Eating to Stay Fit and Healthy

B L Razdan
“You are what you eat’.” and “One should eat to live and not live to eat” are the two often quoted old adages, in discourses relating to eating food. Obviously, if you want to lead a healthy life, you have to eat healthy food. Many people are fond of “good food” and there are those that believe that in life if they are not able even to eat to their liking and heart’s content, of what use is this life to them. I do not have any quarrel with those who openly declare such preferences about the food they take, both in quality and quantity, and in consequence, fill the coffers of the pharmaceutical manufacturers, one of whom had projected “a bright future” in one its of annual balance sheets stating that in the coming decade there would be significant increase in some categories of diseases in India, when their cash registers would start ringing.
As for others let me quote Chandogya Upnishad (verse: 7.26.2) which unambiguously says, “When food is pure, being becomes pure”. The holy Bhagwat Geeta (in verse: 17.8) categorically says that swatta food increases duration of life, purifies existence and gives strength, health, happiness and satisfaction….and that such foods are wholesome and pleasing to the heart.
Obviously, the importance of food in life cannot be gainsaid. But the culinary skills acquired by us over the centuries of making varieties of tasty food nudge us to eat more than necessary. Add to it the use of so many spices that had lured Columbus onto a sea voyage to discover India (but discovered America instead) and we cannot help taking an extra helping if only to pamper our taste buds. Even as there is nothing wrong with having a good sense of taste, we need to be aware of what we eat and how much we eat, if we want to stay healthy.
Lately an overwhelming tendency to have tasty and convenient food is increasingly being noticed. That what we call junk food is fast catching up with our health and if we do not wake up, we may literally pay through our nose to fight the life-threatening diseases that obesity gives birth to. Several years ago, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had, after reliable laboratory tests, informed us about the harmful effects of some cold drinks promoted by the MNCs. More recently, it has released a study referring to the harmful substances in some of the snacks brought into India by these MNCs. Expectedly, the MNCs jumped, engaging PR firms to clarify that they are misunderstood without effectively countering the findings. The CSE study should, therefore, serve as a wake-up call for all of us and should prompt us to adopt healthy eating habits both in the family and in social circles.
It would be worthwhile to mention some plain facts, which require no research but can be gauged through sheer common sense. A juice brand sells mango nectar that can easily have seven to eight spoons of sugar per glass. A small packet of instant noodles is nothing but unrefined, processed starch. The malt-based, so-called nutritional milk additives for children are mostly sugar. Fried potato chips and burgers with patties stuffed inside that remain frozen for months together before being served are obviously not healthy. Our traditional sweets and salty snacks called namkeens and the samosas and bujhias too do not do any good to our health.
Almost every person who gains weight does not know how it happened! “Paani ka ghee ban jaata hai” is the common refrain. Well, let me be honest and tell it is all because the calorie intake has crossed the permissible limit or in other words, we ate too much for our genuine requirements of food. To lose weight, we need to cut back on calories. By this we don’t mean that we do something drastic and greatly reduce our eating portions. We can gradually cut back on our food intake and cut calories without drastically impacting our diet. Here are a couple of tips
Start the meal with a salad. Eating salads is a healthy way to cut down on the calories. It is nourishing, filling and can be made appetizing if cooked correctly using the right ingredients. We should, however, take care not to load the salad with cheese, mayo sauce, bacon or any other fattening ingredient. Eating a substantial amount of simple salad will automatically limit the main course intake and thus will lead to consuming fewer calories.
Stuffing oneself with food at the dinner table, apart from being certainly regarded as bad table manners, leads to high calorie intake, which is not desirable.Yes, wasting food can make one feel guilty, but stuffing oneself with it will only make one over-weight. Ideally, we should place orders for meals that come in small portions when dining out or just split the meal with the partner. Studies have proved that seeing or smelling good food can release hormones that make our stomach growl. So, the next time the tummy makes those awful noises, do not simply assume it to be a hunger call.
Chew more. The longer you take to chew your food, the better it will digest and the lesser will be the intake. The more you chew; the prolonged chewing will be processed by the brain, which has a mind of its own, as consuming more in terms of quantity. Therefore, this is a way of cheating the brain into thinking that enough has been eaten to satiate the appetite, when, in fact, there has been lesser intake.
Control the quantity. If one cannot give up on a particular food item, then make sure that moderate portions are taken. Don’t over eat and certainly don’t eat a lot of food during one meal. Space out the meals and thoroughly regulate the portions. Always remember: small is beautiful.
Avoid tea and coffee calories. It is quite understandable that a stressful work day requires us to drink lots of tea and/or coffee. But if we are serious about cutting back on the calories, then let go tea and coffee both. If, however, one can’t give up on it entirely, then one must, at least, drastically limit their intake.
It is as simple as that. This simple alteration in our daily habit will benefit us hugely and balance our body weight. If we do not pay any heed to the timely warning, we shall be paying a heavy price in the coning decade. Obesity levels will increase, fitness will decline and heath care costs will rise. One set of MNCs will make profits out of us by making us unhealthy and the other set of MNCs will make profits out of us by selling medicines and treating us, of course, for a price. The choice is clearly ours.