Our children are bound to succeed. However, there is one concern.

Date: Sept 23, 2010

Setting: Seventeen parents and twelve teachers closeted in a room

Occasion: My 15-old son’s Parent Teacher meeting

“I have absolutely no doubt that 98% of these students will do magnificently in their careers. What I worry about is: how many of them will be healthy at age 40?”

We heard Dr. Satish Inamdar explain.

Dr Inamdar is director of  The Valley School in Bangalore. Dr Inamdar practiced medicine for many years before turning into an educationist. He’s 74, and fit as fiddle.

“Because the Indian gene and processed food don’t seem to go together,” he continued. “Our children have become slaves of processed food. Largely because the parents themselves enjoy such food and lifestyle.”

Dr Devi Shetty has performed over 15,000 heart surgeries
Dr Devi Shetty, India’s most prolific heart surgeon, puts this even more bluntly.  “In England, where I performed heart surgeries for several years, I saw children bring their aged parents for heart surgeries. But in India, tragically, I see aged parents bring their children for the heart surgeries!” Clearly, the earlier generation was far healthier than we are.

I heard another friend explain this to me, quoting her uncle who too specializes in cardio-vascular disease. “Indians need to exercise at least four times more than Americans and Europeans to stay as healthy as them, as our gene cannot handle ‘their kind’ of food habits.”


Yet, wily-nily, we are letting our children adopting more and more of the ‘westerners’  food habits, right here in India.

Conveniently, we blame today’s lifestyle demands, television and extremely tempting promos.                                            

But we ourselves do little to control the situation.

If we did, Pizza Huts wouldn’t have several customers waiting to be ‘accommodated’ during lunch and dinner hours; and McDonald and KFCs wouldn’t have serpentine queues behind their cash counters.  After all, children don’t earn enough (even by way of pocket money) to visit these places on their own?

(It’s embarrassing to confess but despite being aware of these realities, I took my son to Pizza Hut last week.).

Well, the idea is not to blame anyone. But to do something, as Dr Inamdar warns, so that our children don’t end up being unhealthy. I guess this is as important as the quality education we strive to give our children.

Here are a few ideas I could think of. It’s a start. Please help expand the list.

  1. Let’s make Pizzas at home. Though a pizza will always remain ‘junk’, irrespective of where it is made, we can be make it healthier by using more green vegetables and lesser cheese. Moreover, it takes little time, and cost just a fraction of what specialist pizza eateries charge (it costs about Rs.20 to cook to healthy green vegetable pizza at home).
  2. Like pizzas, even burgers can be made at home, especially the ones with vegetables.  There is fairly good choice of burger buns available.
  3. Let’s seek restaurants that serve healthier food. Facebook can be a great tool for this. Discussion, recommendations can help us not only discover new restaurants, but also save us from nasty surprises that experimenting with unknown restaurants throw.
  4. We need to educate our children in earnest, so they can maintain some kind of balance.  I know children have neither the ear nor the appetite to digest such ‘rubbish’! Remember, if we can sell million dollar software and solutions to smart buyers, I’m certain we can do a better job of selling healthier food to our children. It’s a challenge worth taking head-on.
  5. Most important, we have to ourselves stop glorifying junk food. (By the way, Dr Shetty categorizes masala dosas and samosas as junk food too). If possible, we have to stop eating such food ourselves. I know this is the toughest of all. But then, charity has to begin at home.

Our motto has to be Back to Basics: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body. (Sounds like a corporate workshop title, eh?)

I know Healthy Mind, Health Body sounds like the most clichéd title or phrase I’ve ever heard or made! But in connection to our own children, it’s perhaps the most significant. Else, we’ll end giving them spending a fortune to provide them with great education and ensure their success, yet leave them vulnerable on health front.

Please do share your suggestions.


  1. Raj,

    I agree with you that a healthier more nutritious Pizaa or Burger can be made at home but sometimes, mostly on a lazy Sunday morning, when everyone is contemplating what to have for Breakfast, cause it is the only day you can have a feasty breakfast, other days just munching a Sandwitch or dipping into a bowl of cereals, the right ingredients for say, Pizza or Burger is not readily available. The tricky question remains.. “Kown lekar ayega?”.

    In such a situation I, personally, have felt that it is more convenient to go for a Bread roll, Pakoras or plain cutlets since the kids of this generation make a pukey face if you mention ‘Paranthas’. The other option ofcourse is order Pizza or Burgers.

    My kids are not much into Pizzas and Burgers and even if they ever mention it and I say, lets make it at home, i they are like, You want to save money…. and any lecture by me about healthy Pizza or Burger will not go down their throat. Luckily though, I have this wonderful option of having my mother living with me who pre plans such weekly holidays with some idli, dosa, Uttapam, Adas & other South Indian delicacies and that saves a lot of trouble and we end up with a healthier breakfast by default.

    Also since the range of South Indian plus North Indian Punjabi dishes makes a long list, it is seldom that we resort to the fast food Junk.

    The credit goes to my wife I guess. She doesn’t like Pizzas and Burgers. Hence, going out for a Pizza or Burger is never considered a treat in my house and since we didn’t go for it, the kids didn’t go for it either, till they were grown up to taste the temptations.

    So, now it is strictly like, if we parent have to go out for a lunch or dinner, the kids settle down for a Pizza or Burger, like you suggest as an indulgence and not as a rule.

    I am very conscious of what they eat, as you know, I have a strong family history of heart ailments.

    IN my house I think the problem is more of lack of physical activity rather than food, I think we all need to work out.


  2. I know Anunay how seriously you take the workouts 🙂 I’m sure the junk food you eat is getting burnt out.

    I guess the more serious challenge is to prevent our children from picking up the habit of consuming junk food as a routine rather than as indulgence.



  3. 30 mins of intense physical activity every day (hopefully) takes care of the junk food i eat ……….. I don’t see any harm in indulgence as long as it is balanced by a healthy dose of workouts.

    Amit’s observation on obesity in the poor in rich countries vs. in the rich in poor countries can also be attributed to the intense workouts by the rich in rich countries and by the manual labor of the poor in poor countries.


  4. Raj,

    I see another aspect to the problem and perhaps there is one western food habit we may want to adopt. All my life I’ve seen friends and family demonstrate love through food. Feeding as a sign of love and respect is an old custom in our lives. My father used to advise people visiting India to say no after the first helping if they intended to stop after three helpings.

    I much prefer the ‘western’ custom – considered most rude by us – of offering food once and if the person says no, then that is a no. As a poor country, growing out of the “food as a luxury” economic mind-set is difficult. But that is the way we must go to be healthy.

    I find it interesting that obesity is a sign of prosperity in poor countries and a sign of economic deprivation in rich countries where junk food is cheap and easily available and healthy food is more expensive and costs more to prepare.

    A very interesting and thought provoking piece. Perhaps there is an idea for setting up an NGO that transfers food from the rich to the poor to improve health all around. 🙂


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