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GEETA KHURANA on how to stick to a healthy food routine
The festival season is here again with Ganesh Chaturthi to Bhai Duj, and just like in India, they can never be complete without special foods and good hospitality. With so much variety available as well as some traditional foods that are only cooked on these particular festivals, it sometimes becomes extremely difficult to avoid high calorie festive foods. This is the time when even the most disciplined person lets loose. And at this time of the year, anyone even talking about a diet or healthy eating is deemed to be most unpopular.
But if you have managed to lose weight or keep it off this season, or are a diabetic or have high blood pressure or cholesterol, it becomes even more imperative to eat healthy as after the feasting is over, you might end up with many more problems than you started with. Counting calories at festivals is a big challenge. It has been seen over the years that after the festival season, the rate of obesity goes up, sugar control of diabetics goes down and those who are predisposed to develop diabetes also show signs of contracting diabetes. Experts warn that festival fun – and not the least, the culture of sweet-eating that peaks then – can help trigger long-term health problems, with diabetes only the start. In fact, India is the diabetes capital of the world, as it hosts the most diabetics among all nations. But with festivities following each other during this time, it is very difficult to stay focused and adhere to a strict diet schedule. It might start with a bite here and a bite there and before we know it, we have eaten a plate full of extra calories by the end of the day.
If you keep in mind a few points, you need not miss out all the fun and they might help in avoid health problems later.
Have smaller portion sizes of sweets and high calorie foods. Even while visiting friends and families, pick up smaller pieces rather than overindulging or being rude and completely refusing. Instead of loading your plate to the brim with sweets, just take a few, may be one or two, and eat them slowly and gradually. Try to use smaller plates and avoid second helpings.
Give away the extras goodies
Do not eat sweets and mithai just because they are there or going bad because no one else is eating them. It is better to throw away a few pieces of mithai rather than putting your health at risk. Or take the extra sweets to your workplace, to be enjoyed by your multicultural colleagues who would definitely love a taste of Indian tradition.
Avoid aerated drinks
Avoid having aerated drinks, sweetened beverages and fizzy drinks, which only add unnecessary calories. Instead, have natural refreshing drinks like lemon juice, jaljeera, coconut water, green tea or fruit juice. Drink plenty of water, the healthiest drink available!
Reduced fat foods
If you are making sweets yourself, use low fat ingredients like low fat milk and other dairy products. Use natural sweeteners like honey and dates to make sweets, and avoid using refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. But even if you use low fat products, do not over-consume. Plan recipes that are low in calories and set an example for others to follow. When eating out, choose roasted or baked, grilled or barbequed snacks instead of fried ones.
Avoid skipping meals
Do not skip meals to compensate for the extra calories. You always tend to have more cravings and overeat on an empty stomach. Rather, try to nibble on healthy snacks like salads, sprouts, fruit and nuts to avoid overeating at dinner parties or bingeing on unhealthy snacks.
Include fresh fruits, yogurt dips with crackers, nuts, raw salads, soups, roasted meats and chicken, soups as part of your snacks and meals instead of fried, oily and high sugar foods and snacks. Do not skip out on sweets completely, but adding fruits and nuts to the plate may help balance the calories. You could also have a light snack before visiting, to avoid consuming high calorie foods there.
Set an example by gifting healthy foods such as baskets of fruit, dried fruit, nuts or candles instead of sweets or chocolates.
Limit alcohol intake
Avoid consuming too much alcohol at parties. Sip on some fruit juices or water in between drinks or go slow on drinks to avoid refilling. And make sure you snack in moderation and snack healthy with alcohol, as that is where you add the maximum calories.
No matter how busy you are or how late you might have slept the night before, do not miss your exercise schedule. Nothing can be more harmful than missing exercise at this time. Most of us tend to skip our daily exercise during festivals to catch up on sleep or go visiting. But exercise is very important to burn out the extra calories that have been consumed and sometimes if we break our routine it takes a while to get back on track.
Festivals and celebrations should be to mingle and socialize with friends and not give us an excuse to binge eating. Remember moderation is the key to enjoy festive food and still keep the weighing scales in balance.