Protection against obesity :Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness


Written by eugenopmine
The onset of adolescence brings with it many profound changes. The growth
rate speeds up dramatically. This growth spurt occurs due to the activity
of hormones that affect every organ of the body and this makes healthy
eating very important. The nutrient needs rise throughout childhood, peak
in adolescence and then level off or even diminish as the teenager becomes
an adult. The saying ‘‘You are what you eat” seems to be proven true. We
eat different kinds of food such as dal, chapatti, bread, rice, vegetables,
milk, lassi, etc. All these different kinds of food provide us with nutrients
to keep us healthy and active. It is important to know what food to eat in
order to stay healthy. The science of food and nutrients and their action
on our health is called Nutrition.
Learning Objectives
After completing this chapter the learner will be able to —
• define the terms — food, nutrition, nutrients, health, fitness
and the role of food and nutrition in maintaining health.
• understand the term, balanced diet and apply the concept in
planning and consuming diets.
• understand the basis for defining the Recommended Dietary
Allowances (RDAs) and the difference between Dietary
Requirement and RDA.
• understand the basis for classifications of foods into
appropriate groups.
• analyse the factors which influence adolescent food habits.
• identify the causes, symptoms and nutritional interventions
related to eating disorders. 
Nutrition and health, in fact, are two sides of the same coin. They
are, therefore, inseparable. Health depends to a large extent on nutrition,
and nutrition depends on the food intake. So food, is the most important
single factor for health and fitness.
Let us define and describe food, nutrition, health and fitness
• Food can be defined as anything solid or liquid which when swallowed,
digested and assimilated in the body provides it with essential substances
called nutrients and keeps it well. It is the basic necessity of life. Food
supplies energy, enables growth and repair of tissues and organs. It
also protects the body from disease and regulates body functions.
• Nutrition is defined as the science of foods, nutrients and other
substances they contain; and of their actions within the body including
ingestion, digestion, absorption, metabolism and excretion. While
this summarises the physiological dimensions, nutrition has social,
psychological and economic dimensions too.
• Nutrients are the constituents in food that must be supplied to the
body in suitable amounts. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats,
minerals, vitamins, water and fibre. We need a wide range of nutrients
to keep ourselves healthy. Most foods contain more than one nutrient
such as milk has proteins, fats, etc. Nutrients can be classified as
macronutrients and micronutrients on the basis of the required
quantity to be consumed by us everyday. The figure on the next page
shows us the distinction between macronutrients and micronutrients.
3.2 Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is one which includes a variety of foods in adequate amounts
and correct proportions to meet the day’s requirements of all essential
nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water,
and fibre. Such a diet helps to promote and preserve good health and
also provides a safety margin or reserve of nutrients to withstand short
durations of deprivation when they are not supplied by the diet.
The safety margin takes care of the days we fast, or the short-term
deficiency of certain nutrients in the daily diet. If the balanced diet meets
the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for an individual, then the
safety margin is already included since RDAs are formulated keeping extra
allowances in mind.
Recommended Dietary Allowances = Requirements + Margin of safety
A balanced diet takes care of the following aspects.
1. Includes a variety of food items
2. Meets the RDA for all nutrients
3. Includes nutrients in correct proportions
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
Macronutrients Micronutrients
(Required in large amounts by the body) (Required in small amounts by the body)
Fibre/Roughage Vitamins
Figure 1: Basic Nutrients in Our Food
4. Provides a safety margin for nutrients
5. Promotes and preserves good health
6. Maintains acceptable body weight for height
3.3 Health and Fitness
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) ‘‘Health is the state
of complete physical, emotional, and social well-being, not merely the
absence of diseases or infirmity.’’ This definition has remained unchanged
since 1948.
All of us want to maintain positive health, i.e., a perfect blend of physical,
social and mental. Taking adequate amounts of essential nutrients in our
diet is necessary to maintain positive health.
Physical health is probably the most easily understood aspect. Mental
health can be defined as a state of emotional and psychological
well-being in which an individual is able to use her or his cognitive
and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary
demands of everyday life. In other words, the absence of a recognised
mental disorder is not necessarily an indicator of mental health. One way
to assess mental health is to see how effectively and successfully a person
functions. Feeling capable and competent, being able to handle normal
levels of stress, maintaining satisfying relationships, and leading an
independent life; and being able to ‘bounce back’ or recover from difficult
situations are all signs of good mental health.
Physical fitness is good bodily health; it is the result of regular exercise,
proper diet and nutrition, and proper rest for physical recovery. The term
physical fitness is used in two ways: general fitness (a state of health
and well-being) and specific fitness (a task-oriented definition based on
the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical
fitness is the capacity of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, and muscles to
function at optimal efficiency. Earlier, fitness was defined as the capacity to
carry out the day’s activities without undue fatigue. Automation, increased
leisure time, and changes in lifestyles following the Industrial Revolution
meant that this criterion was no longer sufficient. In the present context,
optimum efficiency is the key.
Physical fitness is now defined as the body’s ability to function
efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to
resist diseases and to meet emergency situations. Fitness can also be
divided into five categories: aerobic fitness, muscular strength, muscular
endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Being fit prepares one to
meet mental and emotional challenges. One feels strong and energetic if
one is fit. Fitness provides one with the ability to meet routine physical
demands with enough reserve energy to rise to a sudden challenge, such
as running to catch a bus.
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
Thus, health is a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing whereas fitness is the ability to meet the demands of a physical task.
A well-nourished and fit person is better able to learn and has more energy,
stamina, and self-esteem. A healthy eating pattern along with regular
exercise will certainly help to remain fit. Teenagers between the ages of 12
and 18 who have unhealthy eating behaviours and are undernourished
develop eating disorders.
3.4 Using Basic Food Groups for
Planning Balanced Diets
One of the simplest ways to plan a balanced diet is to divide foods into
groups and then make sure that each group is included in the meals. A
food group consists of different foods which have common characteristics.
These common features may be the source of food, the physiological
function performed, or the nutrients present.
Foods can be grouped on the basis of the predominant nutrients
present in them. This classification varies from one country to another
depending on many factors. The five food group classification is used in
India as a guide to meal planning. Many factors have been considered while
compiling these groups such as availability of food, cost, meal pattern, and
deficiency diseases prevalent. Not all foods in each group are equal in their
nutrient content. That is why a variety of foods from each group should be
included in the diet.
A classification based on nutrients present will ensure that all nutrients
are made available to the body and offer greater variety within the group.
There are five basic food groups suggested by the Indian Council of
Medical Research (ICMR). These include:
• Cereals, grains and products
• Pulses and legumes
• Milk and meat products
• Fruits and vegetables
• Fats and sugars
List 10 foods that you commonly eat. Identify the food group to which each food belongs.
Then list the macronutrients and micronutrients present in the foods listed. Identify the
foods which are the richest sources of energy.
Activity 1
The five food groups are summarised in the table below:
Table 1: Five Food Groups
Food group Main Nutrients
I. Cereals, Grains and
Rice, Wheat, Ragi,
Bajra, Maize, Jowar,
Barley, Rice flakes,
Wheat flour.
Energy, protein, Invisible
fat, Vitamin – B1, Vitamin
– B2, Folic Acid, Iron,
II. Pulses and Legumes
Bengal gram, Black
gram, Green gram, Red
gram, Lentil (whole as
well as dals) Cowpea,
Peas, Rajmah,
Soyabeans, Beans.
Energy, Protein, Invisible
fat, Vitamin – B1,
Vitamin – B2, Folic Acid,
Calcium, Iron, Fibre.
III.Milk, Meat and Products
Milk Milk, Curd, Skimmed
milk, Cheese
Meat Chicken, Liver,
Fish, Egg, Meat.
Protein, Fat, Vitamin –
B12, Calcium.
Protein, Fat,
Vitamin – B2
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
IV. Fruits and Vegetables
Mango, Guava,
Tomato Ripe, Papaya,
Orange. Sweet Lime,
Vegetables (Green Leafy)
Amaranth, Spinach,
Drumstick leaves,
Coriander leaves, Mustard
leaves, Fenugreek leaves.
Other Vegetables
Carrots, Brinjal, Ladies
finger, Capsicum, Beans,
Onion, Drumstick,
Vitamin – C, Fibre.
Invisible Fats,
Vitamin – B2.
Folic Acid, Calcium,
Iron, Fibre.
Carotenoids, Folic Acid,
Calcium, Fibre
V. Fats and Sugars
Butter, Ghee,
Hydrogenated oils,
Cooking oils like
Groundnut, Mustard,
Sugar, Jaggery
Energy, Fat, Essential
Fatty Acids
Source : Gopalan, C., Rama, Sastri, B.V. & Balasubramanian, S.C. (1989). Nutritive value of Indian
foods. Hyderabad. National Institute of Nutrition, ICMR.
Guidelines for using the basic food groups
The five food group system can be used both for planning and
assessing balanced diets. It is a simple daily food guide which can
be used for nutrition education as well. Guidelines could be adopted
depending on the food groups.
• Include at least one or a minimum number of servings from each
food group in each meal.
• Make choices within each group as foods within each group are
similar but not identical in nutritive value.
• If the meal is vegetarian, use suitable combinations to improve
the overall protein quality of the diet. For example, serving cerealpulse combinations or including small quantities of milk or curds
in the meal.
• Include uncooked vegetables and fruits in the meals.
• Include at least one serving of milk to ensure a supply of calcium
and other nutrients as milk contains all nutrients except iron,
vitamin C, and fibre.
• Cereals should not supply more than 75 per cent of total Kcal/
One gram of
• carbohydrate releases 4 Kcal. of
• protein releases 4 Kcal. of energy
• fat releases 9 Kcal. of energy
In planning balanced diets, food should be chosen from each group in
sufficient quantity. Cereals and pulses should be taken adequately, fruits and
vegetables liberally, animal foods moderately and oils and sugars sparingly.
Now let us look at the concept of the food guide pyramid.
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
Food Guide Pyramid
The following figure (Figure 2) illustrates the food guide pyramid for
Figure 2: Food Guide Pyramid
The food guide pyramid is a graphic depiction of the daily food guide.
The illustration was designed to depict variety, moderation, and also
proportions. The size of each section represents the number of daily
servings recommended. The broad base at the bottom conveys the message
that grains should be abundant and form the foundation of a healthy
diet. Fruits and vegetables appear at the next level, showing that they
have a less prominent, but still important place in the diet. Meats and
milks appear in a smaller band near the top. A few servings of each can
contribute valuable nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals,
without too much fat and cholesterol. Fats, oils and sweets occupy the
tiny apex, indicating that they should be used sparingly.
Alcoholic beverages do not appear in the pyramid, but they too,
if consumed, should be limited. Items such as spices, coffee, tea and diet
soft drinks provide few, if any, nutrients, but can add flavour and pleasure
to meals when used judiciously.
The daily food guide plan and food guide pyramid emphasise grains,
vegetables, and fruits. These are all plant foods. Some 75 per cent of a
Fats and sugar
Milk, meat and products
Pulses and legumes
Fruits and vegetables
Cereal grains and products
day’s servings should come from these three groups. This strategy helps
all people obtain complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, and minerals
with little fat. It also makes diet planning for vegetarians easier.
3.5 Vegetarian Food Guide
Vegetarian diets rely mainly on plant foods: grain, vegetables, legumes,
fruits, seeds, and nuts. Some vegetarian diets include eggs, milk products,
or both. People who do not eat meats or milk products can still use the
daily food guide to create an adequate diet. The food groups are similar
and the number of servings remains the same. Vegetarians can select
alternatives to meat such as legumes, seeds, nuts, tofu and for those who
eat them, eggs. Legumes, and at least one cup of dark leafy greens, help
to supply the iron that meats usually provide. Vegetarians who do not
drink cow’s milk can use soy ‘milk’ – a product made from soyabeans that
provides similar nutrients if it has been fortified with calcium, vitamin D,
and Vitamin B12 (i.e., these nutrients are added).
The food guide pyramid emphasises foods from the five food groups
shown in the three lower sections of the pyramid. Each of these food
groups provides some, but not all of the nutrients you need. Foods in
one group cannot replace those in another. No one food group is more
important than another – for good health you need all of them.
The pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day. It is not a right
prescription, but a general guide that lets you choose a healthful diet that
is right for you. The pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the
nutrients you need, and at the same time, the right amount of Calories to
maintain a healthy weight.
3.6 Dietary Patterns in Adolescence
Healthy eating is vital for the teenager’s health and well-being. The
nutritional needs of adolescents vary tremendously, but generally increase
due to rapid growth and changes in body composition that occur during
puberty. Adequate nutrition is vital for ensuring overall emotional and
physical health. Good eating habits help prevent chronic illness in the
future, including obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Studies of nutrient intakes have shown that adolescents are likely to
obtain less vitamin A, thiamine, iron, and calcium than recommended.
They also ingest (consume) more fat, sugar, protein, and sodium than is
currently thought to be optimal.
While concern is often expressed over the habit of eating between
meals, it has been shown that teenagers obtain substantial nourishment
from foods eaten outside of the traditional meals. The choice of foods they
make is of greater importance than the time or place of eating. Emphasis
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
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should be placed on fresh vegetables and fruits as well as whole-grain
products to complement the foods high in energy value and protein that
they commonly choose.
What are the commonly adopted eating habits of adolescents and why
are they important to recognise? Understanding diet patterns will help
us to be better prepared to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of diets and
ensure that they are meeting the minimum requirements to maintain health
and well-being. Among the more common eating idiosyncracies include
skipping meals, consuming fast foods in a routine way, avoiding fruits and
vegetables, snacking frequently and dieting. By addressing each of these
issues individually you can ensure that you are meeting the minimum
nutritional requirements.
Irregular meals and skipping meals: The numbers of meals teenagers
miss and eat away from home increases from early adolescence to late
adolescence, reflecting the growing need for independence and time away
from home. The evening meal appears to be the most regularly eaten meal
of the day. Girls are found to skip the evening meal, as well as breakfast and
lunch, more often than boys. In some homes with limited resources, the
adolescents may not even receive adequate number of meals or amounts,
leading to nutrient deficiency.
Breakfast is frequently neglected and is omitted more often by teenagers
and young adults under 25 years of age than by any other age groups in
the population. A likely explanation as to why girls are more apt to miss
breakfast than are boys is the pursuit of thinness and frequent attempts
at dieting. Many teenage girls believe that they can control their weight by
omitting breakfast or lunch. In fact, this approach is likely to accomplish
just the opposite. By mid-morning or lunchtime they may be so hungry
that they overcompensate for the “saved kilocalories.” As a matter of fact,
skipping breakfast can slow your metabolism contributing to weight gain
and poor performance.
Snacking: Snacking is probably a survival technique for teens.
Snacking does not have to be a bad habit. It can help maintain energy levels,
particularly in active and growing adolescents. Many adolescents fail to
eat three regular meals per day because of the ‘skipping meal’ factor. Thus
snacking can actually be beneficial to ensure adequate intake of essential
nutrients. However, surviving only on snacks is harmful to health.
Fast foods: Adolescents, particularly in urban areas, are more apt to
eat fast food because it is convenient and typically a social affair, and they
may believe it is the fashion of the day. Fast food is often packed with
fat and “empty calories”. We should make smart food choices even when
visiting fast food restaurants. Table 2 provides important information
about fast foods.
Dieting: Obesity is becoming a crucial problem among adolescents.
Intervention is needed to maintain ideal body weight among the entire 
population. If this is not maintained, 80 per cent of them will stay
overweight as adults. This can put them at risk for many medical problems,
including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea
(a sleep disorder).
Table 2: Nutritional Limitations of Fast Foods
The following factors appear to be the major nutritional limitations of fast-food meals.
Calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A: These essential nutrients are low unless milk or a
milkshake is ordered.
Folic acid, fibre: There are few fast food sources of these key factors.
Fat: The percentage of energy from fat is high in many meal combinations.
Sodium: The sodium content of fast food meals is high, which is not desirable.
Energy: Common meal combinations contain excessive energy when compared with
the amounts of other nutrients provided.
Although fast foods can contribute nutrients to the diet, they cannot completely meet
the nutritional needs of teenagers. Both adolescents and health professionals should be
aware that fast foods are acceptable nutritionally when they are consumed judiciously
and as a part of a well-balanced diet. But when they become the mainstay of the diet
there is cause for concern. A nutrient imbalance may not appear to be a problem until a
number of years have gone by, unless some specific problem such as a chronic disease
exists. However, evidence is accumulating to show that food intake patterns of teenagers
affect their health in later life.
However, adolescents with normal weight often diet because of the
perception that “thin is in”. Girls are bombarded with messages from the
media about thinness, images of what is considered a beautiful body, and ways
to achieve a lower body-weight. The images, in the context of a society that
places a high value on physical beauty, sends mixed messages to teenagers
and may result in unhealthy, unnecessary attempts to lose weight.
Dieting unsupervised by experts can lead to dangerous outcomes
including eating disorders in teens. Some symptoms of dieting include:
skipping meals, ‘binge’ eating, fasting or use of laxatives or diet pills.
Consequences of such dieting include its possible association with
cycles of weight loss and regain that increase the likelihood of developing
eating disorders and obesity, lowered self-esteem and other psychological
problems. This can lead to increased cardiovascular risk (heart problems)
and possible mortality.
One approach to overcome the problems related to dieting is to attempt to
eliminate the term ‘diet’ and replace it with ‘healthy eating’. If you regularly
incorporate healthy lifestyle and dietary practices into your life, you are less
likely to diet on a consistent basis. Recognising good eating habits is the
first step towards encouraging healthy diets. It is best to adopt a healthy
lifestyle that incorporates sound eating habits and regular exercise.
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3.7 Modifying diet related behaviour
As you have read in the chapter on ‘Self ’, adolescence is a time when an
individual begins to question authority and tries to establish her/his status.
Eating behaviour is one of the mediums through which individuality may
be expressed by adolescents. Thus, rejection of routine home food (which
may be healthy) and eating outside (not so healthy), sometimes in order to
conform to peer preferences, is not uncommon in adolescence.
It is easier for us to change lifestyle and diet patterns if we are convinced
that we want to do so. What are the ways in which adolescents can modify
their own behaviour? The next section tells us more about how to adopt
healthy dietary practices.
Limiting television viewing: Television viewing should be limited to
about one or two hours each day (this includes playing video games or using
the computer). Watching television does not use up many Calories and it
encourages eating erratically, since it is common to eat while watching TV.
Overeating and under-eating is common among those who do it.
Healthy eating habits: Eat three balanced meals of average size each
day, plus two nutritious snacks. One must try not to skip meals.
Snacks: Snacks should be limited to two each day and they can include
low calorie foods, such as raw fruits or vegetables. Avoid using high calorie
or high fat foods for snacks, especially potato chips, biscuits and fried
foods. Of course, favourite snacks can be consumed once in a while, but
this should not be made a habit.
Drinking water: Drinking four to six glasses of water each day,
especially before meals is a good habit. Water has no calories and it will
create a feeling of fullness. Avoid drinking soft drinks and fruit juices too
frequently, as they are high in energy (150-170 calories per serving).
Diet journal: It helps to keep a weekly journal of food and beverage
intake and also of the amount of time that is spent in watching television,
playing video games and exercising. Recording body weight each week is
a good practice.
Exercise: This is essential for healthy life. Participating in extracurricular activities such as sports helps to keep activity levels high.
Some tips to increase physical activities include:
• Walk or ride a bicycle for short distances.
• Use stairs instead of elevators in a building.
• Do regular exercise for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times each week. This can
include walking, jogging, swimming or bike riding. Playing games and
sports, such as skipping rope, hockey, basketball, volleyball, or football,
and doing yoga are also advisable at all ages.
Substance use and abuse: Substance use and abuse in adolescence is
a public health problem of major significance and concern. The substances 
most widely abused by adolescents are tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana and
other addictive drugs. The abuse of drugs and alcohol has a harmful effect
on the nutrition and health status of adolescents. Nutrition intervention,
support, and counselling would play a major role in the physical and
psychosocial rehabilitation process.
Much of what we have discussed may be more relevant for adolescents
in urban and semi-urban areas. Rural environments would be different.
Rural girls and boys are often engaged in agricultural tasks. They may also
be helping their parents in enterprises such as poultry-keeping, cattlerearing and bee-keeping. Boys may be helping in farming. Girls also help
in looking after their younger siblings as well as cooking and cleaning
while their parents earn livelihood. Then there are the tasks of collecting
fodder for the cattle, firewood and water. In tribal areas many people are
dependent on forest products like berries, flowers, leaves, roots. They
spend time gathering and processing these products.
Girls and boys doing these tasks will have high activity levels and
therefore, their energy needs will be higher. Protein needs are also higher
due to the high growth rate at adolescence. The chances of adolescents
being malnourished are, therefore, very high in rural areas among the
poorer communities. Girls in particular are known to be anaemic (low iron
in blood) and require iron rich foods to be healthy. Adolescents from rich
families in rural areas would face many of the same problems as those in
urban areas in the higher income groups. They would tend to be sedentary
and enjoy rich food having plenty of fat and carbohydrate.
Adolescence and Anaemia
Anemia afflicts an estimated two billion people worldwide, mostly due to iron deficiency.
It primarily affects women and girls. The latest National Family Health Survey-3
(NFHS-3) conducted in 2005-06 has revealed that 56 per cent of adolescent girls are
anaemic as compared to 30 per cent of adolescent boys. Compare this with the figure
of 70 per cent for young children in the age range 6-59 months. It has also been found
that the incidence of anaemia is actually increasing when compared to the last survey
conducted in 1991-92.
The prevalence of anemia is disproportionately high in developing countries like India,
due to poverty, inadequate diet, certain diseases, repetitive pregnancy and lactation, and
poor access to health services.
Adolescence is an opportune time for interventions to address anaemia. In addition
to growth needs, girls need to improve iron status before pregnancy. Both boys and girls
have access to information about anaemia through schools, recreational activities and
via the mass media. This can be used effectively to transmit messages about iron-rich
foods and iron supplements where necessary.
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
Figure 3: Factors Affecting Food Behaviour of Adolescents
• Social-economic-political
• Food availability,
production, and
distribution system
External factors
• Family unit
and family
• Parenting
• Peers
• Social and
• Norms and
• Mass media
• Fast foods
• Food fads
• Nutrition
• Personal
Internal factors
• Physiological
needs and
• Body image and
• Personal values
and beliefs
• Food preferences
and meanings
• Psychosocial
• Health
Individual food behaviour
3.8 Factors influencing eating behaviour
By the time a person reaches adolescence the influences on eating habits
are numerous and the formation of those habits is extremely complex, as
shown in Figure 3. The growing independence of adolescents, increased
participation in social life, and a generally busy schedule of activities have
a definite impact on what they eat. They are beginning to buy and prepare
more food for themselves and they often eat rapidly and away from home.
In order to encourage adolescents to form reasonably healthy eating
habits parents should give their children the opportunity to choose from
a range of nourishing foods as they are growing up. By the time they are
teenagers they will need some freedom to use the kitchen; this is true for
boys as well as for girls.
While the basic foundation for eating habits is found in the family, many
influences on eating behaviour originate outside the home. The influence
of peers can be a useful source of support, as well as a source of stress for
the adolescent. Peer influence and support can be helpful for overweight
teenagers, although the same peers can also target such adolescents for
Teenagers are very vulnerable to advertising messages. Television
food commercials and eating habits portrayed in programme content have
influenced people for more than a decade. The majority of advertisements
are for products with a high concentration of sweetness and fat. Hence,
adolescents have to be discerning while consuming such food products.
The ease of obtaining food that is ready to eat also influences the
eating habits of teenagers. Through home delivery/vending machines, at
movies, melas and sporting events, at fast-food outlets and convenience
groceries, food is available at numerous times throughout the day. Hence,
adolescents may eat more often as well as more of not-so-healthy food
stuffs. Watching this tendency is advisable.
3.9 Eating disorders at adolescence
Adolescence is associated with rapid physical growth and body-image
development eating disorders are of special concern at this time. These
changes intensify associated self-esteem problems. Anorexia nervosa, for
example, is a disorder so tied to body image distortion that it is most
commonly seen in adolescence, the period when a person is struggling
with self-identity and most vulnerable to body image problems. Progress
in adopting a normal adult body image will be interrupted for the teenager
with an eating disorder.
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To understand anorexia nervosa let us take the example of Sonam.
She aspires to have a perfect body. She has been ignoring the advice of
her parents and teachers and almost stopped eating. She has become
obsessed with having a very thin body. Although her current weight is
normal, she feels pressured to be “ideally” thin like some actresses in
movies or models in magazines. She has a low self-esteem and remains
depressed, and this has resulted in her withdrawing from her family and
friends. She is unaware that she is undernourished and insists that she is
fat. She is a clear case of the eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. She
is unaware that drastic loss of weight can even lead to death.
Bulimia is another type of eating disorder. Bulimia often begins in late
adolescence or early adulthood after a series of various unsuccessful weight
reduction diets. Those with bulimia indulge in bingeing (overeating) and
inducing purging by vomiting or using laxatives. Although more common in
females, about five to ten per cent of all eating disorders occur in males too.
Anorexia and bulimia can have serious consequences such as
convulsions, renal failure, irregular heartbeats and dental erosion. In
adolescent girls, anorexia can delay the onset of menstruation, permanently
minimise stature and result in osteoporosis (weakening of bones).
Perhaps a person’s best defense against these disorders is to learn to
appreciate one’s uniqueness. Respecting and valuing oneself will certainly
be life saving. Important dietary interventions include ensuring balanced
diets, enhancing dietary fibre intake and using nutrient/food supplements
to make up losses.
To sum up, physical, social and emotional changes experienced during
adolescence can profoundly impact the adolescent’s nutritional status
and eating patterns. Although young people are rarely motivated to learn
about nutrition for the sake of longevity, learning how to apply sound
dietary principles to reach our health goals can help build the foundation
to a healthier life, now and in the future.
Health is a key resource of young people; it influences the availability
and use of other resources that are important in everyday life. What are
the other resources that an individual has? The following chapter on
Management of Resources addresses this question and also discusses how
best one can utilise and manage key resources such as time, energy and
Key terms and their meaning
Activity level
Level of activity of a person, i.e., sedentary or light, moderate, and heavy. This is
closely related to one’s occupation. 
Balanced diet
A diet which includes a variety of foods in adequate amounts and correct proportions
to supply all essential nutrients which promote and preserve good health.
Food group
A number of foods sharing common characteristics which are grouped together.
Characteristic for grouping may be function, nutrient, or source.
The period when the mother nurses her infant.
Physiological state
State when nutrient needs increase because of normal physiological events such
as pregnancy and lactation.
Recommended Dietary Allowances
Allowances of nutrients which cover the needs of practically all healthy individuals.
These are not requirements for any individual but guidelines which tell us the
amount of nutrients to be consumed daily.
„ Review Questions
1. Differentiate between the terms RDA and requirement.
2. Explain how the use of food groups simplifies planning of balanced meals.
3. List 10 foods which belong to the protective food group, stating reasons for
your choice.
4. Discuss the factors that influence eating behaviour at adolescence.
5. Explain the two eating disorders that may arise at adolescence. What would
be the best way to prevent their occurrence?
„ Practical 3
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
1. List 10 signs of good health. Evaluate yourself using the following format.

Signs of good health Rating of yourself
Satisfactory Normal Below normal
Food, Nutrition, Health and Fitness
Human Ecology and Family Sciences – Part I
2. Record your diet for a day. Evaluate each meal in terms of inclusion of the
five food groups. Do you think the diet is balanced? Use the following format
to write your response.
Meal/menu Inclusion of five food
Comment on whether meal
is balanced/not balanced
3. Interview members of your family such as your grandmother, mother or aunt
to collect information about—
(a) food taboos giving reasons why the taboos are followed.
(b) food practices during fasting and festivity from the region of India to
which you belong.
(c) preparations during fasting.
Tabulate the information as follows.
Region Occasion (nature
of fast)
Preparation Nutrients present
Give two inferences on the basis of the information tabulated.


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