Opt for variety, advises Jyothi Prasad, chief dietitian, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. “Eating the same stuff at lunch means consuming nutrients present in that particular food only. So bring in a balance by eating a wide variety. Secondly, eating the same food brings in boredom and this leads to the temptation of eating something different (read off-the-shelf and unhealthy),” she says.
The ideal Ayurvedic lunch
Include two vegetables, one of which should be a green (say ‘bhindi’, or okra, and ‘palak’, or spinach), a good protein source (any lentil or a ‘paneer’, or cottage cheese, dish), a wholegrain option (‘chapati’, red rice, ‘ragi’); a chutney or relish, a small helping of a salad and chilled salted buttermilk (packet branded buttermilk will also do).
Try ‘machher jhol’: Explore regional flavours once a week. By Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Why this works: This is a wholesome lunch combination as it incorporates all the nutrients with very little fat. Wholegrain cereal provides slow-release carbohydrates which give sustained energy throughout the day, cooked vegetables provide the necessary fibre, vitamins and minerals—the fibre keeps one feeling full—and the protein source adds to the quality of the meal and provides further satiety. Finally buttermilk is a good source of probiotics and calcium and is low in calories too.
Spinach-‘besan’ (chickpea flour) ‘chillas’ with boiled potatoes and sprouts ‘chaat’ dressed with lemon juice, served with green chutney. Finish with a flavoured yogurt serving.
Why this works: A great combination of carbohydrates which incorporates green leafy vegetable as a filling. Lemon juice has vitamin C, which helps absorb iron better and contributes to the flavour. And yogurt is rich in probiotics.
Try something different
Home-made lentil and chicken broth which packs comfort with protein, quinoa (high in protein and gluten free) with veggies (boil quinoa in chicken stock instead of water to give it extra flavour and add some diced peppers and chopped French beans), jacket sweet potato (packed with antioxidants and a much lower glycaemic index, or GI, food than potato) and roasted chicken legs.
Note: Quinoa is South American in origin. It is actually a gluten-free seed high in protein. It’s similar to millets like ‘ragi’.
Why this works: This is a good combination of low-GI carbs with low-fat proteins which slowly releases energy and good quality proteins without upping the calories. A broth is filling due to the fluid content and if enough quantity of vegetables is added, it makes for a wholesome quick lunch which adds up all the important nutrients and is low on calories!
Toss mixed greens with thin slices of roast chicken, plus boiled chickpea. Add some lemon dressing and toss them all together at lunchtime. Eat a wholegrain bread slice smeared with low-fat mayonnaise or green chutney. You can even take a cold soup along in a thermos (like gazpacho). Finish with an apple.
Why this works: This ensures your planned diet does not go haywire during the lunch hour.
The last day of the week calls for experimentation. Go exotic. Try a bit of Haryana or Rajasthan. Take ‘bajre ki khichri’ with pumpkin ‘subzi’ and a bowl of curd or buttermilk. Or pack ‘gatte ki subzi’ with ‘missi roti’ and steamed ‘lauki’ (bottle gourd). Have a fruit later to buck up the fibre content. Craving for some non-vegetarian fare? Opt for the Bengali ‘machher jhol’ (fish curry), with some brown rice and green vegetables.
Why this works: Regional cuisine offers variety and breaks the monotony of the food that we eat. Unfamiliar foods provide the opportunity to explore vegetables, millets, grains and cereals that we usually don’t have and take advantage of the nutrients present in them.