“No diet is perfect ever” — an appropriate description of what constitutes a healthy diet always varies, as nutritional requirements for each individual differ based on the metabolism and the physical state. Foods that help in growth and development for a growing child might have a different impact on an adult with certain diseases. At times, people might fall for false promotions and practice unhealthy diet patterns, which in this modern era, is a major health concern.
Remember, food is an essential key towards successful healing and how we choose it makes a lot of difference. Feeding your body is not enough; instead eat food that nourishes your soul.
Well, a few “daily foods” like vegetables, fruits, cereals, milk and meat products are an essential part of everyone’s diet, without which the regular regimen is incomplete. Similarly, maintaining an iso-caloric balance is equally important between the calorie intake and the calories used up for any physical activity. So, it’s time to balance your meals!
Emphasising on different food groups and including them regularly in the right amounts is considered to be a balanced diet. Major food groups include grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods, fats and sugars. Studies suggest that the diets, which include these major food groups and limit or exclude refined carbs, saturated fats and excess salt are said to be associated with a lower risk of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart ailments etc.
Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, protein and fats are the major nourishing compounds of food that are needed regularly, as major sources of energy. As the energy yield from each macronutrient is different, eating a balanced diet is very important to stay healthy and energetic.
Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and fibres are different types of carbohydrates present in food. Fruits, vegetables, green leafy vegetables, whole grain cereals, milk and milk products contain carbohydrates in different forms. Fibres are the non-digestible part of the carbohydrate, but it aids in proper digestion.
Sugar and starches acts as a major source of energy especially for the brain and central nervous system. 4kcal of energy yield is obtained by 1 gram of carbohydrate and a normal adult should get 40-60% of their total energy from carbohydrates. Apart from providing energy, these foods are also good sources of micronutrients. Kids can enjoy carbs in each of their major meals as it is easy to digest and provide that instant energy.
Benefits during pregnancy
It is also considered to be the simplest form of nutrient to provide energy for a pregnant woman to nourish the growing fetus, and also to avoid pregnancy triggered fatigue. Also, they are the best source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. Few carbs like oats are beneficial to combat morning sickness during the first trimester, but excess of these foods might lead to weight issues and GDM during pregnancy.
Here are some healthy recipes that one MUST try out
1. Homemade yogurt with fresh fruits: Blend any fresh fruit (berries, banana) with home-set curd and garnish it with some dry nuts and relish it.
2. Oats and dry fruit ladoo: Roast oats and any dry fruit, dry nuts and some healthy seeds of your choice. Add liquid jaggery and bind it in the shape of ladoo and enjoy them moderately.
Benefits for children: Acts as a fuel for the brain and helps in optimal growth and development.
And there are more…
Boiled sweet potato pizza: Smear a whole wheat base with boiled and mashed sweet potatoes. Add all the vegetables of your choice and grate some cheese and bake it.
Whole wheat pasta with vegetables: Boil 100% wheat pasta with little salt and ghee. Strain it, and toss a few vegetables of your choice in a pan. Add the strained pasta and cheese on top.
The power of protein
As per recommended dietary allowance, a normal person should consume 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram, body weight daily. Requirements are higher for growing kids and it varies accordingly for a person with any disease.
Animal sources like meat, eggs and milk products are the high biological forms of protein, as they provide all of the essential amino acids. Plant-based sources like beans, seeds and dals also have a good amount of protein in them.
Proteins act as the building blocks and also form the structural support, including hormones, enzymes and biochemical catalysts. which makes it an essential part of each meal. Protein deficiency leads to malnourishment and other deficiency disorders both in children and adults.
Mixed pulse sundal: Soak all the pulses of your choice. To a pan, add oil and seasonings. Add onion and soaked pulses. Toss it for a while. Add salt, grated coconut and enjoy eating it.
Stuffed paratha [egg/paneer/soya]: Prepare egg/paneer/soya bhurji and keep it aside. To the half rolled chapati dough, stuff the filling of your choice, fold it and roll it fully and cook.
Benefits for children: It is one of the most crucial elements for growth and development of the organ system. As proteins also form hormones and enzymes, they help in building the immune system.
The fascination with fats
Good fats are also an essential part of a balanced diet. They have various functions to perform in the body, apart from yielding energy. One gram of fat yields 9 kcal energy. Studies suggest that reducing saturated fats in the diet is related to the reduced risk of non-communicable diseases. Oils from seeds, nuts, fishes have PUFA and MUFA in them, which helps to maintain healthy HDL levels and reduce bad cholesterol levels i.e LDL levels.
Good fats like fish oil, avocado oil, olive oil, ghee, oil from seeds etc are considered safe during pregnancy.
Saturated and the trans-fat from fried, packed and processed foods are considered to be unhealthy and increase the risk of diabetes, heart diseases when consumed regularly.
Benefits during pregnancy: DHA plays an important role in fetal neurological development and studies suggest that supplementing with proper amounts of DHA during pregnancy helps in avoiding preterm births. Omega-3 fatty acids help in managing perinatal depression.
Whole milk dry-nuts Payasam: Soak all the dry-nuts in milk for two to three hours. Add the soaked mixture in a blender and make a fine paste. Add whole milk in a pan, add the ground paste into this and keep stirring under low flame. Put sugar/jaggery for taste. Next, pour whole milk to adjust the consistency of payasam. Relish by topping it with some ghee-roasted dry nuts.
Chocolate peanut butter shake: Add full fat milk, cocoa powder, peanut butter, sugar/honey, dry nuts, seeds in a blender and mix it well.
Cheese cakes: Separate egg whites and yolk. Beat the egg whites nicely and keep them aside. To the egg yolk, add cream cheese and condensed milk and mix it well. To this, add the whisked egg white and mix well. Bake it and enjoy them.
Benefits for children: Apart from supplying energy, it helps in absorption of certain vitamins. Also, fat is a major nutrient for brain development in kids.
The magic of micronutrients
Trace elements like vitamins and minerals constitute these micronutrients. Though they are required in smaller amounts, the impact they have on body function and maintenance is very significant. Deficiency of these micronutrients leads to deficiency disorders, especially in growing children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Three to four servings of vegetables, two servings of fruits and a fistful of nuts and seeds everyday will help in gaining these micronutrients. Antioxidant properties in these foods have proven to reduce the risk of many types of cancers. Minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, folate, iodine and vitamins like A, B, C, D, E, K have a crucial role to play in the diet of pregnant women, lactating mothers and also in a growing child.
Benefits during pregnancy: Folate, iron, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and other micronutrients play a very important role in ensuring a safe and secure pregnancy. Birth defects and miscarriages are taken care of by these special nutrients.
The significance of fluids
Water is the best fluid that is another essential portion of a balanced diet. Its intake directly impacts the body’s ability to function well. Apart from rehydrating the cells, water also plays an important role in digestion and absorption of nutrients present in the food. Being hydrated well keeps a person more active and relieves them from indigestion and constipation. Especially during pregnancy and lactation, healthy fluids like water, soups, porridges, infused water are considered to be very healthy.
What to do in case of picky eaters?
Fulfilling the nutritional needs of a picky eater is no less than a challenge itself. Children with such eating behaviour are said to be at the risk of malnourishment, as their choice of food will be confined to only one or few food groups. So, it’s a good idea for a caregiver to offer them those quality foods in a more appetising manner. Below are the ideas to cater to those fussy eaters:
- Shredded paneer paratha with mashed vegetables.
- Homemade yogurt with fresh fruits and nuts
- Ghee roasted/ sautéed vegetables
- Egg & vegetable muffins
- Vegetable soups with thick cream
- Chicken fritters
- Chocolate & berries pancake
- Almond butter toast
Enjoy your favourite recipes in a healthy way:
- Mind the portion size.
- Choose complex carbs over refined ones.
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Rethink your sugary/alcoholic drinks
- Say no to extra salt.
- Always use healthy fats. Try to cut-down the oil usage to half the quantity.