The Health Ministry directive on chucking out biscuits from snack routines sends a right message
Sometimes the message has to be sent out from the top. So the Health Ministry’s decision to change the snacks served at its offices from biscuits and cookies to roasted gram and dry fruits shows that not only is it taking its job seriously of nurturing the nature’s health but also revising traditional mindsets that are used to having tea with biscuits and cookies during several self-invented breaks of the day. We Indians are notorious for our love of oily, fried and sweet snacks and that has made our genetic disposition towards having elevated blood sugar, cardiac disease and high-blood pressure more certain. It is predicted that one in three Indians will be diagnosed with diabetes in the coming years and cardiac disease is already endemic in India, with people as young as 40 dying from heart problems.
One aspect of managing these risks is to improve our diets, and this is something that all of us can consciously do. Packaged snacks, even biscuits, contain large amounts of refined sugars, saturated fats, maida and negligible fibre. Small portions of these are quite alright for most of us, but a few too many and you could end up doing some lasting damage. Diabetes, for example, attacks most organs, including the brain, eyes and kidneys, and unmanaged can be deadly. Having natural snacks while avoiding refined sugars and processed oils will work wonders for some. And missing a biscuit or two does not mean denial, there is enough in our legume and grain heritage to pass off as accompanying munchies. We should all take inspiration from the Health Ministry’s missive to avoid unhealthy snacks, not just in office spaces but also in our homes. And we should spice things up, because across India a whole host of nice, tasty, healthy snacks of the puffed variety exists and we should be looking at those instead of that packet of chips or easily available chocolate cookies. This will, however, be just a small, preventive drop in the ocean in the fight against unhealthy lifestyles and the bureaucrats and professionals in the health ministry should continue to work towards reducing the incidence of these conditions. They should also begin explorations about whether unhealthy snacks and carbonated, sugary drinks should attract a ‘sin tax’ to fund their work and educational campaigns. This might have the industry up in arms but the fact is we have to realise that India is hurtling towards a negative health index.