It’s tough to say no to mithai, chocolates or dry fruits during Diwali because hospitality during this festival is so overpowering and cloying that most people have no option but to give in and indulge or binge on festive foods, sweetmeats, savouries and other delicacies. Rituals, customs, family tradition, and the feeling of celebrating together are equally compelling and it becomes difficult to resist the temptation of festive food during the week that leads up to Diwali.

Keep a count: Decide in advance on your mithai intake this Diwali. By Divya Babu/Mint

When excessive amounts of empty calories, saturated fat and sugar are consumed quickly and consistently during the festival season, blood glucose and blood triglyceride levels rise very quickly. This in turn spikes the insulin levels in the body. Elevated levels of insulin foster hunger, a feasting metabolism, one that readily stores fat. Moreover, sugary refined foods require and use more iron and B-complex vitamins to metabolize than healthy foods and this in turn increases fatigue levels.

From a nutritionist’s standpoint, Diwali diet counselling is a difficult task because all advice and counsel falls on deaf ears, and everyone from diabetics to the obese tend to justify the intake of authentic Diwali food fare. The baked and roasted snacks that I usually recommend taste different from the typical festive food and people feel that these take away from the spirit of the festival.

It’s easier for people who are close to an ideal body composition and waist-hip ratio (WHR) to deal with Diwali because they have a high basal metabolic rate—they use up calories faster even when the body is at rest and thus prevent the accumulation of fat—copybook blood lipid/blood cholesterol and triglyceride profiles and cholesterol levels (20% body fat and a 0.85 WHR is healthy for women and 15% body fat and 0.9 WHR is healthy for men). Any damage done can be quickly rectified because such people get back to their fitness regimes as soon as Diwali is over.

If you are overweight, obese, feel unfit and fat, or have high cholesterol levels and diabetes, then follow these suggestions:

• Try your best to have roasted or baked low-calorie festive food wherever possible. Have a few nuts and dry fruit in their natural form.

• Add a dash of turmeric to warm water and consume this once a day for it’s an antioxidant and has detoxifying effects.

• Consume a high quality multi-vitamin supplement, after consulting a doctor, to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

• Stick to a healthy breakfast of oats or muesli and skimmed milk with cinnamon and eggs, or skimmed-milk paneer to balance blood sugar at the start of the day and have home-cooked food at regular intervals to prevent cravings.

• Have a high protein snack before you head out to celebrate. Three to four pieces of skimmed-milk paneer with some cinnamon powder will help control sugar cravings.

• Sip on green or Chinese tea if you have eaten a lot of ghee-richmithai or food to wash out the fats.

• Exercise everyday. Use the staircase instead of elevators. Clock 10,000 steps a day on the pedometer.

• Decide in advance on how much you will eat this Diwali. For instance, decide that you will have only five kaju katlis, four chaklis and three karanjis (gujias) this time around; better still observe one eat-all-I-can day and keep festive food intake moderate on other days. This way you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

• If you are diabetic, then avoid or strictly limit the intake of mithai and deep-fried foods.

Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.

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