How to keep your family fit and healthy

The old saying that “A family that eats together stays together” certainly holds good even today, but just needs to be tweaked a little to suit today’s health conscious world.

It should now read “A family that eats healthy and exercises together stays fit together!”

As a dietitian my goal is not only to get my client on the right ‘eating’ path, but also to extend the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise to his/her family. Many a time, clients (mostly women) give up on a regimen as it proves difficult to make two different menus – a regular one for the family and a more conscious, restricted one for themselves. My solution: if your present food and eating habits have resulted in weight gain and related health problems, then it is advisable to change that for the whole family. To do that you need to bring about subtle changes not just in what you cook and how, but also in the family’s overall outlook towards health.

Pic: wikimedia commons

Here are a few tips to help you adopt healthier food habits:

1. Reduce oil used for cooking to half your current usage. Avoid buying cooking oil in bulk as there is a tendency to use more oil when there is plenty available on hand. Don’t stick to one type of cooking oil (sunflower, peanut, mustard or olive); the healthier alternative is to use different oils on rotation basis – that way, you get the benefits of the different variety of fatty acids present in them.

2. Avoid making or buying fried foods like chips, pakodas/bajjis, mixtures, vadas, pooris, fried non-veg on a regular basis.

3. If you must, then buy the smallest available packs/sizes of fried foods, sweets, chocolates, cakes, so that there won’t be any leftovers for snacking on later.

4. Use whole grains and pulses on a daily basis, as they have more fibre and nutrients.

5. You can replace white rice with semi-polished or unpolished rice. Make it a point to buy dalia (broken wheat), whole wheat or multigrain flour, oats, wheat bread and locally grown millet and grains like ragi/nachni and jowar. In Bangalore, unpolished rice is available at Namdhari’s, Mother Earth, Nature’s Basket and Food Hall while Nilgiri’s stocks hand-pounded rice.

You don’t have to go out of your way to get whole grains from these stores; in fact, most neighbourhood grocery stores such as Food Days, MK Ahmed, Ashirwad and even the local rice traders stock parboiled and red rice (known as Kerala matta rice or Rosematta). These varieties are more nutritious and have higher fibre content than regular white rice (polished rice). Cooking this requires double the time and more water (about 3 cups of water for one cup of rice) than white rice. I tend to soak the red rice for at least an hour before cooking it in a pressure cooker. Nature’s Basket even has poha (avalakki) made from red rice.

Jowar flour can be used to make rotis (jolada roti) while ragi can be used in a variety of preparations like porridge, dosa, ragi mudde and ragi rotis. With summer just around the corner, drinking ragi malt/ ambli (a traditional ragi drink) is recommended to cool the body.

Dalia or broken wheat can be used for making vegetable upma instead of the Bombay rava/ sooji. Some diabetics even replace rice with dalia during meal times.

6. Munch on healthy snacks like fruits, salads, and a handful of nuts, or usali (sundal, usal/ channa chaat) made from cooked beans/pulses like kabuli channa, kala channa, rajma or green peas. Switch to eating fresh fruits for dessert instead of sweets.

7. Buy skimmed milk – ask for double toned milk (yellow packet, if you are using Nandini’s), or regular toned milk (blue packet). To skim the milk further, boil the milk at night and keep it in the fridge overnight. Remove any visible cream before using it in the morning. You can even make low-fat curd by using this milk.

8. Drink water or tender coconut water when you are thirsty and with meals, instead of juices, aerated drinks, beer or energy drinks.

9. If you want to have juice occasionally, then buy only 100% fruit juices (the ones with no added sugar) or even better, you could make fresh juices at home. Eating fruit is always a better option as it has the benefit of extra fibre which is lost when you make juice out of it.

10. Include a variety of seasonal vegetables (and not just potatoes) with every meal. Try to include greens like palak, methi, sabsige or dantina soppu at least once or twice a week. One trick that I use is to add green leafy vegetables to the dal which makes it not just more nutritious but also gets the family to have one extra vegetable!

11. Avoid red meats like mutton, pork or beef and instead have fish or chicken (without skin).

12. Eat your meals together as a family and not in front of the television. Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they eat while watching television.

13. Be a role model for your family where exercise is concerned. Try to inculcate an ideal of physical fitness by including the whole family in activities such as walking, trekking, hiking, cycling, swimming, dance or even playing outdoor games like cricket, volley ball, badminton and such.

14. Include kids and/ or your spouse when cooking, so that the resulting meal is a family effort and thereby appealing to all.

Old habits are hard to change; the trick is to be persistent! Try introducing one or two changes every week, and the changes may actually go unnoticed. The result will be a fitter family who will pass on healthy habits to the next generation. Just bear in mind that IMPOSSIBLE can easily turn into I’M POSSIBLE!!

About Sweta Uchil-Purohit 14 Articles

Sweta Uchil-Purohit is a dietitian with over 15 years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics with a passion for helping people understand the topic.

5 Comments

  1. A word about daily intake of omega-3 in the form of Flax seeds (roasted& powdered form)one tea spoon full could have been included.I have found it to be very useful.
    H.N.N

  2. Yes-sprouts is definitely a healthy addition to the diet and can be had as a salad or can even be added into chaats.

  3. This article by Sweta Uchil Purohit is really good and informative. Yes, a few words about sprouts could have been included in the article.

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