It is possible for us to eat our way to health. The author tells us how to tweak our diet

Is it really possible to eat our way to good health, even in this time of frantic schedules, fast food and rushed meals?

Despite the pressure of time and the need for ‘convenience food’, eating our way to good health is still possible, if we make health foods compulsory, rather than an arbitrary addition to our diet. The key lies in opting for ‘good food’ that is fast to cook, good to eat, and integrated into our normal diet. In the process, we should remember that such a diet makes us fit, energetic and able to resist disease. “We should remove from our minds the misconception that dieting involves depriving oneself of food, or that healthy food isn’t tasty. Dieting just involves choosing healthier options,” says Dharini Krishnan, consultant dietician, and former national president, The Indian Dietetic Association.

Integrating health food in diet

“The list of good food that has to be on our plate is exhaustive and extends to green tea, tender coconut, whole grains, millets, and vegetables we usually like to avoid such as beetroot, cruciferous vegetables, greens and alliums,” explains consultant dietician S. Shashikala. The crucial factor lies in incorporating these foods into our diet such that they are tasty as well as easy to make.

Drinking tender coconut water once a week is a simple food funda to start with. Make it impossible to miss, by associating it with some inevitable aspect of your daily life — such as deciding to have a tender coconut after every visit to the library, hairstylist or grocer. Likewise, a foolproof way to make sure that you don’t miss your daily quota of dry fruits and nuts is to munch them while reading your daily newspaper. When trying to include whole grains, start with brown rice and white rice in a 1:3 ratio and then gradually increase the proportion of brown rice, which will accustom you to the taste. And, of course, go for whole wheat atta and whole wheat bread. Finish off your meals with buttermilk, preferably seasoned with coriander, jeera and asafoetida. Millet flour can be incorporated into dosa batter, along with chopped onions, asafoetida and curry leaves. Millet flour can be used as a thickener in sambar too. Add sprouted green gram to vegetable salads, it should be made a compulsory item on your menu, at least once a week. Ellu urundai (sesame seed balls), payathaladu (sweet moong dal ball), pori (puffed rice) and dark chocolates can be delicious ready-to-eat items, instead of biscuits. Moving further, carrot soup can be made a must-have on Sunday mornings, along with a relaxed oil massage and bath. Likewise, make a family tradition of a Sunday sundae of strawberry/ raspberry/ almond or frozen kulfi. A meal of fruits could also be made a Sunday dinner tradition, relieving one of kitchen work in the bargain.

A complete meal

“A healthy meal is one that includes all the six tastes. People should remember to include in their meals all the six tastes, qualitatively and quantitatively in the order of madura (sweet taste, as in rice, ghee, etc.), amla (sour taste as in citrus fruits, mango, etc.), lavana (salt taste) katur (pungent or hot, spicy taste as in chilly, pepper, ginger, etc.) pitta (bitter taste as in bitter gourd, spinach etc.) and kashaya (astringent taste as in buttermilk, tea and coffee). Don’t end a meal with a dessert. The astringent flavour gives an antibacterial coating to the food tract,” advises V. R. Seshadri, veteran ayurvedic consultant, teacher, and a former secretary of IMPCOPS (Indian Medical Practitioners Co-operative Pharmacy and Stores).

“Every day, make sure you eat a vegetable or fruit of the three colours — orange, red and green (including watery vegetables). An adult needs approximately 400 ml of curd every day to provide his daily requirement of protein, calcium and phosphorous. Likewise, two half cups of protein are required every day, be it from dal, pulses or sprouts, egg, chicken or fish. Include whole grains to add fibre to the diet,” advises Dharini.