How to be a mindful eater
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Diets were born to tame erratic eating behaviour. The packaged food revolution of the last few decades, however, has given rise to trans fatty acid-rich binge-eating patterns. A growing dependence on off-the-shelf foods, like noodles, cookies and aerated drinks, that contain trans fats, has made such food the norm, putting people at a high risk of lifestyle diseases. How does one break this cycle?
The answer lies in mindful eating, which involves knowing why you are eating what you are. Mindful eating is about understanding food and integrating it seamlessly into your lifestyle, which means it can be done easily if you are keen to lead a healthy life. That’s why it is more sustainable and doable than fad diets.
How do you start the practice of mindful eating?
■ First, decide meal timings based on your activity on weekdays and weekends. Say, you work 10-7 at the desk on weekdays and your first half is sedentary. In this time, you should have at least two wholesome meals: breakfast and lunch. The first meal, for example, could be two eggs (boiled, poached or cooked in less oil) with multigrain bread or roti, mint chutney and half cup sauté peppers or any other vegetable. The second meal could be a half-cup mix of brown rice and dal cooked like a khichdi or two multigrain rotis with 75g paneer or boneless chicken bhurji, and half cup bhindi, or any other vegetable. Avoid high-starch vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn. If you are going out for a meeting, carry snacks in the form of fruits, and eat them with a handful of almonds and a small tub of yogurt. Post 7, stick to meals which are lightly cooked, in smaller portions.
■ Watch the quality of food you ingest. Always check the source of your food and stick to natural, preservative-free ones. Ensure that you pick fruit and vegetables that are plump, rich in colour and texture. Leafy greens like spinach and fenugreek must be checked for freshness and should not be overcooked. Use wholegrain organic food items, if possible, farm-fresh eggs, organic dairy and cheese, poultry and seafood.
■ Learn to listen to body signals of hunger and thirst and eat accordingly. Keep a check on portion sizes and chew the food slowly.
■ Plan how best to consume your recreational calories, which include sweeteners, syrups and sauces. Typically, recreational calories should not be more than 10% of overall calories. If these are limited to 5% or 25g a day, it would be better. Ideally, you should opt for iron-rich jaggery instead of artificial sweeteners.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist, Pilates expert and author of Who Stole My Calories?. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.