As the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) releases the new dietary guidelines for Indians, a group of budding nutritionists talk about spreading the good word on nutrition

So, what is the diet secret? The nutritionists, of course. The in-demand food experts who give you gyan about the amount of calories you load in your body by indulging in deep-fried gulab jamun or how your food and an unhealthy lifestyle has resulted in your burgeoning waistline. With more and more people saying hello to a sense of eating that sits lightly on the stomach, nutritionists have become the most-sought after experts.

At the National Institute of Nutrition in Tarnaka, the mood is upbeat. New dietary guidelines for Indians have been released and a group of budding nutritionists talk about spreading the good word on nutrition. “It's exciting to be part of a profession where you can make a healthy choice,” say Swetha, Anusha, Pallavi Sharma and Karishma Shah — M.Sc students of the Institute.

A few kilometres away at Kamma Sangham in Ameerpet, a big group of students studying Nutrition at St. Ann's College sit attentively as a group of women in their gym gear showsimple exercises with dumb bells. The event was ‘Just Lose Fat', a three-day exhibition focusing on eating right and losing weight.

Nutrition experts who talk about dietary supplements and slimming centres that promise Deepika Padukone's slim figure have all become the order of the day. People are falling for the bait, but what about the side-effects? Swetha recalls the experience of going to a yoga centre where her brother was offered a 15-day package with a promise that he would lose 3 kgs in one week! “I was shocked when I heard it. I asked him ‘Is it not unhealthy? How can one lose so much weight in such a short time?' But there are people who fall for these packages,” she says. The youngsters say the concept of health as an investment is still a long way to go in India. “Obesity, especially in children, is alarming and parents don't realise it is the result of compromises in lifestyle. Why aren't public health messages aired on cartoon channels?” asks Pallavi.

Owing to their knowledge on nutrition the youngsters are savvy enough to understand the ‘false' claims made by advertising companies. “One chips company claims zero cholesterol as its USP. Foods which have a plant origin will not have cholesterol naturally. Fat and cholesterol are two different things and the companies easily mislead people,” says Pallavi.

Nutrition experts have also turned into entrepreneurs by launching protein supplements. “Awareness is very important and one should know the dos and don'ts before taking a supplement,” says Karishma Shah. Finally, how do young nutritionists resist temptations? “When you join the nutrition course, each time you look at an item on your plate, a thought crosses the mind about its nutritional value and its calories. After a few months, you stop thinking and eating good (read healthy) food becomes part of your lifestyle,” laughs Pallavi. Making a sincere effort to build a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in staying fit. ‘Let's invest in health than regret later' is the mantra. “People are aware and the resources are available too. But the motivation to take the initiative and make nutritional changes in the diet has still not been picked up. Let's hope the ‘good food good health' song is sung by all,” they say. Amen to that!

Points to ponder

# Losing weight should be systematic. Watch out for the packages offered by slimming centres.

# Be aware of the dos and don't before taking a protein supplement.

# Foods of plant origin will not have cholesterol naturally.

# Fat and cholesterol are two different things.

# Invest in health than regret later.

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