The everyday tussle that goes into the mind of Jitika Anand, a college student living in a hostel, is about eating healthy food to remain fit. Staying away from home makes it difficult for her to have a proper diet.
“Living in a hostel and then taking a healthy diet is not easy. The food they provide us in the mess is not healthy. Most of the time we end up ordering from outside. And now, I have already started seeing the negative effects of it on my body,” Jitika informed The Observer.
In the beginning, she used to pay attention to her diet, but as her course is nearing completion, she has stopped paying attention to her diet and consumes junk food.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), consuming a healthy diet helps to prevent malnutrition and non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. However, the rise in the production of processed foods, rapid urbanisation and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns. People are now consuming foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and salt/sodium. Many do not eat enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The WHO advises that one should have a proper balance between energy intake and energy expenditure. A healthy diet for adults should include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Kadapagunta Sandhya, a final-year architecture student, has a story similar to Jitika’s.
“I remember how conscious I used to be about my diet and health. I tried to incorporate everything in my diet: Fruits, green vegetables, milk products, everything…. But now, I have stopped doing that. Now my attitude is, ‘I will eat whatever I get’.”
Asked why, she said: “I feel that as I am moving towards the end of my course, I have many other important things to do. I have to complete my projects, prepare for exams, and start looking for a job. My mind is in all these things and I feel that I don’t have the strength to think about my diet.”
An article in Mint said that almost all adolescents in India have unhealthy or poor diet, leading to one or the other form of malnutrition. A UNICEF report released in association with NITI Aayog, said over 50 per cent of adolescents (63 million girls and 81 million boys) in India are short, thin, overweight or obese. The report also said 80 per cent of adolescents suffer from “hidden hunger”. This means they suffer from a deficiency of micronutrients like iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Bhargavee Inguva, another college student staying in a hostel admits her diet is not healthy. “I know my diet is not proper. I don’t eat fruits regularly, and I don’t eat green vegetables. Most of the time I eat junk food. But now, I have started feeling how this is affecting my body. I have gained a lot of weight and my haemoglobin and vitamin D levels have fallen. I have been advised to pay attention to my diet and eat healthy food.”
Mehul Bhargava, a BCom student living in a Bengaluru hostel, spoke about his intake of food. “I know it is difficult for a student living outside to consume healthy food. First, the food they cook in the hostel is not healthy most of the time. You cannot rely on that food all the time. Hence, I try to include a balanced diet in my routine; I try to eat fruits, eggs, vegetables and everything. It is not easy.”
Parents worried for their wards
Satyendar Kumar, a parent whose two children stay in a hostel, is worried about their health. “I paid attention to their diet when they lived at home…. I constantly ask them to eat fruits and other healthy food, but they hardly listen to me and make excuses.” His son suffered food poisoning which caused him a lot of tension.”
Archana Jain, whose daughter lives away in a hostel, constantly reminds her to maintain a proper diet. “The food they provide in the mess doesn’t have a variety of options. They mostly give her one type of food. She neither gets milk and milk products on a daily basis nor fruits. I understand it’s not possible for a hostel to provide a balanced diet to so many students, but as a parent, I remain concerned for my daughter’s health.”
Prerika Makkar, an MSc food and nutrition student and dietitian intern, said:“It is a common tendency among students to eat outside and junk food to satisfy their taste buds, but they fail to understand the consequences they might face after a certain age.”
“Your diet should be filled with proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eat foods which are low in fat. Your diet should include everything: Fruits; vegetables; cereals; pulses; milk; and meat products. Your fluid intake should be sufficient. One should consume fruits such as watermelon, muskmelon which contain 95% water,” he said.
ANI recently quoted Olympian Arif Khan as stressing upon the intake of a balanced diet. He said: “Santulit Aadhar (a balanced diet) doesn’t mean you stop going to the nearby café, but it’s just that anything you eat should be eaten in a balanced way.”
WHO member States have agreed to decrease the global population’s intake of salt by 30 per cent by 2025; they have also agreed to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity in adults, adolescents and overweight in children by 2025.