Why are Indian Children Getting Obese?


Why are Indian children getting obese? Melissa Fernandes peeps into school cafeterias to check on what's being sold across the counters. We also interview two well-known chefs and plan a menu especially for you


Burgers, pizzas, aerated soft drinks, ice-cream, French fries and similar fast foods have become a common addiction among school children. Many of these quick bites have also found their way into school cafeterias. Most parents are worried about their children's food intake, yet they haven't been able to wipe out packaged and fast foods from their children's lifestyle. Arprita Shah, a class 7 student from a South Mumbai school says, "I love eating burgers, French fries and potato wafers. I get them at school and eat them during the break."

But is this the right kind of food to be served at school? Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor says, "Children will reach out for attractive foods. Keeping this in mind, schools should serve sandwiches made with whole wheat or multi grain bread with healthy stuffings, bhel mixed with sprouts and curd, frankies and fresh juices. These are ideal quick bites." Sanjeev adds, "Children need quick snacks and when that is not available, they will opt for junk as is often seen. Junk food comes in colourful packaging that is also easy to eat out of and thus becomes the obvious choice when present. Cafeterias could also stock items like soya burgers with whole meal buns, baked potato wedges, baked beans wraps, poha idlis and panfried rice. Schools should do away with deep fried snacks - it does not matter if they are tasty, economical or convenient. Soft drinks should definitely be out and popular junk food can be made healthier."

On the other hand, Chef Rahul Hajarnavis, Executive Brand Chef of Shiro, a Mumbai-based restaurant, says, "We shouldn't keep children away from packaged snacks as then they will want more of them. Children should be allowed to eat them but in really small proportions. We should maintain a balance between junk food and healthy food, which is necessary as children are exposed to junk in any case."

Schools like Podar International School, Santacruz and Our Lady of Nazareth High School, Bhayander have switched to healthy food in their school cafetarias. Podar School has even come up with a renewed health plan for its students. It has decided to keep a check on students' height and weight and has prescribed a diet plan accordingly. Our Lady of Nazareth High School has started a diet of nutritious snacks and juices. Students from this school have also pledged to say "no" to colas and junk food.

Susan Vaz, mother of an 8-year-old in Podar School says, "It's good to know that schools are also considering the health of the students and introducing productive measures as only then will children be able to do away with oily, fried and processed foods. Children need to be made aware of the harmful effects of oily snacks and aerated soft drinks, which will help them make better choices."

Obesity, caused due to excessive fat in the body, has become a lifestyle problem among many children. Rahul says, "Excessive overeating of junk and oily food causes obesity. But you cannot impose restrictions on children as packaged food is so easily accessible. Children usually consume chips, burgers and pizzas in between main meals and get addicted to it. It's not right to blame the school canteen for these habits. Parents need to keep options like fresh juices, soya milk, high fibre crackers with yoghurt-based dips, nuts, cheese sticks (limited quantity or low fat versions), fruit chaat and other healthy and tasty snacks handy."

More importantly, home-cooked food needs to be brought back into focus. Sanjeev says, "Parents have to ensure that children get back into the dal-chawal-sabzi-roti routine." Let's take the Master Chef's advice and move towards a healthier life.


Breakfast Options:
Muesli with honey and roasted almonds

Fresh fruit juice
Spicy dalia upma
Flavoured fruit yoghurt
Mooli parantha (whole wheat)

Lunch and Dinner Options:
Green salad OR mix sprout salad with spicy tamarind dressing
Carrot, green peas and tomato sabzi and green moong dal OR spinach and corn florentine
Pulao with soya granules OR chapatti
Fresh fruit

Afternoon Snack Options:
Frankie (whole wheat)
Brown bread cheese sandwich

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