Our energy and health depend on what we eat, how much we eat and how consistent we are in maintaining meal and sleep timings. This, in turn, affects our quality of life.
The National Nutrition Week was observed in the first week of September, so it is a good time to refocus on health and dietary practices. Given today’s busy lifestyles and hectic schedules, cups of coffee and boxes of doughnuts sometimes substitute balanced diets and adequate nutrients. The latter two are responsible for building an essential, solid foundation for a healthy life. Our energy and health depend on what we eat, how much we eat and how consistent we are in maintaining meal and sleep timings. This, in turn, affects our quality of life—our intelligence and decision-making abilities, sleep quality, ability to combat viruses and carcinogens, or successfully overcome the degenerative diseases of ageing.
For instance, erratic meal timings could lead to severe migraine headaches. Low-calorie diets can lead to sleep disturbances, even osteoporosis. Bingeing on junk food and alcohol can lead to digestive disturbances and constipation, and uncontrolled weight gain; and not consuming four-five servings of high-fibre vegetables like broccoli, purple cabbage and cauliflower, spinach and other leafy greens, bell peppers and beans every day can lower immunity and compromise our ability to fight the several million carcinogens and pollutants in our environment.
Small steps can go a long way in ensuring you have the best quality and the appropriate portions of nutrients, in a timely and consistent manner. This week take a few minutes to think about how good your nutritional habits have been, and change to adopt healthier habits.
uFirst things first.
Have you had breakfast most days of the week within an hour of waking? If not, you are more likely to suffer from frequent headaches and fatigue. Breakfast helps you avoid migraines, maintain weight, balance blood sugar and have a productive day.
uHave you maintained a 3- to 4-hour gap between meal timings?
Remember, skipping meals can slow down the metabolic rate, enlarge fat stores, increase daytime drowsiness and affect concentration. Let’s say that if breakfast was at 8-8.30am, the next meals/snack are best at noon-12.30pm, 4-4.30pm and 8.30pm. For those of you who weight-train, exercise, or play a sport like tennis regularly, you would need to consider an additional pre- and- post-workout meal to improve energy levels for the workout/sport.
uAre you clear about what nutritionally balanced meals are?
Nutritional balance is much more than having your regular quota of roti, sabzi, dal and rice. This is what your body needs every day as nutrients:
lA fist-sized serving of protein foods at each meal. You could choose foods like paneer (cottage cheese) made from skimmed milk, tofu or lean poultry for lunch and dinner; eggs or egg whites for breakfast; yogurt or buttermilk for teatime snack.
l Ensure you have a serving of high-fibre carbohydrate for sustained energy at every meal. Papaya, apple and oats are energetic foods and good choices for breakfast.
l Multigrain roti or bread or brown rice must be included with the main meals.
l Flaxseed powder with yogurt and fruit, or fruits and nuts like apples with almonds and cinnamon are healthy snacking options that go well with chilled or warm green tea. Flaxseed, almonds and seafood provide the indispensable omega nutrition required to lubricate joints, strengthen cell walls and regulate blood pressure.
uRemember to keep your meal “colour-count" high.
Eat five-six vegetables in different colours every day. Purple cabbage, red and yellow capsicums, dark green lettuce, spinach, carrots, beetroot, green beans and pumpkin are good food choices to increase the colour count of your nutrition.
uEnsure you have no more than 5g of salt per day and much less if you have hypertension.
Limit the intake of salted snacks, pickled and canned food to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, prevent water retention and maintain hydration levels.
u Are you exercising regularly?
uAvoid junk food.
These are highly processed foods—anything with white bread, or made of white flour, sugary foods and drinks, deep-fried stuff—and fall seriously short of providing you with the sustained energy and variety of nutrients you need for daily activity, and for exercise to maintain an impeccable lipid profile.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.