Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shortcuts to Healthy Living

Everyday, with unfailing regularity and even without your knowledge, a faint little feeling in the stomach prompts you to involuntarily look down at the extreme corner on the right hand side of your computer screen and the clock shows 5:00pm.Then the revelation hits you – it is evening and you have not had the time to eat your lunch.

In today’s time, where a sedentary lifestyle has become the norm, it’s observed that the health of people is deteriorating day by day. In the city that never sleeps, people are always on the run. Due to their busy schedules, the stress levels have immensely increased. They have forgotten all about themselves and have started taking themselves and their body for granted. They don’t even remember when they last had a proper meal.

You may find it difficult to keep to a healthy diet all the time, particularly if you eat out a lot or if you rely on convenience foods. The questionnaire below will help you to identify some areas that can make the difference between a healthy diet and a nutritionally poor diet.

Has your weight stayed the same over the last 6 months? (assuming you have not been trying to change it)
Ans. YES or NO
Do you try planning your meals a day before to avoid any kind of binge eating?
Ans. YES or NO
Do you drink at least 10 – 15 glasses (3 litres) of water a day?
Ans. YES or NO
Do you tend to grill food rather than fry it?
Ans. YES or NO
Do you avoid drinking more than 4 cups of tea or coffee in a day?
Ans. YES or NO
Do you tend to eat more than 3 meals a day?
Ans. YES or NO
In restaurants do you order salads with your main meal?
Ans. YES or NO
Do you try to avoid junk foods such chocolates and crisps?
Ans. YES or NO

If you answered “yes” to all the questions, you are probably eating a diet that will benefit your health. If you answered “no” to two or more questions, you should consider your diet in more detail. Learn about what constitutes a healthy diet.

Your body is the vehicle of all your deeds. For your body to have any chance of keeping up with schedules, it is very important to supply it with some energy. And it has to be in a good condition for whatever you want to do – working, talking or thinking. After all “Health is wealth “kind of proverbs were not made in a day.

A healthy diet comprise of different kind of foods in such quantities and proportions that the needs for all the body’s essential nutrients are adequately met, thus promoting the highest level of physical and mental health.

Eating healthy is not that difficult. It just requires a little planning. Just as you need to know where and when you are going, similarly you need to know what you will be eating. Always remembers that if one fails to plan, one plans to fail. Here are some shortcuts to achieve a healthy body.

Breakfast is a ‘MUST’ - Start your morning with some breakfast, be it a piece of fruit or a whole wheat bread to munch while you run out the door to catch your bus. Try to make your breakfast the night before. Put oatmeal into a thermos of hot water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning you shall have hot cooked oatmeal ready to eat. Similarly a hard boiled egg can be made available in the morning. This will prevent your body from going into starvation mode and decreasing its metabolism, which will result in the body being unable to expend energy. Or if you are trying to lose weight, your body would be unable to burn fat.

5 Meals a day – Have at least 5 meals a day in which three can be the main meals i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner, while other two meals can consist of foods which are handy and nutritious at the same time. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs, provides consistent energy, and maintains metabolism efficiency. Grab healthy foods such as a fruit that is high in fiber like apple, watermelon, orange, sweet lime and papaya. Try to avoid fruits like mango, banana and custard apple as they are very high in calories. Instead of tea, coffee or cola which is most frequently had as a mid meal, it can be replaced by fresh fruit juice, coconut water or buttermilk.

Plan your Dines – Some people’s work demands frequenting restaurants for dinner. Since this cannot be avoided, one should plan ahead for what one might select before one walks in. Always watch out for hidden fats. Creamy soups, white breads, flaky pastries and mayonnaise – based salad dressings add unnecessary fats to the food. Try consuming broths instead of creamy soups. Always ask for green salad to be brought to the table before the main course. This will keep you nibbling while you wait for your order. Instead of mayonnaise dressing use variety of condiments and flavoring agents such as lemon, vinegar, herbs, onion and garlic to improve the palatability of your salad. As remember, a gram of fat contains more than twice as many calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrate. Ask for grilled, baked, boiled or broiled food rather fried foods. In place of fries or fried onion rings, order corn on the cob, green beans or baked beans. Instead of cake or pastries, fresh fruits with yogurt and honey dressing or just a mix bowl of fresh fruits can be an ideal dessert.

Hydrate your traveling – People‘s work might involve a lot of traveling in which air travel is one of the most dehydrating experiences. Because of this people often complain of sore throats and other respiratory illness. To avoid these, one should not drink caffeine, cola or alcohol before or after the flights as there are diuretics and can increase the water loss. Avoid salted snacks like salted peanuts or farsan (fried foods) in order to minimize dehydration. Try consuming lots of fluids in the form of water, fruit juice, coconut water, lime water etc. In any case one should drink at least 12 – 15 gasses of water everyday.

The stress associated with travel may slightly increase the protein requirement, so one should make a conscious effort to consume a little more protein each day. For instance, add a boiled egg to your intake or add sprouts to your breakfast. This could assure your protein requirement is met.

Good quality of food – Always remember quality of food you eat determines your efficiency in your work. Avoid refined foods like white rice and those used to make white bread and sugary breakfast cereals as most of their vitamins and minerals are striped away. They turn into blood sugar (glucose) so fast just like sugar; they can cause a spike in our insulin level. This tells our body that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it. Alternate refined flour with wholegrain flour. Substitute white sugar with honey and jaggery. Use skimmed milk instead of whole milk.

Healthy eating habits travel more easily than you think. They make a fit body, thus helping us to not only live longer but to also lead a better quality of life.

Let’s take a conscious decision to eat healthy, let’s drink coconut water instead of cola and eat a fruit instead of a samosa when the urge to binge strikes.