Wondering how to get back to a healthy routine post-Deepavali? Here’s how

We read about eating sensibly during the Deepavali season. We are determined to follow that in letter and in spirit. Till that yellow laddoo embedded with shiny brown raisins turns up. From then on, the ‘sensible’ plans go haywire. It is difficult to stay away from eating rich food. The refrigerator and our habit of opening it every now and then to tuck into goodies is where half the problem lies, says Chennai-based consultant nutritionist and dietician Dharini Krishnan. “Earlier, Deepavali meant just a day of eating rich food. Now, it means a week, even a month, of feasting. We eat the perishable sweets first, and keep the least perishable ones for later use,” she says. There’s so much of temptation in the refrigerator — chocolates, dry fruits...

So, what does one do after all the binging? Go on a sensible diet plan after the festivities. Varsha, founder-chair of Indian Institute of Nutritional Sciences, says the first step is to revert to the meal schedule you followed earlier with greater emphasis on vegetables, pulses, lentils and legumes.

Meal schedules are important because the body learns to get back to the routine. Meal composition has a role to play, she says, because any new menu derails portion size.

Dharini suggests adding fruits to your breakfast platter, either before or after. And, focussing on vegetables during the other meals. “Ensure you have at least vegetables of two or three colours (red, orange, green…) on your plate. Cook keerai, green vegetables and watery vegetables in interesting ways. Add dal to them. They fill you up without adding too many calories,” she says. When cooked with a little oil and just a dash of coconut, a 200-ml cup of kootu will have less than 50 calories, she reveals.

While occasional binging does not lead to irreversible damage, the burden of guilt must also be removed, says Varsha.

So, how long will it take for the body to get back to the pre-Deepavali mode? “Each additional day of overeating does not add to the calories, but multiplies the impact. The greater the indulgence, the more the effort needed,” says Varsha. Dharini says it takes two weeks or more to wean oneself off sweets. “The fact that you have access to sweets at home makes it very difficult,” she concedes.

The trick, experts say, is to listen to your body and tailor a diet that suits you. And, get back to exercising.

If you are feeling sluggish, Dr. Dharini suggests drinking three to four cups of warm water a day. That increases digestion and appetite. To tackle appetite, eat fibre-rich foods that will leave you feeling fuller. In fact, instead of sweets, fibre-rich purees and soups should find pride of place in the refrigerator, she says.

Traditionally, the week after Deepavali has always been about eating simple fare. Paruppu rasam gives way to milagu rasam, elumichai rasam or veppampoo rasam. “These are easy to make, and delicious,” says Dharini. Besides, they leave you feeling lighter. Also, eat more keerai, vazhaipoo and other native vegetables that are rich in fibre.

Homemaker Geetha Srinivasan, 57, remembers a childhood when post-Deepavali food meant a watery tamarind gojju tempered with just a green chilli, smoky sutta appalam, and rice and buttermilk eaten with narthangai pickle. “When it was not gojju, there was our favourite dal chutney, made with inji, toor dal, perungaayam and a hint of coconut and tamarind. After days of eating everything sweet, we craved these tangy treats.”