12 Jun 2015 19:45 IST

Surviving on Meri Maggi: Tasty bhi, Unhealthy bhi

Gen Y is mourning the loss of one of their regular go-to food products

It is midnight. In a small rented apartment in an Indian city, a 21-year-old decides to take a break from studying for his mid-terms. He feels a sudden pang of hunger. A measly dinner of a few rotis with sabzi didn’t suffice for the long night, you see. He decides to make his usual 2-minute delicacy, and opens the kitchen cupboard, only to find an empty space where he expected to meet his saviour. Then he remembers they had withdrawn Maggi masala noodles from the stores. Guess he was to stay hungry that night.

Amid all the chaos regarding the testing of samples and comments about ‘lazy mothers’, some people are mourning the loss of one of their regular go-to food products. What’s the big fuss, one might wonder. It’s not like Maggi is an essential commodity. But the young men and women of India who have left the comfort of home for their education and career may beg to differ.

More than just a snack

Amrita (21), Delhi, feels distressed when she wakes up in the morning these days, because she knows she can’t have Maggi for breakfast anymore. On the other hand, Ashima (22), Himachal Pradesh, is worried that she is ‘going to die soon’ as she had had Maggi almost every day for many months.

Of course, not everyone reacted strongly to the discovery of excess lead content and MSG in Maggi noodles. Many claim they saw it coming, as they never really believed Maggi a healthy product in the first place. They are of the opinion that instead of focusing on just Maggi, other products in the processed food industry should be tested as well. Some are surprised at the recent developments, given how well-established a brand Nestle is.

Disregarding their varying responses to the controversy, most youngsters have one thing in common; all of them enjoy having Maggi. There’s no argument when it comes to picking a food item that’s tasty, convenient to cook and easy on the purse strings.

Maggi and childhood go together for many of them. Sneaking out of school to go have the steaming hot treat at the tea stall nearby, sharing a bowl of it with siblings, and many such memories made sure that Maggi held on to a market share of around 60 per cent despite the entry of several new players. Other products just failed to match up to the familiar and comforting taste that Maggi consistently offered.

For those who stay in hostels and paying guest accommodations, Maggi is a must-have. Most hostellers confess that they used to have it at least once or twice a week as a meal. It also served as the perfect snack for random bouts of hunger.

Making health enjoyable? Not really.

Perhaps Maggi’s only failure throughout these years was passing itself off as a healthy alternative to regular food. All those ad campaigns aimed at ‘Making health fun’ never really convinced the youngsters, who knew there had to be a catch. Nothing can be that appealing to the taste buds as well as pockets, and be good for the body also.

Gen Y likes it quick and tasty

This unwavering loyalty to instant noodles brings to light the fact that Gen Y wants their food to be not just delicious, but also easily available. Which means that unless someone puts nutritious food on their plates and asks them to come and eat, many are likely to go to the nearest fast food joint, or even better, get the food delivered at their door step. Why, even if they’re provided home cooked food, or have facilities to cook for themselves, they would still want to eat out on a regular basis. Thus, junk food has become a part of daily life, pushing health concerns to the back seat.

Junk food may be an alternative to the mediocre meals offered at the hostel mess. Or it may be a break from the monotony of regular homemade food to excite one’s taste buds. It could even be an easy way to bond with one’s co-workers while taking a break at work. In any case, the average youth end up having those burgers, fries and pizzas more often than they’d like to admit.

Karan (22), Pune, says that he’s become accustomed to living on junk food, and does so for short-term benefits. When he gets too bothered about his body, he would perhaps switch to healthier options for the next few meals or may be go for a jog. But a few days later, it’s back to the usual routine.

Is it impossible to break out of this habit? May be not, but its definitely hard, says Carol (21), Hyderabad. She feels that it takes a lot of effort and commitment to avoid junk food. For one has to not just suppress one’s cravings, but also deal with pressure from peer groups to join them while they munch on something. ‘Oh, come on! Have a bite, won’t you?’ you’ll be asked. Trouble is, it never stops with a bite.

Making up for all that junk

But all hope is not lost. Many youngsters try to put a tab on their consumption of junk, and succeed at it. Even if they don’t, they try to exercise to make up for it. Nikeeta (24), Bangalore, feels that health is not just about food, but about maintaining the right balance between food and exercise. Where you eat and how much you eat also makes a difference, she says.

Thus, Gen Y may have a very unhealthy eating habit, but at least some of them seem to be on the way to rectifying it via exercise and control.

In the meantime, what are the Maggi lovers going to do? Some are planning to shift to other brands, provided they are safer. Others are planning to enjoy Maggi for as long as they still can. “After all,” says Amrita, “You’re going to die some day. Might as well have Maggi and die.”