While exercise plays a huge role in keeping fit, the other piece of the puzzle is food. Samvitha Ram and Edwina Shaddick explore The Park's new menu with head chef Rajesh.

With the current craze to be toned and healthy, people are starting to realise that their daily diet is a huge part of the way their bodies look and behave. Therefore, to help you guys get a better understanding of what exactly a good diet consists of, and how The Park hotel's all-new summer dishes encompass all the necessary aspects of a good diet, we talked to Rajesh, the head chef and creator of the Feel Lite menu. Using these tips by the food expert, you too can change your diet to make it health-friendly!

Tip #1: Lighter dishes

We started off by asking them what exactly inspired this new range of platters. Was it in lieu of the fitness craze or was it inspired by something else? “A lot of our guests were asking for a lighter menu.

Usually after a hearty lunch of chicken makhani or greasy pizzas, one tends to feel stuffed and sleepy; so, we decided to change that,” says the chef. We asked him to elaborate on how the new menu has changed to lighter, yet filling, dishes. “Well, for starters, we used cold soups and green salads. The cold soups have a double advantage, because it helps people feel good in the Chennai heat and it's also good for the body.

Next, we switched from cheese-heavy, greasy pizzas to a new concept called salad pizzas. Basically, we include different fruits and veggies on a pizza, so that you can still enjoy your favourite Italian dish without feeling too guilty. Finally, even our desserts are not typical. We chose frozen yoghurts, because those have the cool feel of an ice cream with a better nutritional value.”

Tip #2: Don't compromise on taste

Usually the words ‘health food' encourage a gag reflex, as most people think of dry tofu and tasteless salads. The Feel Lite menu, however, includes all these healthy dishes, and still manages to make them taste delectable. Take, for example, the ravioli and tofu combination. It was a sure treat, with its well-cooked tofu surrounded by pasta in a tangy sauce, with a serving of crunchy veggies by the side.

The dish's protein to carbs ratio was definitely skewed to the protein side, but the food went past the usual bland tofu taste due to the amazing sauce and flavourful veggies. Another example would be the salad pizza. While figs, salad leaves, goat's cheese and prosciutto don't sound very filling, it is actually a killer combination. The prosciutto ham provides just enough salt and the goat's cheese just enough tang to make the pizza bite. The figs also add a certain sweetness to the mix, making it a truly delightful choice.

Tip #3: Variety is essential

“I don't believe in diets, and here's why. They usually advise you to stick to all proteins, or all dairy or all carbohydrates, and that kind of technique doesn't work at all. Our bodies need a balance, so we should have everything in moderation,” says the head chef. “If you don't like one type of vegetable, substitute it with another. If you don't like to have yoghurt, have another dairy product like cheese. But there must be a bit of everything.” This idea of variety is clearly extended to their meals. Since the avocado cold soup was thick with a hint of lemon and spice, the next course, of a green salad, was crunchy with some salt, pepper and dressing. Another example was the prawn and mango carpaccio salad. With caramelized walnuts, thin slices of sweet mango and crispy prawns, the salad had a bit of everything. This appetizer was followed by the couscous risotto and chicken confit.

The second meal had the same nutrient groups as the first but the proteins were substituted by chicken, the carbohydrates by couscous and the vegetables by fruits. “Of course, variety is not just limited to one meal.

This concept is extended to your diet in general. Just for the sake of fitness, one can't keep having salads day-after-day. We're going to get bored. Be sure that you include a variety of different foods. Have some salads for lunch one day, but have a veggie-filled pizza the next, and maybe a few ham sandwiches day-after. Eat a wide array of foods, but remember to eat in moderation.”

Samvitha Ram, Grade XI, American International School.

Edwina is a Bachelor in Social Science (Political Science, Sociology) from the Singapore Management University.

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