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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014
The new ‘normal’: why India gave up healthy food for junk
Shikha Sharma, Hindustan Times
January 10, 2014
First Published: 15:51 IST(10/1/2014)
Last Updated: 18:53 IST(11/1/2014)
Dr Shikha Sharma

Many times I have heard people ask when they can return to their ‘normal diets’. This essentially means they wish to eat certain types of food they’re used to – food that is normal for them.

This makes me curious. What is normal, after all? Is a balanced eating pattern that gives nourishment, health and taste to the body, ‘normal’? Or, is it the cultural legacy of eating habits dictated by our families, culture and demography?


Ban the bun: Despite many choices, most Americans still choose burgers

To highlight the problem with ‘normal’, let me take you through eating patterns over the years. The ‘normal’ two decades ago was eating far less sugar, far more fibre and natural foods, and very little trans fats.

Most meals were cooked at home and were the main source of nutrition. Today in metros, fewer meals are cooked at home and the majority of nutrition comes from noodles, soft drinks and biscuits. The hidden forces guiding decisions are convenience, cost and price.

Is it healthy?
A US study came up with a startling fact that despite a host of gourmet cuisines being available, the majority of orders in restaurants were hamburgers (annual consumption 13 billion), French fries and pizza (almost 23 pounds a year, per person).

Today, even in our cities, most lunches in corporate cafés or institutes are instant noodles. 

The next unhealthy level is when convenience marries low cost. Supermarkets have a host of benefits, but the flip side is that the majority of products are low-cost, convenient and ready-to-eat. 


Break the norm
So, it appears, the new ‘normal’ is foods having high-calorie density, low fibre, low nutrition value, high unhealthy fats, very high sugar, high amount of hormones, chemicals and preservatives and low water levels. 


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These foods create toxins in the body and in the environment. Exercise is now counted in minutes and steps and not hours. So in the new ‘normal’ scheme of things, the human of the future will have a large brain, weak and lean muscles, no hair, disproportionately big backs and bulging abdomens. It’s time to reflect if the new normal is the normal we desire. Or the normal we end up with.


From HT Brunch, January 12

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