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In this article I continue my critique of some foods that are commonly eaten as a replacement for a complete meal in India.

Why would a food safety writer bother about this? After all, I am not a nutrition or general health writer.

I do not critique poor nutrition foods that are eaten as a part of a meal. My criticism is usually reserved for nutritionally poor or unbalanced foods that are eaten frequently as a replacement for an entire meal.

Frequent consumption of such nutritionally inadequate meals is a food safety issue, because it leads to malnutrition in children and metabolic disease in adults.

India is already called by some as the “diabetes capital of the world”. The replacement of complete meals by such foods are causing an epidemic of metabolic disease.

Poor nutrition is a food safety issue.

What makes it worse is that the popular media does not paint these foods as the junk foods that they are. Just because they are “traditional” foods or “home made”, does not mean that they are not junk foods.

Almost all that the mainstream media and many nutritionists say about “junk food” in the Indian context is wrong.

Here are some foods that you normally do not consider as junk food, but are exactly that from a nutritional perspective and also from a HSSF (high sugar, salt and fats) perspective –

Bread and Jam sandwiches – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile . High glycemic load. Too much sugar.
Cornflakes – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load. Too much sugar added to the milk and not enough milk.
Poha – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load.
Upma – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load.
Vegetable pulao – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load.
French fries – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load. high salt. Toxicity from oxidised PUFA in vegetable oil.
Potato chips – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load. high salt. Toxicity from oxidised PUFA in vegetable oil.
Most fried namkeens – Poor micro nutrient profile. high salt. Toxicity from oxidised PUFA in vegetable oil.
Samosas – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load. high salt. Toxicity from oxidised PUFA in vegetable oil.
Kachodis – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load. high salt. Toxicity from oxidised PUFA in vegetable oil.
Chapatis/Parathas with aloo sabzi – Poor macro and micro nutrient profile. High glycemic load.

Many people think that a very cheesy pizza is junk food. On the contrary, a very cheesy pizza with a lot of varied veggie toppings is a pretty healthy meal, unlike the items in the list above.

Ditto for a meat or egg burger with a lot of lettuce or a salad on the side – that would be very healthy too. But don’t touch the Pepsi or Coke when you eat them. That would make the meal unhealthy from the huge sugar and salt addition. Drink water instead.

Write and send some other common meal or dish names in the comments below, or to my facebook handle (@Dushyant Krishnan), and I will critique them for you. I may also tell you how you can easily modify some of the dishes to make them nutritious.

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