The prime requirement of human health, food and therefore nutrition is what governs the quality of life of every individual. For holistic development of every living being, it is the many elements of this expansive concept of what we understand as nutrition that matters the most in their availability through consumption. With an aim to further this importance that nutrition holds for the human body and mind, the National Nutrition Week is observed every year in India from the 1st to the 7th of the month of September.
National Nutrition Week 2021
An annual observance since 1982, the 2021 weeklong celebration will also continue along the lines of what has shaped this significant countrywide observance of recognising the importance of nutrition in the nearly four decades through which it has spanned to bring more awareness about this essential driver of life among the masses. But beyond the span of the 7 day event, the month of September in 2021 will also see observance of the 4th POSHAN Maah or Nutrition Month, as the Thematic POSHAN Maah under the POSHAN Abhiyan, also known as Nutrition Mission. Initiated in 2018 when the Poshan Abhiyan was launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Poshan Maah is an extension of the activities sought to redefine the not very satisfactory nutritional status of India through the observance of the National Nutrition Week.
Aiming to make India a malnutrition free country by 2022 with a particular thrust on improving nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant, women, and lactating mothers, the Poshan Abhiyan’s schedule of activities for 2021 include a range of explorations such as plantation drives of saplings of nutritious fruit trees, vegetables, and medicinal herbs and plants; awareness campaigns on the importance of regional and local food and subsequent distribution of Nutrition Kits comprising of regional nutritious food; slogan writing and Recipe competitions to raise awareness about nutritious food for pregnant women; special drive for height and weight measurement of children above 6 years and many such measures that will help identify the lacunae persisting in the state of nutritional development in the country and provide viable solutions to better the effects of the same.
National Nutrition Week 2021 Theme
A theme based celebration of the essence that the necessity of nutrition entails, the National Nutrition Week envisages to work around a certain concept of this vast dimensional entity every year. And the theme for the observance this time around is Feeding Smart Right From Start, that which focusses on the consumption of the right kind of food starting from the time when an individual becomes capable of partaking proper food.
Spread across the 30 states and union territories of India are 43 Community Food and Nutrition Extension Units (CFNEUs) that organize workshops, campaigns, orientation training, community meetings, etc to spread the word about the importance of nutrition, centered every year around a particular aspect of the widely incorporative strata of the nutritional needs essential to every human. In line with the 2021 theme as well therefore, the goal of observance of the National Nutrition Week would be to emphasise the role that nutrition plays in every stage of life development to emerge as the wholesome component of holistically healthy generations of humankind.
National Nutrition Week History
While the National Nutrition Week might have come to be a part of India’s endeavor to rid the country of the evil effects of malnutrition only during the 1980s, the essence of its origin finds rooting in times of the previous decade. The year of 1973 saw the American Dietic Association introduce their concept of the National Nutrition Week to deliver a message of nutritional education, that found expression within the Indian context under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s Food and Nutrition Board. Centered on the idea of You Are What You Eat, the NNW was conceived in 1982 as an annual event particularly seeking to recognise the necessity of adhering to a nutritious diet in order to attain better health.
With its motive to intensify public awareness on the importance of nutrition for a healthy existence for a life lived to its full potential, the National Nutrition Week plays out across a range of government initiatives that seeks to emphasis the vital role that proper nutrition plays in economic growth and national development as well by boosting productivity through the assets of a healthy population. In essence therefore, the purview of nutrition extends much beyond the fore of its impact on human health to encompass also the associated nature and scope of growth of an entire nation which makes this pursuit of better nutrition an even more essential requirement of the modern world. In such workings of it therefore, the yearly observance of the National Nutrition Week is all the more significant.
Smart Nutritional Food ideas and choices
Observing National Nutrition Week through the many activities and initiatives aimed at generating more awareness among the public by imparting education on what nutrition means and the importance of it might be a very effective way indeed of taking the first step to root out the problems of malnourishment and the adverse effects of a nutrient starved diet, the ultimate aim of the yearly occasion cannot be met without consciously choosing to adhere to an eating routine steeped essentially in all elements of a healthy life. It is the choice of the food that we eat everyday as a part of our life and not as a diversion from it that makes the celebration of the National Nutrition Week an exercise rooted in productivity.
Eating right therefore is of paramount importance when it comes to supplying the body with all the essential nutrients for it to embody truly the spirit of what the Nutrition Week seeks to deliver. This is particularly important for a country like ours where malnutrition is not just restricted to being the result of an unbalanced diet but also is a consequence arising from an appalling tragedy of not having access to sufficient food.
With a dismal ranking of 94 among the 107 countries evaluated under the Global Hunger Index 2020, India continues to reside in a precarious position as far as the health of its population is concerned. Making therefore the best possible use of whatever is available, within means that are economically accessible as well is what we as a nation should endeavour to achieve. And while that is tricky indeed a goal to achieve, it surely is not impossible if only we know how to make smart and optimum use of the resources at our disposal.
Swear by local produce
In conformity with the Poshan Maah’s advocacy of deriving benefits from locally produced and regional foods is this smart move when it comes to making healthy food choices. Locally grown produce often are fresher and therefore more efficient nutritionally, suiting also our bodies better because of the environment from which they accrue. Picked at their peak ripeness when they are the most nutrient dense, local foods are the most beneficial for health and also deliver more in the taste factor while also being economically viable because of the lesser transportation and storage costs associated with them.
Eat seasonal foods
Foods that accrue to a particular time and season of the year should be eaten only during that period since they are the freshest then and there. Also, as a natural mechanism of regulating the human diet, seasonal produce helps deliver adequate amount of the essential nutrients required to maintain the body immunity during that period of time, contributing therefore to better health through also a better flavor profile.
It might be surprising to note that despite the focus on us being what we eat, it also is the how to of eating that matters a lot when it comes to nutrition. Practicing mindful eating therefore is a very effective way of enhancing the deliverance of nutrition to the body through the food we eat, without even having to make major diet changes. Eating slowly and in lesser portions is one very simple way of enhancing our body’s chances of absorbing the nutrients. Mindful eating though concerns also the ambits of not resorting to the vices of both overeating and undereating so that our body gets exactly the amount of fuel it needs for it to be better nourished and us to be well nutritioned.
Making use of spices and herbs
The use of spices and herbs in everyday cooking helps not just to make bland food more interesting but also delivers health through their own specific nutrient composition. A vital part of Indian cooking, the medicinal properties of many a spices and herbs that find wide incorporation either in their raw or cooked form contribute significantly to health and nutrition, making therefore moderate doses of them a recommended requisite of food choices that are affordable, nutritious and delicious.
Do not ditch desserts
Desserts and sweets have nothing to do at all with nutrients, you say. While that might be true for such sugary stuff with a whole lot of processed ingredients to cater just to the fancies of the taste buds, the Indian palate of mithaais can be steeped in delicious servings of health as well. Whether it be common sweets like rasgulla or kalakand or such other milk based offerings including the more appropriately desserty rice preparation of kheer, besan barfi, kaju barfi and nutty delights like chikkis and gajaks, as well as winter specialties like panjiri, a whole range of Indian sweets can be highly nutritious as well. Of course you can always cut out the sugar content or resort instead to the even more healthier choice of opting for jaggery based versions of your favorite among the panoply of Indian sweets.
In fact so intertwined is many an Indian offering of the sweet stuff with health that panjiri and some halwas and some barfis and laddus as well are traditional recommendations as a dose of nutrition. This facet of the healthy awareness of such regional sweets is what makes them also components of the Poshan Maah Nutrition Kit that seeks to include foods such as the Gujarati Sukadi, Punjabi Panjiri and the Maharashtrian Chikki. Summing up your meal with a sweet dish is always very gratifying and to do it the nutritious Indian way is all the more enriching and smart an indulgent choice to celebrate the pursuit of the National Nutrition Week in particular and life in general.