HEALTH If you ushered in the festival of lights with traditional good cheer, then sweets and fried savouries must have been a staple part of your diet for weeks. KAMALA THIAGARAJAN tells how to recover from the excesses that come naturally during the special season

D iwali is the perfect time of year to indulge. As friends and family rejoice together and sweets and snacks are lavishly distributed, it can also mean that high calorie temptation is always close at hand. Especially so, if you are fighting the battle of the bulge, making a tremendous effort to keep your weight, cholesterol and diabetes in check. Not surprisingly, this season can offer the most dangerous pitfalls for good health.

Since it is almost impossible to deprive oneself in the midst of all celebrations and joy, (not to mention the variety of sweetmeats doing the rounds), for most of us, a post Diwali detox would be in order! What you eat over the next couple of weeks can undo the toll taken by the festive season on your system.

So, don't feel guilty any longer about consuming those extra calories. Take these FIVE simple steps today, to recoup your health and to embrace fitness as a part of your lifestyle once more.

Cut back on sugar: If you've had more than your fair share of Diwali sweets, then it's most likely that your system is suffering from an overload of sugar. "Restrict your sugar intake for the next three days," says Shweta Dewan, a diet consultant at Slimmage Diet Clinic (www.slimmage.in) in New Delhi.

"Ensure that you don't even add a single spoon of sugar; instead, satisfy your sweet cravings with natural sugars contained in fruits.

The extract of pears and apples make excellent sweeteners for baked goods. As natural sugars from fruits are rich in anti-oxidants, this will leave you feeling more energetic. It will help your body detox. You can also opt for stevia, a natural sweetener."

Eat light, frequent meals: "Have a combination of fresh fruits and milk through the day,” says Dewan.

"The juice of alma and guava are especially good for you when taken on empty stomach.

Milk is a complete food that will help you meet your protein requirements. The fibre in fruits is effective for detoxing. For two nights, plan a dinner of steamed vegetables of your choice with a fruit salad."

Eating light regular meals will ensure that you never over-indulge.

Increase protein intake, don't mix cereals: The word 'cereal' is derived from Ceres, the Roman Goddess of harvest. Cereals like rice, wheat and maize make up most of the world's intake of whole grains.

"Cereals give great benefits to dieters by making them feel full for longer since they take a greater amount of time to pass through the digestive tract and be absorbed by the body. However, avoid mixing two cereals in one meal as this can make the meal more difficult to digest, especially if it comes after you've recently indulged in oily and sugar laden foods," says Delhi-based dietician Sheela Sherawat, head of Diet Clinic. So if you're having rice for lunch, don't have chappati in the same meal. Increase your intake of protein as this will help build your energy reserves. Paneer and brown bread are good protein options for vegetarians."

Beware of beverages: According to a study published in the August 2010 issue of Diabetes Care, the consumption of one sugar sweetened drink a day on a regular basis is associated with the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic syndrome.

Think how easy it is to have a sugar sweetened drink every day--it could be your cup of tea or coffee, a packaged fruit juice from the supermarket, soft drinks and energy drinks--all these can add up to put your health at risk.

Drink plain water for a week or so, especially right after Diwali, when your body is already saturated with sugar. You can then work on slowly cutting these drinks out of your daily diet. If you can't avoid your cup of coffee, removing just two teaspoons of sugar can save you an extra 30 calories a day, which can add up to a kilo of weight loss every year.

Drink lukewarm water: It's important to keep hydrated, but did you know that the temperature at which you drink your water can help in improving your metabolic function? "Lukewarm water will help flush out toxins more effectively than very hot or cold water," says Sheela Sherawat. "Drinking plenty of water at this mild temperature throughout the day will help rev your metabolism."

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