Maternal diets in India: Gaps barriers and opportunities
Suboptimal dietary intake is a critical cause of poor maternal nutrition, with several adverse consequences both for mothers and for their children. This study aimed to (1) assess maternal dietary patterns in India; (2) examine enablers and barriers in adopting recommended diets; (3) review current policy and program strategies to improve dietary intakes. We used mixed methods, including empirical analysis, compiling data from available national and subnational surveys, and reviewing literature, policy, and program strategies. Diets among pregnant women are characterized by low energy, macronutrient imbalance, and inadequate micronutrient intake. Supply- and demand-side constraints to healthy diets include food unavailability, poor economic situation, low exposure to nutrition counselling, food restrictions and taboos, adverse family influence and gender norms, and gaps in knowledge. Intervention strategies with potential to improve maternal diets include food-based programs, behavior change communication, and nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions. However, strategies face implementation bottlenecks and limited effectiveness in real-world at-scale impact evaluations. In conclusion, investments in systems approaches spanning health, nutrition, and agriculture sectors, with evaluation frameworks at subnational levels, are needed to promote healthy diets for women.