Eat­ing Right

Busy Yes, But How We Get It So Wrong

Consumer Voice - - Front Page - Dr Pulkit Mathur As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Depart­ment of Food and Nu­tri­tion Lady Ir­win Col­lege, Univer­sity of Delhi

At home, at work, at play, life has be­come re­ally fast-paced for all of us. There is lit­tle time to pause and think about mun­dane things like what should we eat for the next meal. Most of us just grab a quick bite in be­tween the mul­ti­tude tasks that we per­form each day, whether it is man­ag­ing the home and kids or com­mut­ing long dis­tances to work and then sit­ting hud­dled at a desk try­ing to meet dead­lines. Bad eat­ing habits are common. Daily cir­cum­stances of­ten make you eat on the run, skip meals, eat what­ever is fast and easy, or use food to re­lieve stress. In the long run, there are con­se­quences to deal with and it’s never too early to be aware of th­ese.

We ig­nore all warn­ing bells of aches and pains or feel­ings of breath­less­ness and slog on till dis­eases take their toll. In­dia is the di­a­betes cap­i­tal of the world and we are not far be­hind in other chronic dis­eases like high blood pres­sure, dys­lipi­demias (ab­nor­mal blood lipid lev­els), heart dis­ease and can­cer. There is hardly an ex­tended fam­ily where near and dear ones are not suf­fer­ing from one or more of th­ese ail­ments. Hence, it is vi­tal that we take some time out and an­a­lyse what is wrong with our life­styles be­fore we fall prey to th­ese in­cur­able and some­times fa­tal dis­eases.

The food we eat plays a very im­por­tant role in the de­vel­op­ment – and hence the preven­tion – of th­ese life­style dis­eases. So let’s have a look at some common mis­takes that many of us make.

Common Mis­takes, Con­se­quences and Prob­a­ble So­lu­tions

1. Skip­ping Meals

How many of us are used to dash­ing out of the door most morn­ings with­out break­fast? Rea­son could be any – school starts too early and so the child doesn’t feel like eat­ing so early in the morn­ing, long dis­tance to work, late for a meet­ing and hence no time to cook for the fam­ily. Some may skip a meal think­ing it’s a good way to lose/con­trol weight. Lunch is usu­ally the other meal to be sac­ri­ficed as you may be on the road or in a meet­ing. As a re­sult, you tend to sat­isfy hunger pangs by eat­ing what­ever you can lay your hands on, like a samosa, a patty or a packet of chips.

Most peo­ple would be sur­prised to know that skip­ping meals to lose weight may re­sult in ex­actly the op­po­site ef­fect. Our metabolism is trig­gered to slow down each time you skip a meal thanks to the genes be­ing tuned to do so be­cause of the in­se­cure food sup­ply that has ex­isted for man for cen­turies. Ev­ery time the body doesn’t re­ceive food, it fears im­pend­ing star­va­tion and goes into a ‘save calo­ries’ mode con­vert­ing them into fat for stor­age. Se­condly, if you skip a meal, then by the next meal you will be so hun­gry that you will munch on snacks that are usu­ally not healthy. Over time you may thus gain weight if you as a habit skip meals. Weight gain slowly leads to obe­sity, which is a root cause of the other dis­eases like di­a­betes and heart dis­ease. Obese peo­ple are also more prone to cer­tain types of can­cers. Skip­ping meals and keep­ing the stom­ach empty for long hours also leads to the prob­lem of acid­ity and stom­ach ul­cers. Re­search has shown how stu­dents con­cen­trate bet­ter in class if they have had a hearty break­fast. The same ap­plies to adults who need to per­form tasks re­quir­ing alert­ness and con­cen­tra­tion. Do you need any more rea­sons to stop skip­ping meals, es­pe­cially break­fast?

To avoid skip­ping meals you need to plan meals in ad­vance. A lit­tle time spent in mak­ing sure you have all the in­gre­di­ents to pre­pare a quick meal, do­ing preprepa­ra­tion the night be­fore, wak­ing up slightly ear­lier than your usual time usu­ally help. If you still don’t see time for a sit-down break­fast or lunch, pack stuff that is a handy fin­ger food and can be munched on while on the move. So, in­stead of paran­tha/roti and sabji packed sep­a­rately and re­quir­ing you to eat by sit­ting down prop­erly, how about rolling the veg­etable in the roti and mak­ing it a wrap cov­ered with but­ter pa­per or brown pa­per? That way you can still eat a healthy home­made meal and it is con­ve­nient to eat quickly while mov­ing. Fruits, packet of roasted, un­salted nuts, roasted chana and puffed ce­re­als are good for those in-be­tween hunger times. You can keep th­ese in your brief­case, bag or purse. 2. Eat­ing while Watch­ing TV

Eat­ing meals in front of a TV screen not only kills all at­tempts at a fam­ily con­ver­sa­tion but also en­cour­ages mind­less eat­ing. One is to­tally un­aware of how much they have al­ready eaten and what all they are con­sum­ing. If not meals, munch­ing on snacks like chips and nam­keens in front of your favourite TV show is also quite common. The worst part is, you may not even re­al­ize what you’re do­ing to your diet and the con­se­quence is that you slowly gain weight.

Sev­eral stud­ies have shown that the home food en­vi­ron­ment is vi­ti­ated by hav­ing meals in front of a TV. Par­ents don’t get an op­por­tu­nity to use meal times for bond­ing with their chil­dren and in­cul­cat­ing good food habits. It takes a lot of will power, but do reach for the re­mote and switch off the TV at meal times. Or sim­ply change meal time to when noth­ing in­ter­est­ing is on TV. At the same time, do not stock un­healthy snacks at home which are within easy reach. This will dis­cour­age munch­ing while watch­ing TV be­tween meal times. 3. Snack­ing Round the Clock

End­less snack­ing is another bad habit we pick up along the way. What­ever chore one is busy do­ing, munch­ing some­thing all the time has be­come a habit for a num­ber of peo­ple. This not only spoils the

ap­petite for the main meals but also adds on ex­tra calo­ries to the day, again lead­ing to un­de­sir­able weight gain. The kind of snacks one munches on will fur­ther de­ter­mine what types of health prob­lems one is invit­ing. World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has rec­om­mended that salt in­take in a day should be less than 5 g (less than a tea­spoon) and sodium in­take less than 2 g in or­der to pre­vent chronic dis­eases like high blood pres­sure. A sin­gle packet of chips/nam­keen may pack in 250 mg sodium. Other high-sodium foods in­clude pick­les, pa­pads, cheese, sauces, canned vegetables, bread, ready-to-eat break­fast ce­re­als, pro­cessed meat prod­ucts, soups and salted nuts. Read­ing la­bels will help se­lect foods low in sodium. One serv­ing should have less than 140 mg of sodium.

WHO is also go­ing to pro­pose that less than five per cent of our to­tal en­ergy in­take should come from sug­ars, which trans­lates into roughly 25 g or 5 tea­spoons. Cur­rently the rec­om­men­da­tion is dou­ble of this. You may think that’s quite a bit of sugar and you don’t con­sume so much any­way. Well, con­sider this: much of the sug­ars con­sumed to­day are ‘hid­den’ in pro­cessed foods that are not usu­ally seen as sweets. For ex­am­ple, 1 ta­ble­spoon of ketchup may con­tain around 4 grams (around 1 tea­spoon) of sugar. A sin­gle can of sugar-sweet­ened soft drink con­tains up to 40 grams (around 10 tea­spoons) of sugar. Sug­ars are also nat­u­rally present in honey and fruit juices and added to other prod­ucts like syrups, jams, jel­lies, mithai, cakes, pas­tries, ice creams, desserts, candy and cho­co­lates.

There is in­creas­ing con­cern that con­sump­tion of free sug­ars, par­tic­u­larly in the form of sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages, may re­sult in both re­duced in­take of foods con­tain­ing more nu­tri­tion­ally ad­e­quate calo­ries and an in­crease in to­tal caloric in­take, lead­ing to an un­healthy diet, weight gain and in­creased risk of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases. Also of great con­cern is the role free sug­ars play in the de­vel­op­ment of den­tal dis­eases, par­tic­u­larly den­tal caries/cav­i­ties.

High fat, sug­ary or salty foods like fried nam­keens, chips, soft drinks, ice cream and candy are con­sid­ered un­healthy and should not be stocked up in your homes. Easy avail­abil­ity is one of the rea­sons why a per­son may not wait till meal time and keep munch­ing, whether they are re­ally hun­gry or not. Read nu­tri­tion la­bels and se­lect snacks that are roasted or puffed rather than fried. Se­lect nuts that are un­salted. Se­lect juices that don’t have added sugar. Keep only healthy snacks within reach, such as cut car­rots and cu­cum­ber slices with a curd-based dip, air-popped pop­corn, fresh fruits, etc. Lastly, brush your teeth right after din­ner. There will be less temp­ta­tion to munch with a freshly brushed mouth.

4. Eat­ing Too Quickly

Wolf­ing down your food, whether it’s a meal or a snack, doesn’t give your brain enough time to reg­is­ter if the stom­ach is full or not. Your brain doesn’t sig­nal that you’re full un­til about 10 to 15 min­utes after you’ve eaten enough. So, if you gulp down your meal you are not giv­ing enough time to your brain to re­act, and this means you could end up eat­ing way more than you need. Re­search stud­ies have shown that eat­ing too quickly is strongly as­so­ci­ated with be­ing over­weight.

To fix this prob­lem you need to con­sciously start to slow down your eat­ing, phys­i­cally put down your spoon be­tween bites, take smaller bites, and make sure to chew each bite thor­oughly. Do not keep eat­ing till you feel the feel­ing of sati­ety or full­ness, as by then you would have eaten more!

5. Emo­tional Eat­ing

Many peo­ple tend to use eat­ing as a cop­ing mech­a­nism for stress. Whether you have had a bad day at work or are emotionally dis­turbed be­cause of some rea­son, us­ing food as an out­let is never rec­om­mended. Pol­ish­ing off an en­tire brick of ice cream or a box of cho­co­lates when you are feel­ing low or binge eat­ing and drink­ing when in a cel­e­bra­tory mood are not a good idea at all. A num­ber

of stud­ies con­firm that emo­tions, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, can cause peo­ple to eat more than they should.

The best so­lu­tion is to first rec­og­nize the prob­lem and then find al­ter­nate stress-busters. Choose a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity that keeps you out of the kitchen and away from food – go for a walk to cool off or chat with friends who can de-stress you. Sim­i­larly, con­trol your­self when in a cel­e­bra­tory mood by en­joy­ing danc­ing, singing or sim­ply talk­ing to friends, in­stead of gorg­ing on food. Keep your glass and snack plate rea­son­ably full to dis­cour­age over-en­thu­si­as­tic hosts from pil­ing food on you.

6. Large Por­tion Sizes

The larger the plate or bowl you eat from, the more you un­know­ingly con­sume. You must have no­ticed how you tend to overeat at buf­fets. A trick that works for most peo­ple is to pick up only those dishes that you are un­likely to be able to taste else­where or only new kinds of prepa­ra­tions. You would ten­ta­tively take a smaller serv­ing size as you are un­sure whether you would like the dish or not. The sec­ond but more im­por­tant thing to be res­o­lute about is that you will not go back for sec­ond help­ings!

At home re­duce the size of your din­ner plate and bowls. Also, never eat straight from a con­tainer or pack­age as you will not be mind­ful of how much you have eaten.

Meal Plan­ning

Eat­ing nu­tri­tion­ally bal­anced meals is im­por­tant to main­tain one’s health and vi­tal­ity. The con­cept of a bal­anced diet springs from try­ing to bal­ance the amount of dif­fer­ent types of foods you eat ev­ery day. Foods have been clas­si­fied into dif­fer­ent food groups to make this task eas­ier. Choos­ing wisely from each food group is im­por­tant in or­der to bal­ance your diet and at the same time stave off chronic dis­eases. The ta­ble here lists each food group, foods that should be in­cluded in the daily diet from each group, and foods that should be avoided.

Ce­re­als pro­vide us with en­ergy and also some amount of pro­teins. Whole grains are a rich source of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, which how­ever are lost in the re­fin­ing process (for ex­am­ple, when mak­ing maida from wheat). Pulses give us en­ergy and are also a rich source of pro­tein. Adults need pro­tein to main­tain the nor­mal func­tion­ing of their bod­ies and to look after re­pair of worn-out body parts and tis­sues, while chil­dren ob­vi­ously need it for their growth. The qual­ity of the ce­real and pulse pro­tein can be im­proved by eat­ing it in com­bi­na­tion. In fact, one part dal with four or five parts of ce­re­als pro­vides very good-qual­ity pro­tein. Pulses are also good sources of fi­bre and B vi­ta­mins, es­pe­cially those that are eaten with the seed coat (sabut dals). Iron and cal­cium are also present in this food group. Milk and milk

prod­ucts are rich sources of pro­tein and cal­cium. Cal­cium is a min­eral very im­por­tant for bone health. In fact, milk and milk prod­ucts are the best sources of cal­cium in the diet and cal­cium from this source is most read­ily ab­sorbed by the body.

Meat and meat prod­ucts are rich sources of good-qual­ity pro­tein and iron in a read­ily ab­sorbable form and also other vi­ta­mins. Fruits and vegetables are full of im­por­tant vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, im­por­tant plant chem­i­cals (phy­to­chem­i­cals) and also fi­bre, which make their place in our di­ets very spe­cial as pro­tec­tive foods. They pro­tect our bod­ies from a host of dis­eases like di­a­betes and heart dis­ease. Out of all the vegetables, the green leafy vegetables like spinach, me­thi, cholai and sar­son are a store­house of nu­tri­ents. Most types of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als are present in th­ese.

Phy­to­chem­i­cals are chem­i­cal sub­stances in plants which have pro­tec­tive or dis­ease-pre­ven­tive prop­er­ties. Most phy­to­chem­i­cals have an­tiox­i­dant ac­tiv­ity and pro­tect our cells against ox­ida­tive dam­age (due to stress, pol­lu­tion and toxic sub­stances we in­ad­ver­tently in­gest daily), and also re­duce the risk of de­vel­op­ing cer­tain types of can­cer. Phy­to­chem­i­cals with an­tiox­i­dant ac­tiv­ity are present in a va­ri­ety of foods like al­lyl sul­fides (in onions, garlic), carotenoids (fruits, vegetables), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables) and polyphe­nols (tea, grapes). Foods con­tain­ing phy­to­chem­i­cals are al­ready part of our daily diet. In fact, most foods con­tain phy­to­chem­i­cals ex­cept for some re­fined foods such as sugar or al­co­hol. Some foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruits and herbs, con­tain many phy­to­chem­i­cals. The eas­i­est way to get more phy­to­chem­i­cals is to eat more fruits and vegetables of all colours.

Fats and sug­ars pro­vide us with en­ergy. How­ever, eat­ing too much of both fats and sug­ars is not de­sir­able. Sat­u­rated fat is solid at room tem­per­a­ture – like ghee, but­ter, co­conut oil and vanas­pati (which is also known as hy­dro­genated fat or trans fat).

In fact, foods made from sat­u­rated fat will tend to be­come hard when re­frig­er­ated. Foods that nat­u­rally con­tain a lot of sat­u­rated fat in­clude red meats like meat of goat, sheep, cow and pig, full-cream milk and cream. Th­ese foods are also rich in choles­terol. Other foods high in choles­terol are eggs (the yel­low of the egg has all the choles­terol), or­gan meats like liver, kid­ney and brain, shrimps, prawns, etc. Sat­u­rated fats and choles­terol are bad for our health and in­crease the risk of heart dis­ease and stroke. Hence, foods rich in th­ese should be con­sumed in mod­er­a­tion or only oc­ca­sion­ally. Trans fats should be avoided to­tally be­cause they are the worst of the lot. Foods that are a part of our every­day diet – like bis­cuits, breads, bak­ery prod­ucts – or deep-fried foods like samosas, vadas and ka­cho­ris made in vanas­pati are made from hy­dro­genated fats and th­ese are rich in trans fat. Be­fore pur­chas­ing pack­aged food, we must at least read the la­bel and not se­lect brands that still use hy­dro­genated or par­tially hy­dro­genated fat. As a con­sumer we have a right to de­mand that the foods be­ing served in restau­rants and snack cor­ners are not pre­pared in hy­dro­genated fat.

Un­sat­u­rated fat is liq­uid at room tem­per­a­ture and in­cludes most veg­etable oils. Un­sat­u­rated oils can be of two types: MUFA- and PUFA-rich oils. MUFA refers to mo­noun­sat­u­rated fatty acids and PUFA to polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids. Both types of fatty acids are ben­e­fi­cial as they help to re­duce lev­els of bad choles­terol in the blood and hence are pro­tec­tive against car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases. This how­ever does not mean that the more you have of th­ese the greater is the pro­tec­tion! Th­ese are after all fats and will add to your calo­rie in­take. We need to know about good and bad fats so that we can choose the right kinds of foods when plan­ning our diet. The fat present in ce­re­als and pulses is mostly un­sat­u­rated. MUFA-rich oils in­clude red palm oil, pal­molein, ground­nut, sesame or til oil, olive oil and rice bran oil. PUFArich oils are corn oil, saf­flower oil, sun­flower oil and in fact all veg­etable oils ex­cept co­conut oil. PUFArich oils should not be used for deep-fat fry­ing as they de­com­pose eas­ily, form­ing harm­ful prod­ucts. High in­take of PUFA may ac­tu­ally be harm­ful. The other kinds of fats that are con­sid­ered pro­tec­tive are the omega-3 fatty acids or al­pha-linolenic fatty acids (ALNA). Th­ese are present in fish and fish oils, flaxseed (alsi), mus­tard oil, soy­bean oil, ce­re­als and pulses like wheat, ba­jra, black gram, lo­bia, ra­jmah and soya bean, mus­tard seeds, fenu­greek or me­thi seeds and green leafy vegetables. Ide­ally, a healthy diet con­tains a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent kinds of fats. You can achieve this by us­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of oils for dif­fer­ent types of dishes.

The num­ber of meals we have in a day de­pends on our life­style. It is rec­om­mended that we have smaller and more fre­quent meals rather than two or three large meals in a day. Large meals are more dif­fi­cult to di­gest and also in­crease our ten­dency

Be­fore pur­chas­ing pack­aged food, we must at least read the la­bel and not se­lect brands that still use hy­dro­genated or par­tially hy­dro­genated fat. As a con­sumer we have a right to de­mand that the foods be­ing served in restau­rants and snack cor­ners are not pre­pared in hy­dro­genated fat.

to put on weight (es­pe­cially if din­ner is our heav­i­est meal for the day). Ac­tu­ally, we should have a hearty break­fast to get us go­ing for the day, fol­lowed by a good lunch, a snack with the evening tea and a light din­ner. Stud­ies have shown that if peo­ple vir­tu­ally skip break­fast and/or lunch with­out de­creas­ing their to­tal calo­rie in­take, their risk of de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly. The rea­son for this is that when one large meal is eaten, the body ex­pe­ri­ences a blood sugar spike that it can­not process. This is es­pe­cially true if the calo­ries are con­sumed in the evening.

If short of time, try to com­bine a num­ber of in­gre­di­ents and food groups into a sin­gle dish that doesn’t need a very com­pli­cated cook­ing process. For in­stance, break­fast could be a bowl of por­ridge/ corn­flakes with milk and cut fruits, or whole-wheat bread sand­wiches that have fill­ings of vegetables with boiled egg/chicken/pa­neer, or a roti wrap with vegetables/pa­neer bhurji. Th­ese and so many other op­tions can be thought of which can be eaten on the go. The trick is to keep all the in­gre­di­ents in a semi-cooked or almost ready form so that you don’t have to spend too much time cook­ing in the morn­ing. Sim­i­lar items can also be taken as packed lunch.

The golden rule to achieve good health and ideal nu­tri­tional sta­tus has al­ways been mod­er­a­tion and pru­dence. A bal­anced diet will fur­nish ap­pro­pri­ate amounts of all nu­tri­ents. No one food is a mir­a­cle cure for any dis­ease or a store­house of all nu­tri­ents. You need to eat a va­ri­ety of foods in mod­er­ate quan­ti­ties (that is, nei­ther too less nor too much). In our daily race to ex­cel at our work (or what­ever it is that drives us), we must not—and can­not af­ford to—com­pro­mise on our health. Life­style dis­eases are life-threat­en­ing and de­bil­i­tate peo­ple so that they can’t func­tion to the best of their abil­i­ties. So, the next time you want to rush out with­out a proper break­fast or want to munch on un­healthy foods to sa­ti­ate hunger pangs, spare a thought to what th­ese eat­ing habits are do­ing to your body.

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