Diet diary: Don’t turn Navratra fasting into a feast

NAVRATRAS, the nine-day fasting period, rooted in the Hindu religion, offers some great opportunities to re-focus on your diet and take corrective measures. However, if made into a feast, it can be more damaging than your usual diet and lead to weight gain.

These days, even restaurants in our cities offer a range of speciality foods loaded with calories—the reason behind the post-Navratra kilos. The practice of preparing oily, deep-fried snacks and sweets in the name of tradition must be checked. So, remember to take your fast in the spirit in which it is meant—give up life’s pleasures for nine days to bring back balance in your life.

During the Navratras, alternate grains are eaten and traditional staples like wheat, rice, pulses and most vegetables are prohibited. The fast is observed with altered eating practices. The usual range of cereals like rice, wheat and millets are replaced by alternate cereals such as buckwheat, chestnut, sago, amaranth and a special variety of rice, known as samak rice (Barnyard millet). Amaranth, chestnuts and samak are in fact not true cereals.

Rather, they are seeds of fruits, also referred to as pseudo cereals. Pseudo cereals are higher in protein and are rich in carbohydrates like conventional cereals — wheat and rice. One of the principles of healthy eating is bringing variety into your food and the forgoing of certain foods in favour of others takes care of this. Here is how you can make the fasting period work in your favour.

# Eat small portions but do not starve.

# Include plenty of fluids, water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

# Include foods rich in micronutrients, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals (disease fighting nutrients)—fruits and vegetables.

# Include variety through alternate foods, cooked healthily, and ensure good nutrition.

# Break your fast with coconut water/ milk/yoghurt/buttermilk/vegetable or fruit juice/soup/fruits.

# Do not eat too much immediately after breaking your fast.

Plan one major meal with alternate grains, prepared in minimal oil, and ideally have it before sunset. Snack on milk, yoghurt, fruits, nuts, seeds, dry fruits and coconut. Such a diet can help you drop kilos and boost energy. These principles conform to scientific principles of nutrition.

Balancing everyday eating patterns with controlled eating—as done during a fast—when practiced on a regular, long-term basis, can indeed prove to be healthy. It not only helps in controlling weight, but also promotes better digestion, improves energy, prevents diseases and promotes a feeling of lightness and well-being.

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