Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Weight Loss Tips!!

It’s that time of the year when everyone one tends to make resolutions for the New Year. If like always, losing weight is on the top of your list, then here are some tips to keep in mind:
Exercise-the latest weight loss mantra is to move your body! Whether it’s joining a gym or dance classes or swimming, exercise has to become as important as “brushing your teeth”!
Don’t skip breakfast-a new study in the Journal of American Dietetics reveals that dieters who regularly ate breakfast shed weight more steadily than those who skipped it.
Avoid snacking on high calorie foods-which tends to pile on the calories without you noticing them. Instead of fried foods(like chips/mixtures, chivdas, samosas, vada), pastries, donuts, etc, choose healthier options like fruit with low fat yogurt, channa chaats, low-fat cheese sticks or even a handful of mixed nuts.
Watch the sugar- juices, cokes, cappuccinos, mochas, milkshakes, sweets and desserts are loaded with sugar which can wreck your diet. Hydrate yourself with at least 10-12 glasses of water, the natural “zero-calorie” drink and keep the sweets and desserts for the occasional indulgence.
Eat balanced meals-crash diets don’t work in the long run. So instead of trying out fancy new diets, stick to eating balanced diets that are tailor made by a dietitian to suit your lifestyle.
Control your portion sizes- anything eaten in excess (even the healthy foods) can add unnecessary calories. You can have several smaller meals instead of the traditional 3 big meals if you feel hungry in-between meals.
Avoid weekend binging-it can bring back all the calories you managed to burn during the week with the end result being that there isn’t much weight loss.
Follow these tips to be able to stick to your resolution and to make sure that it doesn’t become another resolution that bites the dust!
Sharing a New Year joke making the rounds:
Dear God,
All I want for 2011 is a big fat bank account and a slim body...
Sincerely, please don't mix these up like last year!!

Let this not be just a wish-make it come true!
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Understanding Calories-The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!!

Everybody wants to ‘go on a diet’. Everyone knows that ‘you have to watch your calories when you diet’, but not everyone understands what exactly ‘calories’ are/mean! Most people associate calories with only junk food/ sweets/chocolates as they know that they are ‘high calorie’ stuff. But what many don’t know is that almost all foods have calories and that the body needs calories for energy purposes.
So why are calories getting a bad reputation? Well, that’s because we live in a world of abundance and we choose to feed our bodies with foods that have too many calories and too little nutrition.
To understand calories better, let us start with the some FAQ’s:
What are calories? Calories are the units used to measure energy.
Where do we get calories from? From the food we eat (fruits, vegetables, grains, pizzas, pooris, cake, chocolates, etc.) and from the beverages we drink (milk, juices, coffee, alcohol, etc.). The energy is stored in these foods in the form of ‘macronutrients’ namely carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each of these macronutrients gives us ‘energy’ in varying numbers:
Carbohydrates= 4 calories per gram
Protein=4 calories per gram
Fat= 9 calories per gram
Since all foods have calories and since our bodies need calories-how does one know what to eat and what to avoid?
Good question! To make things simple-let’s divide calories into three groups: Good; Bad and the last……UGLY!!
1. Good calories: are those which come from ‘nutrient dense foods’. These are foods that are loaded with other nutrients like minerals, vitamins, fiber, essential fatty acids which the body needs, in contrast to the number of calories the food contains.
These can be found in regular foods that are familiar to most people like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains like brown/parboiled/semi-polished rice, whole wheat atta, jowar, bajra, barley, ragi/nachni, nuts and seeds, lean meats like chicken/turkey (skinned out), fish, soy and other dry beans/pulses. Try to get the maximum calories through these foods and you will end up getting most of the nutrients that the body requires including the calories needed for the body to function normally.

2. Bad calories: These would be foods that man has changed from its natural format-like polished/white rice, white bread, refined flour/maida, and also those foods that are naturally high in saturated fats like red meats, butter, ghee, cheese. The trick is to ‘go slow’ with this group. Try to avoid or limit these foods as these have been stripped off their nutrients.

3. Ugly calories: or ‘empty calories’ are those foods that provide no other nutrients other than calories. These are usually foods that are either loaded with sugar or fat/oil/ transfat (vanaspathi, margarine). Best examples of these would be cola/aerated drinks, alcohol, sweets (candies, cakes, pastries, donuts) fried foods like chips, fries, namkeens, pakodas, pooris, etc. Avoid eating these on a regular basis as these will provide you with only calories that you don't need!

Now that things are hopefully a lot clearer, there are two more things to keep in mind-PORTION SIZES and regular EXERCISE!
Too much of even ‘good’ things can be bad for you. Eating balanced diets and exercising regularly is the key to staying healthy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Healthy Heart Diet for Indians

The World Heart Day is on the 29th of September. A Heart Healthy Diet is not designed only for those who have problems related to the heart (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, etc). Following a Heart -healthy diet can be beneficial for all, especially since research shows that Indians are genetically predisposed to heart disease.
A heart friendly diet should be:
1. High in fiber-studies have shown that a diet high in fiber helps in reducing cholesterol. Include whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat atta, ragi, jowar, bajra, whole wheat bread/pasta) and pulses, fresh fruits, vegetables and green leafy vegetables.
2. Low in fat- a diet low in fat, especially saturated fats (those found in butter, ghee, cream) and trans-fat (dalda/vanaspati, margarine,) is shown to be beneficial.
3. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids- a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is seen to benefit those who are at high risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD). It is essential for numerous normal body functions like building cell membranes in the brain and controlling blood clotting. Fish, walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, spinach/palak should be included see the benefits.
4. Low in sodium-sodium is known to increase the BP and put more pressure on the internal organs including the heart. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for salt is less than a teaspoon/day.
5. Rich in Antioxidants: Found in coloured fruits, vegetables and grains, antioxidants are believed to help prevent disease by fighting free radicals which are substances that harm the body when left unchecked.
Here’s a sample diet:
On rising: Water + Walnuts
Breakfast: Oats porridge (old fashioned/steel cut/rolled oats NOT Instant)+ Blueberries
Mid-morning: Green tea + Apple
Lunch: Brown rice + Palak dal curry+ Cabbage and pea’s sabzi
Cucumber and tomato salad+ Buttermilk/chaas (made from skimmed milk)
Evening: Tea/ Coffee (with skimmed milk/ Soy milk) with Channa chaat
Dinner: Paushtik Roti (with flax seed powder) + Baingan ka bharta + Fish curry
Carrot raita(made with non-fat curd) + Red grapes

Prevention is always better than cure and this is true even for the matters of the heart! Why wait for heart problems to crop up and then change your diet? By eating healthy now, you may be able to prevent/avoid heart diseases in the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

10 Ways to sneak in more vegetables in your diet

How to add more vegetables to your diet

The benefits of eating a diet rich in vegetables are many-from lowering cholesterol, controlling sugar levels, aiding weight loss, fighting cancer to relieving constipation. However, most dietitians still feel that the common man is not eating enough vegetables to get the full benefits.
The question in most people’s mind: How much vegetable should one consume in day?
The answer is around 8-9 servings of vegetables and fruits/day. That would mean around 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables, which is a lot. Most of us tend to eat not more than 1-2 cups/day. So how does one achieve eating the recommended amounts?
Here are some tips to sneak in more vegetables into your diet:
1. Add vegetables to dishes which you would not do so otherwise-instead of plain upma, kichidi, poha, noodles, pasta, dal, add some mixed veggies into these dishes and you make them more nutritious and a filling dish.
2. Add grated veggies to any dish-you can add grated carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, etc to roti’s, chutney’s, chaats, dosa, idli and even salads. Try sprinkling some grated vegetables like carrots on top of dishes as a garnish-it makes the dish more colourful and inviting.
3. Add a salad with every meal-these need not be limited to just cucumber and tomatoes. A lot more vegetables like beetroot, radish, methi leaves, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, knol-khol/kohlrabi, turnips, and capsicum/bell pepper can be eaten raw. Pulses and legumes and even some grains can be sprouted and added to the salads (like wheat, methi seeds, moong/mung, channa,etc). To avoid boredom, try out 3 different salads every week. You could even mix fruits and vegetables together to make some exotic combinations.
4. Add vegetable purees-to soups, curries, chapathi dough, dosa batter.
5. Add chopped/sliced veggies to sandwiches, wraps, bhel puri, fruit chaats.
6. Make dips with vegetables/fruits-avocado, cucumber, mint, cilantro/coriander leaves, pumpkin, apple, strawberries, figs, etc can all be made into tasty dips. These can be also used as spreads on whole wheat breads and phulkas to make healthy snacks.
7. Eat raw vegetables for snacks- carrots, celery, parsnips can be paired with the fruit/vegetable dips to get double the vegetables!
8. Add veggies to meat/poultry/fish curries. Even scrambled eggs taste better when you add some sautéed veggies like tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and capsicum/bell pepper!
9. Make chutney’s with vegetables/fruits-you don’t have to limit chutneys to just coriander/cilantro or mint. Try making chutneys from brinjal/eggplant, tomatoes, onions, apples, carrots, etc .Eat them with your meals or add them to your salads, breads, yogurts to create a unique dish!
10. Make your own veg+fruit smoothies- mix and match veggies with some sweet fruits to make your own smoothies/juices. The pulp contains the fiber-so try not to strain it out!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Common myths about Diabetes among Indians

As a clinical dietitian I have come across several myths that diabetics (along with their friends and relatives) have about the disease and also about the kind/type of food that they can/should eat. Here are a couple of the most common myths:

1) Diabetics should not eat rice: One of the biggest misconceptions is that once a person is detected to be a diabetic he has to stop eating rice. This is not true. Rice can be included in a meal plan for a diabetic. The only thing to keep in mind is to stick to the quantities prescribed by the dietitian. Though brown rice/semi-polished rice is better than white rice due to the fiber present in brown rice, white rice eaten in the prescribed amounts and along with whole pulses (rajma/kidney beans, channa, moong/mung), vegetables and a salad to increase the fiber content of the meal is also fine.

2) I have ‘thoda sa diabetes’ so I don’t really need to take medicines or follow a diet: There is no such thing as ‘little diabetes’ or as they say in Kannada: “swalpa diabetes idhe”. You may be a recently diagnosed diabetic whose sugar levels may have just started to go above the normal level, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take the medication prescribed or follow a diet and exercise. If you choose to ignore the situation thinking that it will ‘go away’ then you are wrong. Once diagnosed you need to follow whatever the doctor and the dietitian have prescribed to avoid the complications associated with Diabetes.
3) I have diabetes so I must not eat fruits, as fruits are sweet: This again is a very common myth among diabetics. All fruits can be eaten by a diabetic but in different quantities/portion sizes depending on the carbohydrate content in them. Some fruits have more carbohydrates, so you may be asked to eat a lesser amount than the others. Your dietitian will be able to guide you based on the total carbohydrates that your doctor has prescribed for you.

4) I drink ‘karela/bittergourd’ juice every morning and also eat methi sprouts and ‘kala jamun(the fruit), so I can reduce the dosage of my medication: Though these are known to reduce/keep the blood sugars under control in Ayurveda, don’t try to reduce your medication on your own without first discussing it with your doctor.

5) I’m on insulin so I don’t need to be careful of what I eat. I can eat whatever I want and simply increase my insulin dosage when I eat sweets: Even if you are on insulin, you still have to follow a diet and most important- eat on time! Tampering with your insulin dosage can be very dangerous-you could go into a coma due to very low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) if the insulin you took is too much.

6) I’m eating ‘diabetic rice/atta’ and ‘diabetic rusk’ and still my sugars are not under control: These are mostly clever marketing gimmicks. Just because a label says ‘healthy’ or ‘high –fiber’ or ‘low-fat’ or ‘good for diabetics’ doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you want and expect your sugars to be under control. Even if the manufacturer’s claims are true, how much you eat (portion sizes) is also important to keep your sugars in check.
These are just some of the myths that I have come across during my years counseling diabetic patients in Bangalore. With India on the verge of becoming the ‘diabetes capital of the world’ people will come across many more. The best thing to do if you or anyone you know has a doubt/query, is to ask your Doctor/dietitian/ health care provider and get it cleared out instead of believing what may not be true.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eat Healthy This Ramzan

The Muslim Holy month of Ramadan (or ‘Ramzan’ as it is known in India) begins on August 1st this year. Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours. Those who are physically able to are required to fast each day of the entire month, from sunrise to sunset. Eid Al-Fitr, which is expected to be around the 30th of August, marks the end of Ramzan.
Here are some tips for eating healthy during Ramzan:
• During Suhur/Suhoor(pre-dawn meal): try to switch to complex carbohydrates like brown rice(parboiled rice/semi-polished rice), whole wheat breads/atta/pasta as these take time to be digested and hence will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time.
• To avoid acidity: eat foods rich in fiber like vegetables, fruits, whole pulses/legumes. Avoid coffee, spicy and fried foods as these tend to increase the gastric secretion that can irritate the lining of the stomach.
• To avoid weight gain: avoid fried foods like namkeens(chivdas/mixtures/sev/ghatias), samosas, fried chicken, fried fish, sweets, desserts, pastries, chocolates, biryanis(on a daily basis), ghee, butter.
• To avoid dehydration: between Iftar and Suhur, drink loads of water, tender coconut water, lemonade, buttermilk/chaas and also eat fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water/moisture like watermelon, muskmelon, pineapple, cucumber, all gourds(like bottle gourd, turrai, ash gourd).
• Choose healthy methods of cooking: opt for grilled/baked non-veg instead of fried.
• Instead of high calorie desserts: opt for fresh fruits on a daily basis, these not only have less calories but will also provide you with the all-important fiber and water.
For those who are looking out to eat healthy during Ramzan, here is a sample Indian diet that is balanced and does not go overboard as far as calories are concerned:
Breaking the fast (at sunset): Dates + Water

Iftar(dinner - the meal which ends the day's fast):
Option 1:
Rice +Gajar Methi sabzi +Masoor Dal+ Tandoori chicken+ Cucumber and tomato salad+ Buttermilk/chaas
Bedtime: Skimmed milk
Option 2:
Baingan bhartha +Channa Masala +Grilled chicken kabab +Mixed veg raita
Bedtime: Buttermilk
Option 3:
Fish curry +Cabbage and peas sabzi + Chickpea salad with peppers &tomatoes
Bedtime: Ragi malt

Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
Option 1:
Veg Daliya Khichidi
Kadi + Stir fry mix veggies
+ Grilled chicken + Carrot and mint salad

Option 2:
Brown/semi-polished rice
Beetroot sabzi + Radish sambar + Mixed veg salad

Option 3:
Jowar roti
Bhindi sabzi + Chicken curry+ Mint raita
Tender coconut water

Eating healthy through Ramzan will not only be easy on your stomach but will also make sure that you don’t put on unnecessary weight during the month. Keep the feasting and all the yummy biryanis and kheer’s for Eid-after all, everyone deserves to indulge in some feasting after a month of fasting!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mall Walking-the latest fitness trend!

A new fitness phenomenon called ‘Mall Walking’ comes to town. Popular in most American cities, mall walking is simply as the name suggests, using your neighborhood mall as a place to exercise. You can walk or even jog in the corridors of the malls. Most participating malls open their doors early for walkers even before the shops open their doors to shoppers.
What are the benefits of mall walking?
• You can walk in any weather: With mall walking, you can never have the heat, rain, snow or the wind as an excuse for not exercising. Since the temperatures in malls are controlled, you have a perfect climate all year through.
• Safety: Since you are walking inside the mall, you don’t have to worry about getting mugged, teased or even hit by traffic.
• Clean and pollution free environment: You don’t have to jump over puddles, or try to avoid stepping on dog poop or worry about your allergies acting up due to pollution!
• No cost: The malls won’t charge you for walking-so that means you won’t be paying a hefty membership or monthly charges.
How to get started?
• As for any exercise routine, ask your doctor or health care provider if you are fit for walking.
• Invest in some comfortable workout clothes-even though it’s the hippest mall around, you can’t be exercising in your skinny jeans.
• Put on your walking/exercise shoes-again stilettoes are a strict no-no for exercising.
• Start with 10-15 minutes of walking at a pace that you are comfortable and then after a couple of days increase the pace and the duration.
• Get a walking buddy (or partner) to keep you both motivated.
What are the disadvantages?
• It could be heavy on your pocket-the main reasons why mall owners are happy about letting you use the mall! Walking by the displays in the shops could make your wallet lighter even if you aren’t a shopaholic!
• If you get tempted by the aromas from the food court, you could be getting in more calories than you burnt! The solution to this would be to walk without your wallet or just get minimum cash (just in case of emergencies).
• Since you aren't paying for it-getting motivated to exercise may be a challenge(money after all,is a great motivator and everyone wants to get his/her money's worth).

Keep in mind that the walking surface is hard,so make sure you are wearing good shock absorbing shoes to protect your joints.

So come summer, monsoon, winter, don’t let the weather bother you too much-just slip on your walking shoes and go ‘mall walking’.

Q) Have you ever tried 'mall walking'? Tell us about it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

4 Reasons Why Soft Drinks are bad for your Health!

Why Soft Drinks are bad for your Health!
Aerated drinks, more popularly known as soda’s, soda pops, fizzy drinks, soft drinks or carbonated beverages are the bane of every dietitian!
Why-you may ask? Well, good question-let’s put up a list of reasons for this:
1) For starters, what you are drinking is water with 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. So, essentially what you get is hydration with a load of unnecessary calories and zero nutrients!
2) That’s not all-what you also get are other chemicals like carbon dioxide (water is infused with CO2 to create the bubbles), phosphoric acid (H3PO4 or E338) and caffeine (C8H10N4O2).
3) Phosphoric acid is commonly used for rust removal-so why are soda manufacturers adding it to the drink? It is used as an acidifying agent to acidify colas and also gives colas their tangy flavor. Various studies have shown that phosphoric acid leaches the calcium from the bones and makes them brittle and over a period susceptible to osteoporosis. Not just that, high phosphorus intake has also been associated with tooth loss, periodontal disease, and gingivitis
4) Caffeine is a stimulant as well as a mild diuretic and has been known to be addictive. This is added to colas to give an instant boost as well as to get you addicted to it.
According to a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older women who drink cola (diet, regular or decaffeinated) were seen to have significantly decreased mineral bone density, putting them at increased risk for bone fracture.
Dr. Marion Nestle from his book Food Politics states “The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.”
Putting all this together: Soda/cola= weight gain+ brittle bones +tooth disease + zero nutrients!

That being said, what are the healthy alternatives to drink-diet soda?
No way-just because they substitute the sugar with artificial sweeteners, doesn’t make it a healthy drink! It still has the rest of the chemicals (phosphoric acid, CO2 and caffeine) along with the chemicals from the sweeteners. Instead, choose from these healthy drinks to quench your thirst:
1) Water- the natural ‘zero’ calorie drink that has no side effects.
2) Tender coconut water- also known as the ‘fluid of life’ is another natural thirst quencher that is loaded with electrolytes to replenish those lost by the body in the form of sweat.
3) Buttermilk/chaas- this one has added calcium which strengthens your bones.

The choice is yours-as the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink”!

Q) What will you choose?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Free radicals,antioxidants and ORAC

We’ve all heard about free radicals and the damage it causes the body-but how many of us actually know what free radicals are and how we can prevent/reduce the damage caused by it. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that have lost an electron and hence become highly unstable and extremely reactive. In this state it tries to grab an electron from any atom that it is close to, so that it can become stable again. This sort of starts a chain reaction as now the other atom has lost an electron and has become a free radical and needs to find an electron itself to become stable. This kind of grabbing of electrons within our body causes a lot of damage. Free radicals are created as natural by-products of the various reactions in our body as well as due to exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV light or radiation. It is said that on an average, every cell in our body comes under attack from a free radical once every ten seconds. So how do we stop/prevent/reduce this damage? The answer lies in something known as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients found in food that may help in protecting or slowing the damage caused by free radicals to our bodies. These antioxidants are thought to act as ‘free radical scavengers’ and provide them with the extra atom that they need. By doing so, the free radical become stable and also stops the chain reaction. Although there are some enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, the principle micro nutrient antioxidants are said to be vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, selenium ( which is a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body's antioxidant enzyme systems) is also included in this category.
Since the body cannot manufacture these micro nutrients, they must be supplied by our diet. Foods that contain antioxidants are measured by ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Though this theory hasn’t been proved, nutrition researchers estimate that a person needs to consume around 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units every day for our blood levels to maintain a good antioxidant defense system.
Here are some foods and the ORAC Value/100g:
Red grapes:730
String beans:201

You don’t have to memorize these values, just remember to eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. The more colorful your diet (naturally colorful-not by the addition of food colors) the more you will benefit. Don’t limit yourself to just the vegetables and fruits mentioned in the list-others can have their own special benefit.
The rule of the thumb should be to include as many seasonal (and fresh) fruits and vegetables as possible.

Q)What is your favorite antioxidant rich fruit/vegetable?