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What’s that on your plate?

Taste Vs health  

Taste and nutrition are two different things and we all understand that. Yet, most times, we choose foods based on taste rather than nutrition. We do that because that’s the way we are trained to look at food. Back in the old days, we lived in a world which had only natural food. Everything was organic and nothing was processed. So, even by basing our choices on tastes, we still got all the nutrition we needed.

Things are different today. We have an abundance of food around us -- more importantly -- food that is ‘engineered’ to be tasty. Chips are designed in labs, cereals are taste-tested, health bars contain fun things like chocolate, and even our fruits are bred to be sweeter than they naturally occur. So, going just by taste will not help us get nutrients like we did in the good old days.

This situation that we have gotten ourselves into demands we know a little more about the food we eat. We don’t have to become nutrition experts, but we do need to know what we actually eat.

Here is a practical equation that will guide you about your every plate.

A perfect meal = Protein + Starch + Vegetables (+ Fat)

A perfect meal is one that contains all macro-nutrients (protein, starch and fat) and as many micro-nutrients as possible (vegetables). While it is important to keep track of what macro-nutrients you are consuming with every meal, you don’t have to do the same with micro-nutrients. If you consume the right macros along with vegetables, be assured that you are getting in all the micro-nutrients you need.

But, why is ‘Fat’ within the parentheses, as you don’t need to specifically include it? As we eat cooked food, fat is already a part of our starch and vegetables, mostly as cooking oil or ghee.

So, any time you find food in front of you, do the following.

Take stock of what’s on your plate

Let’s say you have paneer dosa and coconut chutney. What is actually on your plate? Dosa and chutney? No. Dosa, oil/ghee, paneer, coconut, garlic and chilli.

Brand each ingredient

The dosa will fall under starch, paneer contains protein and fat, coconut and oil are fat and chilli is a vegetable. So you have protein, starch, fat and vegetable. As you can see, even if you don’t add any fat explicitly to this plate, it has fat from the paneer and the oil used in the dosa.

How do you know what falls under protein, starch etc.? Simply Google whatever you are eating and look at it’s nutritional make-up to find out each food’s most dominant macro-nutrient(s).

Observe your portion sizes

Ideally, we want volumetrically equal amounts of protein, starch and vegetables. That is, to the naked eye, all food on your plate should look roughly the same amount. You know how we have a tonne of rice on our plates with a tiny bit of vegetables on the side? Yeah, that’s not going to help unless one leads an extremely active lifestyle.

Balance

It’s not always possible to eat perfect meals. So, what do you do if one is more and the other is less on your plate? You balance things out in the next meal by eating more of what you ate less and vice versa.

Noted for his passionate, no-nonsense approach to healthy living, the author is a fitness and nutrition expert and enterpreneur.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 4:23:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/What%E2%80%99s-that-on-your-plate/article14640032.ece

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