Dietary guidelines for Indians

Coach Arvind
October 06,2022

Nutrition is a basic human need and a prerequisite to a healthy life. A balanced diet is essential from the very early stages of life for proper growth, development and to remain active. Apart from supplying nutrients, foods provide a host of other components (non-nutrient phytochemicals) which have a positive impact on health.

In order to educate and guide people on this, India has published Dietary Guidelines for Indians. The goal is to explain that a balanced diet is necessary for maintaining healthy body in various stages of life and provide guidance on how to do this using Indian foods.

The development of these dietary guidelines was spearheaded by the National Institute of Nutrition and the Ministry of Health has endorsed them.

The Dietary guidelines convert what we know from nutrition science into specific dietary advice that people can understand and follow.

They note the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of various nutrients in terms of diets that should be consumed by the population. The guidelines promote the concept of nutritionally adequate diets and healthy lifestyles from the time of conception to old age.

India needs this now more than ever

India is undergoing a lot of development at a fast pace.

Undernutrition has always been and continues to be a major problem. At the same time, we also have overnutrition that is emerging as a significant problem, especially in the urban areas.

The imbalance between energy intake (food) and energy output (exercise) leads to excess accumulation of fat in various parts of the body. This results in the problem of overweight and obesity. A dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among all the age groups has occurred in the last 2-3 decades.

About 30-50% of adult Indians are either overweight or obese.

Overweight and obese individuals are at a higher risk of lifestyle diseases including type 2 diabetes, PCOS, fatty liver disease, gallstones, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, orthopedic disorders (Osteoarthritis), hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and psycho-social problems.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has never been more important, and the food based dietary guidelines can play a key role in helping with this, by providing a base from which diet programs can be developed and implemented.

Indian food pyramid

India uses a number of graphical elements to represent the messages of its guidelines, one of them being a food pyramid.

The pyramid is divided into four levels of foods according to recommended consumption:

  • cereals and legumes/beans at the base should be eaten in sufficient quantity;
  • vegetables and fruits on the second level should be eaten liberally;
  • animal source foods and oils on the third level are to be eaten moderately; and
  • at the apex, highly processed foods high in sugar and fat to be eaten sparingly.

Accompanying the pyramid there is a recommendation to do regular physical activity and warnings against smoking and drinking alcohol.

Indian food pyramid

Food groups

The dietary guidelines note that a balanced diet includes a variety of foods in the required proportion and it depends on various factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Lifestyle
  • Physical activity
  • Cultural variations
  • Foods available in that region
  • Dietary customs

But the basic principles of the dietary guidelines for Indians are the same. That is, the diet should contain energy-giving, bodybuilding, and protective foods. Here are the details of the 3 groups.

Food groups noted in the guidelines

We have discussed these food groups in this article along with tips on how to balance the food groups.

10 guidelines to maintain a healthy balanced diet

Key points in the Indian dietary guidelines when it comes to a healthy diet and exercise are as follows:

  1. Eat a variety of foods to ensure a balanced diet.
  2. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Fresh fruits are nutritionally superior to fruit juices.
  3. Ensure moderate use of edible oils and animal foods and use a minimum of ghee/butter/vanaspati.
  4. Avoid overeating to prevent overweight and obesity.
  5. Exercise regularly and be physically active to maintain ideal body weight.
  6. Restrict salt intake to a minimum.
  7. Adopt the right pre-cooking processes and appropriate cooking methods.
  8. Drink plenty of water and take beverages in moderation.
  9. Minimize the use of processed foods rich in salt, sugar and fats.
  10. Include micronutrient-rich foods in the diets of elderly people to enable them to be fit and active.

Weight loss diets

The dietary guidelines also discuss weight loss and note the following points about weight loss diets:

  • Weight- reducing diets must be rich in proteins and low in carbohydrates and fats. Seethis articlefor diet plans that meet this requirement.
  • Consumption of plenty of fruits and vegetables would not only result in satiety but could also help to maintain adequate micronutrient intake.
  • Weight reduction diets should not be less than 1,000 Kcal/day and provide all nutrients. Extreme approaches should be avoided and use of drugs may be dangerous.
  • A reduction of half a kilogram body weight per week is considered to be safe. Slow and steady reduction in body weight is advisable. We have provided more guidance on the rate of weight loss inthis article.
  • Frequent fasting/ semi-fasting (cyclic weight reduction) followed by adequate or excess food consumption will also aggravate the problem of weight gain. For more guidelines on the right way to fast, seethis article.

Sample meal plan: Men

The dietary guidelines include a sample meal plan for men who are sedentary. See below the sample meal plan included in the guidelines. If you would like a 7-day diet plan for men, we have provided one inthis article.

Sample meal plan for men provided in the guidelines

Sample meal plan: Women

Similar to the plan for men, the dietary guidelines include a sample meal plan for women who are sedentary. See below the sample meal plan included in the guidelines. If you would like a 7-day diet plan for women, we have provided one inthis article.

Sample meal plan for women provided in the guidelines


It is clear that a balanced diet is necessary for maintaining healthy body across various stages of life. Use the examples and guidance noted in this article to start improving your diet. You can also look at our7 day diet planandlist of foods to lose belly fat.

Daily9 weight loss program

If you’re reading this, we know that your health is a high priority for you.

We’ve worked with thousands of Indian men and women and understand the unique challenges they face when trying to lose weight or find a weight loss diet plan. You can see some of our success stories here. The Daily9 system is proven to work with weight loss and also many health conditions that Indian men and women face like digestive issues, diabetes, PCOS, thyroid, fatty liver and joint problems from excess weight.

Most importantly, the Daily9 weight loss diet plan is practical and suits an Indian family environment.

If you’re looking for a scientific and practical approach to weight loss, take a look at theDaily9 coaching program. It’s the only program that helps with weight loss and weight maintenance.

About the Author

Coach Arvind
Arvind is a qualified Personal Trainer, SFG-certified Kettlebell Instructor and a Nutrition Coach. Arvind knows that there is no one-size-fits all answer and is focused on helping people find the solutions that work for them. He frowns at fad diets as they do more harm than good.

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