As media partner for Youth Health Mela this month, The Hindu NXg will feature a series of articles on health and lifestyle. The second in this series is about nutrition and healthy food choices.

Giving healthy food to their children is a constant concern for parents no matter what social status they belong to. But not all parents are aware of what constitutes healthy nutritious food. The Human Development Report (2009) prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported high rates of malnutrition among children in slums, and the urban elite. Malnutrition among slum children is not a surprise as they do not have access to nutritious food. This report highlighted the co-emergence of malnutrition and overnutrition where rich urban children eat excessive calorie rich but nutrient empty food (devoid of minerals and vitamins). Intake of palatably tasty but nutritiously poor fast foods, aerated drinks, foods high in trans fat, saturated fats and sugar (such as pizzas, burgers, sodas and colas, cakes and pastries, samosa, French fries) do not provide the necessary minerals and vitamins required for daily intake although they may provide the necessary calories. Obesity with micronutrient deficiency and protein energy malnutrition is on the rise among children and adolescents in urban India.

There is an urgent need to inform parents and children of healthy eating habits by giving them information and urging them to make sensible food choices. The Youth Health Mela was conceived with this objective to create awareness among young people about healthy food choices and the damages of unhealthy injudicious eating.

Little things matter

Micronutrients are the little things that matter as they are needed in little quantities and are vital for the proper functioning of the body.

Sodium - is responsible for maintaining the proper fluid balance in your body; it helps fluids pass through cell walls and helps regulate appropriate pH levels in your blood.

Manganese promotes bone formation and energy production, and helps your body metabolise the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat.

Magnesium helps your heart maintain its normal rhythm. It helps your body convert glucose (blood sugar) into energy, and it is necessary for the metabolisation of the micronutrients calcium and vitamin C.

Iron helps your body produce red blood cells and lymphocytes.

Iodine helps your thyroid gland develop and function. It helps your body to metabolise fats, and promotes energy production and growth.

Chloride helps regulate water and electrolytes within your cells, as well as helping to maintain appropriate cellular pH.

Getting enough micronutrients in your diet isn't hard. Eat a balanced diet including plenty of nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits and vegetables, like red cherries, purple grapes, yellow bananas and orange carrots.

The more colourful your diet, the better.

The Big Four

Healthy protein

Healthy fats

Healthy carbohydrates

Healthy liquids

How well do you eat? (Give yourself one point for each)

Eat atleast five servings of vegetables a day (one serving is half a cup of cooked veggies)

Eat atleast two servings of fruit a day (one serving is a medium piece fruit)

Have two servings of milk every day

Eat high fibre cereal or wholegrain every day

Eat a small serving of meat, chicken or fish or two eggs or some legumes or nuts everyday?

Limit deep fried foods to once a week or less

Limits high sugar drinks such as soft drinks to once a fortnight or less

Score:

6-7 – Congratulations! You are eating well.

4-5 – There is room for improvement in your eating habits.

0-3 – It's time to rethink your eating habits seriously.

Unhealthy eating habits

Skipping breakfast

Eating before bed

Bingeing

Starving

Eating while working and watching TV

Eating too fast

Not drinking enough water

Healthy eating

Eat a healthy breakfast

Avoid snacking between meals

Watching portion sizes

Eat seasonal and locally available foods

Eat slowly and savour each mouthful

Listen to your body and not the clock

Eat when hungry and stop when full

Fast food fast tracks to ill health

Youth Health Mela is an event for the Youth to be Youthful forever. To learn more about healthy eating and healthy living and

To Celebrate Life, visit the Youth Health Mela from Feb 22 to 26 at Valluvar Kottam.

www.youthhealthmela.in

Courtesy : Cancer Institute, Chennai

RELATED NEWS

Eat smarter to live betterJanuary 25, 2012