ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Policy Landscape for Diet Diversity in India

Diets have become predominantly based on starchy staples as a result of selectively subsidised cereal crops following the green revolution, with little animal products, fresh fruits, and vegetables. This has resulted in an increased burden of malnutrition along with rising micronutrient deficiency. Diet diversity was found to be dependent upon four major factors: availability, affordability, awareness, and utilisation. There is an urgent need to shift food systems and policies for a healthier and nutrient-adequate diet.

 

Diversity in diets is associated with consuming more than three food groups that provide enough nutrients through a healthy diet. It includ­es adequate quantities of carbohyd­rates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals through diets, including cereals, mainly pulses, nuts, oil, meat, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Diet diver­sity ensures improved nutritional outcomes as corroborated by several studies by Marie T Ruel among other scholars (Ruel 2002a, 2002b; Laskar and Rakib 2019). But there are several factors that drive diversity in our diets, one of which is policy. The POSHAN Maah thematic celebration on “POSHAN Vatikas” captures the importance of diversity in diets. Against this backdrop, we will ­understand the diet diversity through the lens of policy landscape in India.

According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) (2015–16) (MoHFW et al 2017), only 9.6% children are fed a minimum acceptable diet, which declined to 6.4% children aged under two years receiving a minimum acceptable diet as per the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) 2016–2018 (MoHFW et al 2019). The minimum acceptable diet measures both the minimum feeding frequency and the minimum dietary diversity, which is the consumption of four or more food groups. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) have recommended a daily plate that ensures diet diversity, in which 45% has been allotted to cereals, 17% for pulses, eggs, and flesh foods, 12% for fats and oils, 10% for milk and curd, 8% for nuts and seeds, and merely 8% is given for fruits and vegetables. However, their recent report “What India Eats” has shown that despite regi­onal disparity in consumption, cereals were being consu­med the highest across the country (ICMR and NII 2020). The ­report, being first of its kind, also highlighted the rural–urban divide, which confirmed that urban areas had better dietary diversity with more people consuming more food groups. Further, the report identified that lower consumption of vegetables and fruits increased the risk of diabetes and lower intake of milk increased the risk of hypertension. So to say, the possibility of reducing “lifestyle” diseases lies in including healthy dietary practices, of which diet diversity is a crucial part. The report notes that the increased availability of inexpensive staple cereal crops has reduced hunger, but this has happened at the expense of diet diversity, displacing local ingredients and protective foods. Dietary diversity contributes to improved health outcomes, but it depends on the availability, affordability, and stability of different varieties of food that are not covered by any subsidised food policy.

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Updated On : 5th Mar, 2022
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