As the festive season gains momentum, the temptation to indulge in deliciously rich unhealthy food gets stronger, by GEETA KHURANA
Who wants to think about a healthy shopping cart in the festival season with all that delicious traditional food around? This is the time to party and enjoy. But in fact, this is the right time to start worrying about your health and waistline after the festival season. And since we tend to eat high calorie foods a lot more than our regular routine, especially at parties, get-togethers and festivals, it is very important to have healthier options available at home. So what we add to our shopping cart is very, very important. Is our trolley full of veggies and fruit, or does it contain loads of fizzy drinks, frozen snacks and chips? Often we are fascinated by attractive food packaging and misleading claims, which are mostly marketing hype. Even if we sometimes want to shop healthy, the time it takes to read food labels, as well as claims on various products which may or may not be true confuse us so much that we end up buying our regular stuff. There is an ever increasing range of food products available, making shopping all the more confusing especially if you have to juggle around 2-3 kids on the trolley and their unlimited demands. Discounts, specials and costs, all affect our grocery shopping but if we can include some of the following foods in our shopping cart, we can have healthy meals.
Dairy or milk products are very important sources of calcium and protein, and are a must on the shopping list. Opt for low fat varieties of milk and yoghurt to reduce calories and saturated fat. Cottage cheese, ricotta, or Philadelphia cheeses are better options than high fat cheese. Philadelphia cheese is excellent as a spread for sandwiches, and paneer is an excellent source of protein and calcium, especially for vegetarians. Low fat yoghurts can be used a snack as well as with a meal, or can be made into a lassi and enjoyed as a drink, instead of soft drinks. Even smoothies with low fat milk or even low fat ice cream with lots of fruits blended into it can be an excellent snack, a substitute for high calorie drinks.
Breads and grains
Breads and grains are the main sources of energy. But go in for wholegrain breads and cereals instead of white grains. You get more fibre and other micronutrients from wholegrains than from processed foods. Avoid buns and bagels with cheese and bacon toppings as these add unnecessary calories and fats.
Fruit and vegetables
These provide us with most of our vitamins, fibre and minerals. Fill your cart with a variety of fruits and veggies to get the beneficial nutrients from different fruits and veggies.
Add green leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard leaves for folate, iron, and potassium; tomatoes for lycopene; carrots and pumpkin for vitamin A; citrus fruits such as oranges and lemon for vitamin C; berries for antioxidants; and banana for potassium. Pick up carrots, celery, baby carrots for snacking and munching. Vegetables can be enjoyed as cooked veggies or in salads. Fruit is an excellent snack, and fruit chaat is an excellent entrée for parties. You can also add a few bags of frozen vegetables without sauce for times when you run out of fresh ones, so that you do not have an excuse not to eat veggies.
Meat and poultry are an important part of our diet, but these are also sources of saturated fat. Red meat is an excellent source of iron and protein, but it is very important to look for lean cuts of meat to reduce the intake of saturated fat. Chicken breast is the leanest part of the chicken and therefore an excellent choice. Try to add some fish in your menu as it is a good source of polyunsaturated or ‘good’ fat.
Oils and fats are an essential part of our diet and must not be ignored, but should be consumed in moderation. Include monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fats such as butter, ghee, and cream. Monounsaturated fat is found in foods such as avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and cooking oils made from plants or seeds such as sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils. Polyunsaturated fat
(omega-6) is found in foods such as fish, margarine, linseed, sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and Brazil nuts. Polyunsaturated fat (omega-3s) is found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel as well as walnuts and linseeds. Avocado can be added to sandwiches, or salads and nuts can be had as a healthy snack.
A healthy diet does not have be flavourless or bland. But instead of high fat salad dressings, opt for herbs such as parsley, mint, oregano, rosemary and coriander, or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and spices such as black pepper and cumin seeds to give that extra zing and flavour.
In a balanced diet, it is most important to include treat foods such as desserts – gulab jamuns and chocolate whichever you prefer, as long as we adhere to the portion sizes.
Always go shopping with a planned shopping list to avoid unnecessary purchases, and try not to visit the grocery shop every other day to prevent impulse purchasing through the temptation of attractive sales and discounts.