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Is eating healthy as hard as it is portrayed to be?

Dr. Vinitha Krishnan

Dr. Vinitha Krishnan, Nutrionist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai

Being fit and healthy is spoken about more than ever today. The awareness about consuming healthy food and watching one’s body has been made into a trend. With the pressure accompanying the fad, it is important not to lose track of what is important here, ‘to eat what is right for you and exercise as much as your body can take to lead a healthy life’.

Healthy food is one with all the nutrients in the right proportion. It is also stated to be healthy, if it is cultivated, cooked, packaged and stored in a safe, acceptable and hygienic manner. All foods provide energy to the body, although the amount of energy provided by each food may vary. Each meal should necessarily have a complex carbohydrate, vegetable or non-veg protein, uncooked and cooked vegetables, greens and curd or buttermilk- if vegetarian. One should at least take eight to ten glasses of water (2.5 – 3.0 liters) every day. Instant energy is available in fruit juices, dark chocolates, candies as these items contain simple sugar. Steamed or boiled food will give lesser calories for the same portion which is otherwise deep fried or tossed with butter or ghee.

On a busy day menu planning cannot be generalized. A menu plan is healthy only when it is flexible, activity orientated and need based. A day’s healthy meal plan should have three major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and two light snacks in between (mid-day and mid-evening). A protein rich breakfast is a must, followed by an antioxidant rich snack. Lunch can be flexible, based on the availability. An ideal lunch should have a sweet in the form of patchadi, vegetable salad, a whole cereal like hand pound rice, millets or roti, dhal in any form and with greens as one of the options: Low fat curd or buttermilk. A mid-evening protein rich snack will prevent energy drop and the urge to consume junk food. A light and early dinner, preferably before 7:30 PM would be ideal. Bed time protein drink is advisable for those who are diabetic and on weight loss programmes..  Vegetable salad before dinner will prevent midnight hunger pangs.

The simplest way to reduce carbohydrate intake, is to avoid sugar in any form followed by exclusion of refined food and products. Fruits should either be had 15-30min before food or 1&1/2 -2 hrs after dinner. If fruit is the dinner, then select on calorie dense fruits to make up for the required calories. Only fruits for dinner are not advisable for those having comorbidities. (comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional diseases or disorders co-occurring with  a primary disease or disorder)

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complex and complicated. It can be made easier to keep up with a little planning. Carrying snacks always is a good idea if you have erratic schedules and travel around a lot during the day. This will also curb the temptation to eat junk/ unhealthy food.

5 healthy food items that can instantly provide energy to the body for adults and kids

  • Fruit juices with glucose, fruits, canned fruit pulps, tender coconut water.
  • Ice cream, milk shakes, sweet lassie, flavoured yogurt.
  • Cereal bars with dates and honey, cereal premix
  • Chikkies with nuts or seeds
  • Dark chocolates.

Not all healthy food items can provide instant energy to the body, only few items like fruit juices with glucose, tender coconut water, and dark chocolates provide instant energy to the body. These food items shouldn’t complement regular meals for any adult and it is not necessary to have high calorific value. Energy drinks mainly replace the electrolytes. Those that provide more calories may not be healthy. Healthy food items can be cooked, fresh or vacuum packed.

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