IT Minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna has urged the youth to make informed choices about what they eat.

Launching a Smart Choice Café at Women’s Christian College (WCC), she stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy diet as the benefits of education would be neutralised if the youth grew up into unhealthy adults.

According to Dr. Poongothai, Chennai had the highest number of obese persons in India. The prevalence of obesity was, in fact, more than in even some developed countries.

The Minister said studies had found that obesity led to psychosomatic problems along with physical discomfiture. She called for efforts to curb obesity, which was a preventable disorder.

Without advocating one type of food over another, Dr. Poongothai urged students to “enjoy food but stay within limits.”

Pepsico is piloting the café project under its Performance with Purpose initiative. The WCC café is the country’s first.

The project exemplifies a meaningful partnership and sets up a platform to build relationships with young nutrition students by providing a hands-on experience, said George A. Mensah, Director, Heart Health and Global Health Policy, Global R&D, Pepsico International.

Teaming up with partners such as the WCC can create a greater impact, he said.

The café had potential to improve the lifestyle of students and helping them maintain fitness levels, WCC principal Ridling Margaret Waller said. The café seeks to help institutes create environments that encourage and provide access to healthy eating thereby enabling students of nutrition to turn good health ambassadors.

Being involved with such a project should provide a practical orientation for nutrition students, said Gomathy Shivaji, coordinator, Centre for Nutrition Counselling, Research and Extension under the WCC’s Home Science Department.

Pepsico will study feedback from the WCC café before reaching out to other colleges that have nutrition in the curriculum, Mallika Janakiraman, vice-president, health and wellness, Pepsico India, said.