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Demystifying Nutrition : Colour-Coded Plates

State and Development Partner

Maharashtra

Plan India

Problem

Food is steeped in tradition, but what if tradition tells lactating mothers to go off dairy? This is an example of a local food practice in Maharashtra. These are the barriers to nutrition that often go unnoticed because they have been normalised over years of cultural conditioning. Nutrition of expectant and new mothers forms the foundation of the next generation's health. Unfortunately, mothers in India often don't get the required nutrition from their daily meals. This affects their health and the health of their children. The lack of nutrients is due to poor dietary habits born from a knowledge deficit. But can mothers be taught to nourish their bodies and their children's bodies in a simple yet palatable way?

Conventional Solution

Knowledge of food is passed on from one generation to the next within every household. This role is usually taken on by women and girls in the family. The government aids this knowledge through typical public interest advertisements on various categories of foods that promote diet diversity, i.e., carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and fats. The notion of a balanced diet is broken down in theory, but not in practice. The audiences often struggle to understand the concept of a balanced diet, making its implementation in daily practice all the more hard. The struggle persists because the gap between knowledge and behaviour change is yet to be addressed.

Behavioural Insights Based Solution

This is where the interactive colour-coded plate game steps in. This behaviourally informed tool for change has been introduced in Amravati and Nandurbar to address the acute malnutrition status in both districts. Each plate has five colours: white, brown, orange, green, and violet to mark five basic food categories. Women are asked to fill each colour with magnets which have food stickers on them to map the kinds of food they have consumed on that day. This interactive game makes visible what food groups are being consumed and what food groups are not. When women play this game, the unfilled colour triangles signify the shortage in their daily diets and they are educated on how to use local seasonal foods to overcome this shortage. Initially, women mostly only had food which was brown, consisting of chapatis made from wheat, jowar or bajra. The lack of greens like spinach or orange coloured foods like carrot or tomatoes got highlighted and women instantly understood what was lacking from their diet. This is an information package delivered in a manner that is simple enough to break down complex food categories like vitamins or minerals into locally available food items like spinach, tinda or ghia. This tool helps in identifying the missing food groups and makes it easier for women to incorporate them in their diet.

Lesson

Visual tools are more memora ble, and the retention of such information is key to aiding behaviour change. The game also simplifies nutrition into a concept that can be understood by everyone who is able to visually engage with the game.

"If it is green, it is spinach, if it's yellow, it is banana. They understand that they are supposed to consume these items very well and try to incorporate all the seven coloured food groups in everyday meals.: - Jaya, Community Health worker, Maharashtra

Source : Stories of Change from India's Aspirational districts - NITI Aayog publication

Last Modified : 5/10/2022



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