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2 Feb, 2009 08:14

India’s kids becoming super sized

Indian cuisine is enjoyed all over the world, but despite its appeal, many Indian kids prefer to eat fast food. Much like in many other developed countries, childhood obesity is becoming a serious problem.

In yester years most kids in India were thin and looked rather lean in comparison to their Western counterparts. Today, urban Indian kids have an excess weight problem.

“Today, as our research says, 37% percent of Delhi’s school-going children are obese, which is quite a big figure and one which will account for juvenile diabetes in the long run,” said Dr. Rachna Sethi. She says that the problems are not just physical:

“We have seen children are having very low self confidence, very low self esteem when they have such big figures.”

There are many reasons for this alarming trend. Fast food, which is high in fat, is readily available and marketed by multinational companies as ‘good food’. Indians are also eating out a lot more and take-away is becoming a necessity with working parents who don’t have time to cook. Most parents claim that today’s kids prefer the taste of fast food.

“Junk food has a very appealing flavour for the children, we make the same thing at home and it is not liked, even noodles and chow mein at home is not preferred,” says one parent.

Children are growing up in an extremely competitive environment with long hours of study. The concept of play has also changed, with very little physical activity and more electronic gadgets. However, this problem is not restricted to the affluent class since fast food is affordable by all.

“Calories in the form of carbohydrates are very cheap. Let us not forget that junk food is relatively cheap. You get a McDonald’s burger for 20 Rupees, you get chips for 10 Rupees… so those people are very able to afford the junk food. It’s not as if it is out of their reach,” said paediatrician Dr. Supriya Gulati.

Parents also blame TV advertising and heavy marketing by fast food giants for the problem, but some have ideas about how to turn the situation around.

“Put some health ads on television, probably showing how bad it is in the years to come. How it will affect them as an adult, it will lead to obesity, lot of health problems,” says one parent. Other suggestions include marketing organic food.

The dream of every adult and child is to have tasty fast food that is also healthy. Until then, the message that children need to be given is ‘balance what you eat.’