Nutrition Meets Food Science

Balanced Diet and Controlled Portion

A balanced diet is expected to include a wide variety from each of the food groups in appropriate quantities to provide all nutrients in recommended amounts to keep the consumer in a state of good health. Practically it is not possible to have a balanced diet on a meal-to-meal basis. It can be achieved over an entire day or over a week or even longer periods in most cases. People may not be able to have a balanced diet due to several reasons that includes affordability, availability, acceptability, family behavior or awareness, work pressure and many more. If an imbalanced diet continues over a long period, deficiencies and excesses could result in short- or long-term health issues. Recommended balanced diet will invariably include minimally processed, natural or traditional or culturally acceptable or regionally available foods.

While recommending Balanced diets it is also assumed that the consumer follows portion control. Portion control is a multifactorial process. During our younger days in the early sixty’s affordability was a major issue and foods like vegetables or fruits or desserts were limited on our plates. It was rarely possible to get a second serve. Even to this day there may be several people for whom portion control is enforced. Portion control is to be inculcated into the minds of children from a young age. The fact that one could afford it should not be ad lib kind of eating. If portion control is not taught it will invariably lead to excess intakes of most often the relatively less healthy foods. We may compare portion control to driving on an empty road at a much higher speed than the speed limit. This would become a recipe for disaster. Self-control or self-discipline is required. Food portion if not controlled would also result in disasters to one’s own health.

Industry prescribes serve size on the pack since regulation demands it, but the advertisers often show models gorging on the product. Even if the product is relatively a healthy one there is a need to emphasize on portion control. Educating the consumer is essential but difficult to enforce. Self-control and discipline are needed and this is a habit to be inculcated from early child hood. Mothers tend to over feed children, Families over feed pregnant and lactating women with much more energy than needed. This leads to problems associated with gestation and weight gain post pregnancy too. 2500 years back the following is mentioned in the “Bhagavad Geeta”

Bhagavad Gita 6.16

O Arjun, those who eat too much or too little, sleep too much or too little, cannot attain success in Yog.

Bhagavad Gita 6.17

But those who are temperate in eating and recreation, balanced in work, and regulated in sleep, can mitigate all sorrows by practicing Yog.

Bhagavad Gita 6.18

With thorough discipline, they learn to withdraw the mind from selfish cravings and rivet it on the unsurpassable good of the self. Such persons are said to be in Yog, and are free from all yearning of the senses.

Balancing the diets and controlling portion sizes is a very difficult challenge and needs a multi stakeholder approach which needs to be done with all sincerity considering the health of our people.

Dr. B. Sesikeran

Chairman - Scientific Advisory Committee, Hon. Scientific Director, PFNDAI, Former Director, NIN (ICMR)

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