DEVANJALI P MAZUMDAR brings to the table, 20 years off and on the field experience with athletes. She has aided in enhancing sport related skills and have a deep understanding of correct eating habits to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle. She is passionate about her work and her willingness to learn has enabled her to grow and face continuous challenges as she keeps herself grounded and abreast with the latest scientific updates. In this blog, she looks at the urgency with which we must address the nutrition imbalances among children in India.

Yes!! You read it right (the 3rd time around)!

When we mention the term Performance Nutrition, what comes to mind is a competitive athlete, but ironically, we have underrated nutrition and its reach as far as enhancing productivity and efficiency in students (in the schools and colleges) goes.

Stress and the modern Space Age that we live in today share the closest partnership of all times.

Every one of us is wearing multiple hats as we struggle with our day-to-day life and its activities. While stress is not always a bad thing, the inability to handle stress and situations arising from them is what affects them academically, socially, physically and emotionally. Young adults or students as we best know them, are feeling the brunt of these sometimes, “unrealistic expectations” at a very young age.

These problems need to be nipped in the bud or else they can escalate to severe health complications that may sometimes be irreversible, as they age and take on greater challenges. It is imperative to their overall wellness that they are better equipped to identify and work around these factors so that they can perform to the best of their abilities.

According to the Times of India, April 2019, India is No 2 among countries with most deaths caused by poor food choices. Children are fast learners and if sensible eating is instilled in them from an early age, they will be better adept at following the same the same through their college / university and life years to come. Fried foods and unhealthy beverages are major triggers for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity that are growing rapidly in India (Mint Jan 2018.)

Extensive research has been conducted on the intervention techniques that students can apply from trained counsellors and group therapy, to cope with such stresses, but there is a lack of information on healthy dietary habits that they can adhere to for improved overall health.

Many students live away from home and work part time to finance their education. Others scurry between coaching classes and school/college timetables, that eventually cause sensible eating and nourishment to take a back seat. Poor eating habits(skipping meals for lack of time), combined with almost zero physical activity, late night study routines, excessive consumption of stimulants like tea/coffee etc.,  late night parties and social gatherings with alcohol all  build up to disastrous health problems. This causes a build-up of stress in the body which over prolonged periods manifests as poor health and the inability to cope with demanding schedules.

You are what you eat!

A sensible eating pattern can help students improve energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve the ability to cope with stress and increase concentration and performance at school / college level. The basic fact that healthy eating is the base for a sound body and mind is often overlooked.

Correct applications of healthy eating habits will energize the cells and the body to perform optimally to meet the ever increasing demands of the fast paced life that these students are often exposed to. Sensible eating will also fuel their bodies for the demands of any other unprecedented event like a sudden test or a sports event that they need to participate in over and above their routine college / school timelines.

Students also face the temptation of getting lured into the unabated use of many un prescribed drugs and narcotics that have found their way into their lives and futures. These are detrimental to the child’s health and thereby future at large.

Now, more than ever there is a screaming need for authorities to intervene and improve the   canteen/mess menu’s and completely do away with junk foods, sodas and highly preserved, sweetened colas and beverages. Students seek fast and convenient foods that are causing harm to their health. Besides being expensive, these foods have zero nutritional value for the child and are often addictive, which could lead to overconsumption and issues like weight gain and lethargy.

Peer pressure to “fit in” and the desperation to be accepted socially weighs heavy on the youth of today. They seek constant validation from the opinion of others; sometimes even strangers and this again affects these children adversely. In most cases, planning a healthy meal is often tedious and not practical due to the lack of correct information and the inaccessibility to healthy food options.

The global pandemic of recent times should be a rude awakening call for most of us who thought we were eating and living healthy lives. Students need to inculcate sensible eating habits to boost immunity, aid in the development of a healthy mind and body so that they have better inherent coping mechanism for the years and the challenges to come. College authorities and Government bodies need to urgently come together to address these pressing issues with regards to implementing a healthier eating regimen for the future of the nation. This will reduce cost on healthcare and sickness in the years to come.

Students need to be informed of healthy lifestyle options, so that they imbibe these in their early years and go forth with an informed, healthy base of correct eating and sensible food choices. A healthy population will ensure a healthy nation.  A giant step towards Self-Sufficiency begins here!!!