Wheat flakes or aloo paratha? Which one is healthier? I bet the majority of you will vote for wheat flakes! Why? Because the TV commercial says so!
Don’t eat gulab jamun – it is deep fried and cooked in sugar syrup !!!
Start eating oats, brown rice because it is high in fibre and helps weight loss.
Haven’t we rather become judgmental about food – labelling food as healthy and unhealthy depending on what we browse through the internet or view on television commercials?
This concept of healthy or unhealthy food has taken away the essence of enjoying our food and satisfying our taste buds.
Our forefathers relished their meals without bothering about the health quotient. They enjoyed their fried food, sweets and savoury snacks without counting the calories or grams of protein and fibre. They never really had food-related health concerns like we do today. Every time I bring this example up someone always raises their finger saying – “But, they had a very active lifestyle and were not dependent on cars, washing machines and maids like we are.”
Agreed that they led an active lifestyle, but so are the fitness enthusiasts we see today who spend hours in the gym or run for 10 kilometres every single day. They consciously make efforts to keep themselves active still they fear eating chocolate cake or samosas even on occasions.
Today even after 6 days a week regular workout we are scared of eating a pizza or grabbing an ice cream. Today we know all about calories, low fat, low carb, fibre rich and what have you and yet diseases linked to diet and obesity have grown 5 fold in the past few decades. We have lost our basic understanding of food.
First things first, food gives us energy required for the basic functioning of our body. Food is nourishment, food is survival.
Now, how can something so vital for our survival be unhealthy is simply beyond me.
Obviously, I am not advocating eating a tub of ice cream for dessert every day or munching a packet of large fast-food fries every alternate day. What I am trying to put across is that it is time to look beyond the health labels and get back to enjoying the food.
Let’s stop making angels and demons out of food.
To simplify this for you, we have a common sense approach to eating right. Eat what you love by keeping in mind The PPTF model.
P – Pairing or food combinations
P – Portion size
T – Timing
F – Frequency
Let’s begin with understanding how crucial it is to get the correct food pairing.
Our food traditions have been passed from one generation to the next. Dal chawal has been a staple in the Indian thali. And guess what? From a nutritional standpoint, dal-chawal is a great combination. Both dal and rice lack essential amino acids. By eating them together we are letting them make up for the amino acid deficit.
Similarly, the vegetable paratha and curd combo for breakfast helps obtain a perfect carbohydrate-protein balance and kicks off the day on a power-packed and tasty note. Our cereals, be it rice or wheat are carbohydrate-containing foods with a high-glycemic index i.e. they cause a spike in the blood glucose levels promoting conversion and storage of excess glucose as fat. By pairing cereal with a protein-rich food like meats, eggs, pulses or dairy products, we are combining the high GI cereal with a low GI food which helps prevent the blood sugar spike and fat gain. So, eat your rice guilt-free and remember that butter roti is healthier than plan roti.
Pairing foods with their ideal counterpart mean you’re scoring high marks on both health and taste.
Let’s talk about portion size.
When it comes to food, SIZE DOES MATTER (in fact it’s the only thing that matters) … Everything in smaller portions is HEALTHY.
Surely, you remember the movie theatre popcorn 20 years back? Did we ever eat like 3 of them during one movie? Definitely NO!
Today, the smallest popcorn serving available in multiplexes is nearly 3-4 times the quantity served earlier. Add to that, the fact that our taste buds have developed a liking for flavoured popcorn- caramel (loaded with sugar) or cheese flavoured.
A diet of Bagel, Burger, Muffins and meatball spaghetti, was not so bad 20 years ago. NOW? The average serving size of most such items has more than doubled Check out the facts yourself.
Portion sizes are equally important even if you are eating foods from the ‘Healthy Foods Aisle’. Oats has been propagated for its health benefits particularly its cholesterol lowering, diabetic-friendly and weight loss benefits.
So, you go to the supermarket and buy oats and cook oats upma or porridge for breakfast and think it is healthy, you eat 2 bowls of porridge/upma for breakfast daily. It has been a month since you have eaten oats for breakfast, still, the weighing scale refuses to budge?
Well, don’t blame the oats but blame the marketing that says it’s healthy and makes you forget portion control. And let’s face reality – because oats upma/porridge scores rather low on taste factor for ‘you’, the only way to get up from the table satisfied is to eat more of it. Clearly, the commercials are tricking you and your weight-loss efforts.
Now, if you are someone who relishes parathas, try different paratha variants for breakfast – be it gobhi, mixed veg, paneer or aloo with curd for breakfast but restrict yourself to 1-2 medium parathas. You’ll notice that you are relishing your breakfast as well as not gaining weight because you’ve kept your portion size in check.
It’s simple – Eating a dish that appeals to your taste buds in a limited quantity is much healthier than eating large portions of something that is perceived as healthy but not tasty.
Now, that you know how to get your food pairing and quantity right, let’s see how the time of consumption is important.
Now, let’s say you have gone shopping in the scorching summer afternoon heat and you notice an ice-cream parlour nearby. Obviously, you are tempted to eat your favourite ice-cream to beat the heat and give yourself a treat. And I agree, you must definitely go ahead with it.
Well, you’ve savoured your ice-cream and decide to parcel an extra scoop as dessert. Well, the nutritionist in me wouldn’t really recommend eating ice-cream post dinner.
Since you are relatively more active in the day versus at night and your metabolic rate is high as well, the calories from ice-cream will get used up for fueling your body instead of getting stored as fat. However, eating ice-cream post-dinner won’t work because your body is winding up for the day and cutting its calorie intake as well. So, eating ice-cream at night means you’re increasing your sugar levels and because you’re relatively passive at night-time, it will translate to 100% fat gain!
White bread and potatoes are looked down upon since they stripped of fibre and high on starch. Most nutritionists would not recommend a white-bread sandwich or a baked potato as a snack with your evening tea/coffee.
Still can’t give up your favourite sandwich or potato, can you?
So, here I have a simple solution for you – hit the gym or go for a run.
After an extensive exercise session, the body needs high – GI foods like potatoes and bread to replenish the glycogen stores that provided you energy for exercising.
Ok, so now we are almost there and the last thing to keep in mind is how frequently we eat certain things. As a foodie, it isn’t my favourite rule but as a nutritionist, I recommend to keep a watch on how frequently we eat certain things.
Let’s rewind to the era of our grandparents. Delicacies like gulab jamun, sheera or pakodas were made on special occasions of Holi, Diwali or birthdays. Cooking such lavish meals took place only once in a month or two months.
However, today we have access to the brownies, burgers, fries, chocolates and pizzas at any given time. If you don’t like what mom has given in your dabba for lunch, it is easy to dial for a pizza or go to eat in that swishy restaurant nearby.
If we apply the same food wisdom of occasional treats like our ancestors, we can enjoy our food guilt-free. We just need to decide when we wish to eat that scoop of ice-cream (maybe once a week) and ensure that we are not going for the second scoop. Greed and guilt, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand 😉
Having said that, remember that if you follow the PPT (Pairing, portion and timing) then you can give in to your taste buds more frequently. Yes, every day can be cheat day!
It’s time to remove the fear of food and change the notion that any food, including sweets or fried ones, is unhealthy. We simply need to find the right way of eating it.
And to make all of this easier we have an app that helps you manage your portion sizes, pair the right foods and gives real-time feedback for your meals. From weight loss to lifestyle changes to mindful eating to just enjoying food without guilt. This app has it all. Download the app here.
Since we believe that we must indulge the foodie within us, we have also devised occasional treats for you to enjoy without fretting about the weighing scale.
Eat what you love and love what you eat- we at bon happetee definitely help you do that!
Vishruta is a nutritionist by profession and a writer by heart. Content writing and menu planning have become her passions over the past few years. Love food, love life — is her mantra.