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The Festival Season: A Dietitian's Perspective [Guest Column]

  By posted Nov 13th 2012
Diet & Fitness
Neelanjana Singh

Neelanjana Singh

Neelanjana Singh is the Chief Nutritionist at Heinz Nutrition Foundation India (HNFI). She believes that people get confused by too many unverified pseudo-scientific theories and strongly propagates practical dietary solutions to health as well as weight problems afflicting both the young and the elderly.

The nip in the air has marked the arrival of the festive season. After Durga Puja and Dusshera, it is now time for Eid, Diwali, Christmas and the New Year to follow. The festive season is all about happiness and celebration, which in every culture happens to coincide with rich and fancy food. In our country, each festive occasion is fondly and exclusively associated with a unique food item. When we think of Eid, we think of sewaiyan. Diwali is all about mithai and nuts/dry fruits. Christmas is incomplete without plum cake. 

Apart from these special, occasion-specific food items, one must also take into consideration that our regular meals are also greatly and indulgently modified. Roti gets replaced with puri, milk with khoya, and dal gets transformed into halwa. All of these calorie-dense foods become the staples of our diet during the festive season. Of course, such extravagance is bound to have several consequences.

However, I do not believe in advocating the idea of abstinence or severe diet control. Special food is intrinsic to the festive season and it would be quite a pity to have to abstain from enjoying it. Instead, it would be wise to take some precautions while eating to help us cope with the problems that the festive indulgence can possibly cause.

The Festival Season: A Dietitian’s Perspective

It is useful to plan one’s meals at the start of the day. For instance, if you are invited to a party for dinner, it is a good idea to ensure that your lunch that day is not too heavy. On such an occasion, you must take a healthy snack before leaving home for the event. Not only will this ensure that you don’t overeat at dinner, but it will also keep you from feeling too hungry too soon. 

Fancy snack items served at events and parties are very tempting and it is indeed very easy to go overboard with the snacks, especially if the meal is being served late. Make sure to exercise moderation while consuming the snacks. Additionally, try to pick the snack items that are roasted or grilled as opposed to fried. Nuts make for a healthy snack option. Look out for the vegetable options among the snacks being served and relish them with the tasty dips or chutneys. 

If you are eating pakoras or other deep-fried foods, then it is a good idea to use some tissue to blot off the excess oil. 

When it comes to beverages, make sure to avoid sugary drinks. Instead, opt for a soda with lemon juice. Tomato juice, coconut water blended with a juice, or a soup without the cream are some other healthy options. 

The cap on alcoholic beverages stands at two drinks for men and one drink for women. The speed at which these alcoholic drinks are imbibed is very crucial. Drink slowly at the rate of one drink an hour. Diluting the drink with extra water is always a good idea. Alternatively, you could drink an extra glass of water for every alcoholic drink that you consume.

Dessert is one part of the meal that all of us eagerly await. However, don’t eat the full dessert all by yourself. Share the dessert whatever it may be. Even a gulab jamun can be cut into two to three portions and shared. Portion control is one of the most important strategies to keep in mind when eating during the festive season, as the food tends to be rich in calories

Remember not to deprive yourself of the things that you only get to eat occasionally! Savour all the delectable items but do not forget that moderation is the key to eating well. 

Finally, do not give up on getting enough physical exercise during this season. It would be a good idea to walk an extra mile for every extra food item that you eat! 



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