Changing Food Consumption Trends in India

Food Consumption in India – Overview

Over the years, something that Indians are famous for is that we love and savour our food. Other than being the land of culture and heritage and archaeological exhibits, our taste for spicy food that makes most westerners run in fear is something that we are known globally for. We can ask ourselves if there is anybody among us that doesn’t like food. The answer is a big no. Indians don’t eat to live, they live to eat, it’s a saying that many people find offensive but for those who can see the lighter side of it is quite accurate. Our nation is not even known for a single dish, from the sambhars in the South to the Rajama Chawal in the North, every region has a healthy debate about their signature dish being the best. The point being that every dish is unique in its own right and nobody not even Gordon Ramsay can choose between them.

For better or for worse, these cultures are changing. Over the past 25 years or so, we have shifted away from our roots and started adapting western lifestyles and with it their food also. Outside influences have changed our eating and consumption patterns. Where there used to be traditional eateries, McDonalds and KFCs have popped up, indicative of the influence of our Western lifestyles. This is not exclusively to be blamed, economic growth has led to people being less reluctant to spend on the more expensive food and the cities also are being built in such a way that western food outlets are given priorities over traditional ones. Very often you see a mall having a popular outlet in its premises but finding one with a traditional eatery is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The TV ads once filled with Maggi noodles has now been taken over by corporate giants advertising their overly priced packages that claim to save that valuable 2% of your money if you come as a family. If you go out with a small group without pizza or French fries at some point in the trip, you will be frowned upon like a stone age man. Even in our homes, our fridges are stuffed with ready to eat, ready to cook, frozen food and all types of other packaged food products. Even our traditional food products like idlis, dosas and so on have been made into packages that just need to be cooked.

It is arguable that this trend is more visible in urban areas where ready to eat foods and junk foods are more easily available and the people in the area don’t really have the time to cook themselves following their ancestral ways. In nuclear families where even women earn their livelihood, even rural families will eventually catch up with the times.

With so much talk about food, one would assume at least India is getting its needed nutrient intake. But again, it’s not so, Indians are eating more unhealthily every day. Cereals are becoming the norm for breakfast with fat and snacks finding their way into the daily diet. Beverages and other processed foods are being consumed at an alarming rate. Protein consumption has taken a back seat to fats and calories not just in urban but rural areas as well.

Put in layman terms, the kind of food we are interested in are the rich in fat, brimming with calories, sugar type. Whereas our calorie intake is meeting the demand, other micro and macro nutrients and fibers are lacking on our plate.

Putting specifically, above kind of foods are generally refined, rich in fat, salt, sugar and are calorie dense. So when our calorie intake may be same, the other nutrients, micro nutrients and fibers in our plate are missing.  On the other hand, our traditional food items provide a holistic picture to our consumption. The current nutritional value is even less than what we used to consume way back in 1990. 20 years of development have taken us in the wrong direction on the nutrition scale.

As new brands come up with appealing new products, mixing up your diet is always a welcome change. But replacing the balance in your diet with premium junk food and killing your nutrient intake will do you no good. This is easier said than done with chances are, after you read this you are going to munch on some junk food or drink some barely healthy beverage. In fact, you might be delving on some right now! So sit for a while a give a moment of thought. Just like our markets are affected by a variety of factors, our body is also complex and needs input from different areas.

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