How Indian family diets have changed over the years..

Nice article by Vignesh Radhakrishnan of Hindustan Times.

He looks at how Indians diet patterns have changed since 1960s:

In the last 50 years, India’s population has surged, its food policies have been revised multiple times and the influence of western products on our eating habits has increased significantly, but the primary diet of Indian families has remained mostly vegetarian.

While our calorie intake has increased over the years and the sources of our vegetarian foods have changed, the percentage of meat consumption has not gone up comparatively. According to National Geographic, next to Rwanda and Ethiopia, Indians have consumed less meat per person than any other country.

According to United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, any diet can be divided into the following 6 groups – grain (rice, wheat, maize, other cereals), dairy and eggs (eggs, milk, animal fats), plant produce (vegetables, fruits, starchy roots), meat (beef, pork, poultry, seafood, other meat), sugar and fat (sugar and sweeteners, vegetable oils, oil crops, sugar crops), others (pulses, alcoholic beverages).

Let us look at how the diet of Indian families changed in the last 5 decades. In 1961, an average Indian family member consumed 2,010 calories in a day. It grew to 2,458 calories in 2011. According to the graphic, while our grain intake reduced from 63% to 57% (6 percentage points decrease) of the total intake in the past 5 decades, consumption of dairy, eggs and plant produce doubled. Our sugar and fat intake also increased by 3 percentage points.  However, our meat consumption remained the same – 1% of the total intake – in these 50 years.

It goes to show that as our economy gathered momentum, a part of our population started spending more on these products and spent less on grains.

Let us now compare India’s data with the world average.  In 1961, an average world family member consumed 2,184 calories in a day which grew to 2,874 calories in 2011. Though grain intake reduced by 4 percentage points and plant produce and dairy and eggs intake went down by 1 percentage point each, sugar and fat consumption went up by 4 percentage points. As per the graphic, the world meat intake increased from 6% in 1961 to 9% in 2011 – an increase of 3 percentage points.

Thus, as the economy grew in the past 50 years, families around the world reduced their consumption of grain, dairy, eggs, plant produce and started spending more on meat, sugar and fat intake.

At the same time, Indian families reduced only their grain intake and started spending more on dairy, eggs, plant produce, sugar and fats. And there was no change in our meat intake.

It has useful graphics to look at the changes as well..

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