You knew it was coming. The festive season (It starts with Diwali, but really lasts all the way until the New Year) is a time for meeting, partying, rejoicing with family, and of course indulging in the rich food typical of cool-weatther merrymaking. How will you cope this year?
Experts know exactly how temptation works. They know how hard it is to resist a barfi, or a second helping of a lovingly cooked festive meal. It’s time to get smarter about what you consume this season.
What’s for dinner?
If you’re eating out, pick Japanese cuisine, says experts. The island nation has more than raw fish and sushi. Most items on a Japanese menu are light, made with less oil and using healthy cooking techniques. “Cuisines from places such as Japan and Korea use a lot of seaweed and low-calorie veggies,” says Ritika Samaddar, regional head of dietetics at Max Healthcare. This makes it good news for those with heart ailments, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.
- Cheese and butter-based items
- Refined flour (maida) based noodles, pastas or pizzas
- White rice (brown rice is healthier)
- Friend foods (Go for steamed, grilled or stewed items)
- Soups with coconut milk and corn-flour
- Colas, caffeine-based drinks and packaged juice
Mediterranean cuisine also finds favour with dieticians. The food uses olive oil and garlic, and includes a good deal of seafood and green leafy vegetables. “Olive oil, nuts and fish are healthy sources of fat,” says Neha Arora, Delhi-based nutrition consultant. “Mediterraneans have less red meat and sugar in their food and that makes it healthier.”
If the cuisine is from Italy, watch out for heavy pastas, cooked in loads of white sauce or butter. A tomato-based wheat pasta will shave off the calories. And Italian food is big on salads, which add bulk to a meal without the alarm bells.
If you can’t control the cuisine, at least identify the healthiest item on the menu. In an Indian restaurant, “pick a paneer tikka or the tandoori platter,” recommends Arora. “In a south Indian menu, instead of fried vadas, order steamed idlis.”
If you’re eating out, pick Japanese cuisine, says experts. The island nation has more than raw fish and sushi. Most items on a Japanese menu are light, made with less oil and using healthy cooking techniques.
Switching from fried items to grilled, sautéed, stewed or steamed food can easily lighten up a meal. Similarly picking foods made with whole wheat instead of refined flour can bring down the calories.
Sooner or later, someone will suggest Chinese. Instead of refined flour noodles order whole wheat noodles, most Chinese restaurants have it on their menu. Steamed or brown rice is a healthier option to fried rice. And skip the gravy for a drier main course, it will be lower on fat.
And of course, try to make it through the season by refusing cola and packaged sugary fruit juices. Fresh lime juice, coconut water or fresh fruit juices will keep you from piling on the kilos.
What’s your body telling you?
Experts say you can lose 3-5 kg and shed an inch or two from your waist in about six weeks in a healthy manner. All you have to do is watch what you eat, and pack in 40 minutes of exercise daily.
First check your triggers. Do you tend to snack or overeat out of boredom, politeness, because everyone else is eating, to take a break from a task, or because you’re stressed? Find your reasons and work on eliminating the triggers or keeping healthier food around when they strike.
Avoid skipping meals, especially the breakfast as it is likely to be your healthiest meal of the day. It should be a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
Drink a cup of chamomile tea instead of mid-night snacking.
At lunch, have the usual roti, subzi, daal and curd (non-vegetarians can add lean meat such as chicken or fish).
The crucial period is between 5pm and 7pm, when people tend to snack in the long gap between lunch and dinner. Have a cup of green tea with a light snack such as a couple of biscuits or roasted gram. “Do not munch on calorie-dense items such as a pizza, burger or mayonnaise-laden sandwich,” says Arora.
- Carbs are fattening: To lose weight one needs to keep the carbohydrate-intake low, but not all carbs are bad. Refined carbs found in processed items can cause unhealthy weight gain, but whole grains are healthy.
- Drinking water helps lose weight: Consuming water does not cause weight loss; however, it does help in feeling full so one doesn’t snack between meals.
- Fruit juices are healthy: Fruit juices are loaded with sugar and lack fibre. Go for whole fruits instead.
- Snacking between meals is unhealthy: Opt for fruits, vegetables and nuts to satisfy hunger pangs between meals instead of fried items.
- Chocolate is healthy: Only if you have a small amount of minimally processed dark chocolate.
Dinner should not be beyond 9pm and avoid late-night snacking. “If at all you feel hungry, drink a cup of hot milk, or chamomile tea or have a fruit to curb the sudden craving but no mid-night snacking. If one follows these tips accurately, there is no need for crash dieting to lose weight,” Arora says.
Do you need a special diet?
Many people tend to go on a “No Carb” diet, and eat only fruits and vegetables. Avoid this, as carbohydrates are essential for energy. “Include whole grains and cereals like jowar, bajra, ragi, amaranth, quinoa or barley in meal,” says Indrayani Pawar, clinical dietician and diabetes educator. “They will keep you full for longer.”
Sweets are impossible to avoid during the next few weeks. “Choose from nuts, dried fruits or mixed mithais”, says Zubeda Tumbi, nutritionist. ”Rasgulla and rasamalai is a smarter pick than gulab jamun or balushahi. Baked or roasted chivda are more calorie-conserving than fries, gathia or corn chivda.”
A word of caution: do not over eat. “Ideally, eat small meals every 3-4 hours,” says Tapasya Mundhra, Delhi-based nutritionist and health coach.