – We ate all kinds of things while growing up and we turned out fine. Our children will be fine too.
A smoker friend once told me, “My uncle has been smoking a pack a day for the last 30 years. He is completely healthy and I think that whenever something has to go wrong it will. There is no use worrying about it.” While I completely agree that misfortune can befall anyone, would we encourage our children to start smoking? If not, how can we think that just because we are healthy in spite of having bad eating habits, our children will be fine too. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise in India and we must recognise that we live in different times – it really isn’t the same as it was before.
 Boyd-Orr, B. J. B. O. (1937). Food, health and income: report on a survey of adequacy of diet in relation to income. Macmillan.
 Ludwig, D. S., Peterson, K. E., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2001). Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: A prospective, observational analysis. The Lancet, 357(9255), 505-508.
 Pappachan, M. J. (2011). Increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases: high time for action. The Indian journal of medical research, 134(2), 143.