It is one thing to change your food habits and another to stick to it. Most of the time when we change our meal plan from super rich, deep fried and heavily coated outside food to bland food which is either boiled or steamed, it is difficult to stick to it. To sustain it in the long run, a smarter alternative would be to execute an overall change in our lifestyle and walk towards a healthier you.
In the long run it is best option to go for an overall lifestyle change which might also rub along onto your near and dear ones. Some of the changes which we can incorporate in our eating habits to bring in an overall lifestyle change are put down below. From my personal experience, these are the most practical and sustainable.
Substitute Whole grains with refined flour:
Most of the bakery products and Indian junk foods are made out of refined flour which is unhealthy. To add to it is also deep fried which is a double whammy to the person who consumes it. The problem is that most of the office cafeterias and houses store these up for convenience sake not keeping in mind the best interest of the employees. Some of them are just ignorant about the perils of eating food prepared using refined flour. The best option would be to replace any refined flour products with a whole grain based food item. For example a white bread sandwich with loads of mayonnaise and refined fat can be replaced with a whole grain bread sandwich with vegetables or minced chicken/tuna. Sometimes even parotta’s and chapathi made in hotels and office cafeterias are made more out of refined flour(maida) which can be replaced with whole wheat flour. Refined flour adds lots of empty calories with no nutrition at all.
Eat more fruits and vegetables:
For people who are not used to fruits and vegetable regularly it will be an uphill climb to inculcate this habit but a small inclusion during the lunch, snack and dinner time will make a huge difference in the overall increase in fibre consumption. Even though the dietary recommendation is 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables for an adult Indian, even half the quantity to begin with will bring in a positive sea change in our overall health benefits. Start having an apple everyday on the way to work and include fresh vegetables and sprouts if possible during the lunch break. Once you are conscious about making these changes in your eating habits it will be a breeze after some time to figure out ways and means to include maximum fruits and vegetables.
Eat leaner meat or better look for alternate source of protein
Switching over to lean meat is probably what is required in our Indian diet with high incidence of cardiac cases due to our genetically weak arteries and our stressful inactive urban lifestyle. It is always prudent to switch over to lean meat and keep the option of red meat for the occasional family get together which happens once or twice a year during major festivals. You can also replace the entire animal protein intake with a plant based protein which is a huge benefit with nil animal based fat. Even though it will be difficult initially, restrict your intake of the same to once a week and probably include it in your cheat day (more on this later)
Cut back on Sweets:
There is no reason to be given in Indian homes for sweets to make an entry on to the dining table. There are sweets for every occasion and during the many festivals that we celebrate. I need to accept sheepishly that it is difficult to stay away from them. The best solution I have figured out is not to bring it home in the first place.Nevertheless this is the most difficult dietary pitfall to avoid with all the temptations around us. Earnestly working towards replacing sweets with healthy options is something which I have figured out and it now works for me. Another fallacy which is prevailing now is diabetes sweets which I presume is just as bad as the regular ones. So stick to the time tested method of avoiding them completely and replace them with healthier options.
Implement these changes gradually. Over a period of time you can become an expert in working out the best and healthiest meal plan for you and your loved ones. Never commit to drastic changes from day one. Sooner or later you are bound to slip up and get back to your old habits. The key over here is to recondition our brain with slow and regular healthy habits which in the long run is more practical and beneficial.
Another thing I always tend to do, is have a cheat day. Here I usually stick to one meal, preferably Lunch, where I do not restrict myself with anything I eat. The only thing I ensure is that I will never go overboard and allow some of my old temptations to kick in. Well there are many ways one can inculcate good habits and sometimes it is sensible and prudent to follow someone who has walked the path rather than reinventing the wheel. The whole idea is to change one’s lifestyle positively and ensure we lead a healthy, content and guilt free life.