New ICMR Guidelines Break Down What Should Be On An Indian Plate

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) have issued new dietary recommendations which address malnutrition and diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases and break down healthy eating habits. A group of 17 recommendations have been released by ICMR which includes specific details about what should be on your daily plate. 

“The dietary habits of Indians have undergone significant changes over the past few decades, leading to an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases while some of the problems of undernutrition continue to persist. These guidelines have been made very relevant to the changing food scenario in India with the addition of practicable messages and suggestions on handling food safety, choosing minimally processed foods, the importance of food labels, and physical activity,” said Dr Rajiv Bahl.

As per the report, 56.4% of the total disease burden in India is due to unhealthy diets. Data from the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2019 (CNNS) highlights that a substantial number of children exhibit early indications of non-communicable disease (NCD) and its related risk factors like diabetes and hypertension.

What should your plate look like?

According to the guidelines, for a 2000 kcal intake a day, people should eat about 250 grams of cereals, 400 grams of vegetables, 100 grams of fruits, 85 grams of pulses/eggs/flesh foods, 35 grams of nuts and seeds, and 27 grams of fat/oils. ICMR recommended sourcing macronutrients and micronutrients from a minimum of eight groups of foods. It stated that the intake of cereals should be restricted to 45 per cent of the total energy, which is currently as much as 50 to 70 per cent.

The ICMR-NIN, 'My Plate for the Day' recommends sourcing macronutrients and micronutrients from a minimum of eight food groups, with vegetables, fruits, green leafy vegetables, roots and tubers forming essentially half the plate of the recommended foods per day. The other major portion should be occupied by cereals and millets, followed by pulses, flesh foods, eggs, nuts, oil seeds and milk/curd. 

Intake of cereals should be limited to 45% of the total energy, while for pulses, eggs and flesh foods, the total energy percentage should be around 14% to 15%; total fat intake should be less than or equal to 30% energy, while nuts, oilseeds, milk and milk products should contribute to 8%–10% of total energy per day respectively

ICMR has shared that due to the high cost of pulses and meat, Indians rely heavily on cereals, which results in poor intake of essential micronutrients. As per ICMR, vegetarians should eat n-3 PUFA-rich foods like flax seeds, chia seeds, etc., to get enough B12 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

What about protein supplements?

The report also talks about the usage of protein supplements and its pros and cons. It mentioned that prolonged intake of large amounts of protein powders or consumption of high protein concentrate has been associated with potential dangers such as bone mineral loss and kidney damage.

Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that protein supplementation contributes only a little to muscle strength and size gains during resistance exercise training (RET) among healthy adults. “Protein intake levels greater than -1.6g/kg/day do not contribute any further to RET-induced gains in muscle mass,” ICMR noted.

In ICMR’s recommended ‘My Plate for the Day’ at least half of the recommended cereals are noted as whole grains such as millets, which are rich sources of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and also provide antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibre and bioactive compounds and induce favourable changes in the gut microbiota (microbes). Millets can be consumed to the extent of 30%–40% of total recommended cereals in raw weight.