‘Food is vital for our survival. From the time that we are babies, we need food, and we need good food to grow strong. Good food has many qualities. Can you tell me what they are?’ asked Dr. Aruna.
Some children answered, ‘It is natural.’ Other said, ‘ It is nutritious.’
‘Good,’ said Dr. Aruna. ‘Good food is well-balanced to give your body all that it needs. Today, when there are so many different kinds of food to eat, it is also important to remember that all of them may not be healthy for us. Do we choose to eat food for its taste alone, or do we choose to eat food that helps us to be alert and have energy?’
Dr. Aruna continues, ‘Good food is truly tasty’ because it has the flavour of the things that go into preparing it. What do you like to eat? Can you say whether some of the things that you like to eat are healthy or unhealthy?’
‘We buy most of the things we eat from the market or ration shop. In school, we eat the hot and healthy food that is made for the noon meal or what we bring food from home.’
‘What do you eat in the afternoon? Soft idlis, tasty dosas, fragrant sambar-rice, spicy biriyani, eggs, fruit. How good they sound! They are both mouth- watering and healthy. But we don’t always eat healthy food,’ she said.
‘Unhealthy food is sometimes called ‘junk’ food,’ continued Dr. Aruna,‘Doctors say that such food has lots of sugar, salt or additives and preservatives but very little that actually helps you to grow.’ She gave them the names of a few common additives.
‘What makes us feel the need to eat food that is unhealthy? One reason for this is hidden in the time that we watch television. How much time do you spend watching TV?’ She asked. ‘Three hours?’ Many hands went up. ‘What programmes do you watch?’ She enquired. The children named a few. ‘How often do you see advertisements in these programmes?’ She asked. They did not know. She then told them a scary fact.
‘What do you see in the advertisements for food? How often do you watch television, and pester your mother to buy what you see there? Most chocolates, chips, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits may not be very healthy to eat. But the advertisements look very good.’
‘There are advertisements that tell you that you will become a ‘super hero’ if you have a particular drink. Some may show you your favourite film star or sports hero, who is very happy having a soft drink. Though we all know that soft drinks are bad for health, we feel like having them. What would you like to do?’ asked Dr. Aruna and ended her speech. The children clapped loudly.
Before she left, she gave them some suggestions:
‘Find out what goes into the food you eat. Ask where the food you eat comes from. Think and reflect upon why you want to eat certain kinds of food, even when you know they are not good for you. Why does a packet of old chips stored in a shop for a long time, in a colourful packet seems better than the fresh chips that mother or granny makes?’
All children were silent. They were thinking, how many times they laughed at their friends for being ‘old fashioned’ in their food habits.