No matter what you're celebrating — festive season, professional accomplishments, a new baby — the one thing you can expect is an endless supply of food options. Staying on track with your diet is hard when there are laddus, rabris, mithais and kaajus abound. Additionally, family and friends who over-indulge or offer unhealthy gifts make avoiding certain foods for healthy alternatives especially difficult.
Have you considered healthy Indian food instead?
It may be time to take a look at how the high-carb, high-fat, calorie-rich foods you find at celebrations affect your diet — especially if you're trying to change your weight or manage a condition like diabetes. Thankfully tasty alternatives are out there.
Why It Matters
Diabetes and obesity are the two endemic lifestyle diseases of our times. More than 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in India, according to the Obesity Foundation India, and diabetes diagnoses are predicted to double in the next five years. But you can help support healthy choices for your close family and friends.
Raheela Hasan, a health and nutrition specialist and founder of Fitrition, suggests you can satisfy your sweet tooth without sending your blood sugar soaring if you eat in moderation. "Most people with diabetes aim for 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. A bakery-sized cookie alone may contain 60 grams of carbs. So choose a smaller portion, and you can still enjoy something sweet without using up your allotted carbohydrates for the meal," she says.
Raheela also suggests gifting fruit baskets for celebrations year-round. "[Fruit] is one of the best desserts for people with diabetes. Not only does it have vitamins and minerals, it also contains fiber that helps stabilize blood sugar," she advises.
Healthy Indian Food to Celebrate With
Raheela helped us prepare a list of great food ideas to gift or make for health-conscious gifts and celebratory food. Most of these ideas are quick and easy to prepare and have healthier nutritional profiles than classic sweet treats:
1. Ragi Coconut Laddoo
Raheela's first preference is this ragi coconut laddoo that can be made in less than two hours and can actually promote weight loss and gut health. This is an extremely simple recipe where you mix the ingredients, steam them for 15 minutes, cool and roll into small balls. Using jaggery, which has a lower glycemic index and is more nutritious than sugar, makes these laddus perfect for the seniors who usually are slow to experiment.
2. Nachni Barfi
Another way to use millet flour in sweets is to make nachni or ragi flour barfis with ghee and jaggery. These can be made in under one hour and are super nutritious with a protein content boosted by the nuts and millets. Don't skimp on the jaggery, as it helps our bodies absorb protein.
3. Three-Flour Golpapdi
An all-time favorite is the three-flour golpapdi that uses ragi flour, whole-wheat flour and soya flour in one dish. High in protein and fibre, this dessert is the perfect fix for people with diabetes and obesity.
4. Oat Cookies and Muffins
There are more than a hundred versions of healthy alternatives to English muffins and American cupcakes. Try this: Roast some oats and grind them down to make your own oat flour. Take one cup of it and add half a cup of whole-wheat flour, a large ripe banana well mashed, a cup of yoghurt and some honey. Add chopped nuts and dried berries if you like. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes in well-oiled muffin pans at 175 degrees Celsius. And voila, this is a breakfast you can never tire of. For festival time gift packings, sprinkle more almonds on top.
5. Roasted Makhana
Eating 50 grams of fibre per day can help you manage your blood sugar levels better, which helps your fight against obesity or diabetes. What better way to manage your fibre levels and nutrition absorption than this addictive snack of roasted makhana. Try these the next time you watch a movie with the family. You can copy various flavours of popcorn into these makhanas in seconds. For festive gifts, remember to cool them well before bagging and prettily packing them inside cellophane sheets tied with colorful ribbons. They look lovely when packed, and this simple yet highly nutritional healthy alternative to popcorn surprises recipients like nothing else.
6. Granola Bars
Toss oatmeal, almonds, walnuts, coconut, wheat germ, pitted dates, chopped dried apricots and cranberries and any other seeds and spices that you prefer to make lightly roasted, lightly set granola bars that require minimal elbow grease. You can skip both the butter and sugar in the traditional recipe and use molasses instead. It helps the seeds and nuts to stick together and makes the bars nutritionally more robust.
7. Assorted Nuts and Seeds
This takes no making or baking. Just assort and wrap a mix of almonds, walnuts, pista, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds or more in thermocol trays and decorate to your heart's content. And have fun while you do so!
8. Homemade Chocolates
Eating chocolate may actually improve insulin response and blood sugar control because of the presence of flavanols, which are protective compounds found in cocoa, says Raheela. "You can have some chocolate, but nix some of the sugar and increase flavanols by opting for dark chocolate instead of milk or white," she says. Skip the store-bought chocolate truffles and make your own to control the ingredients.
Excess weight can always increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, gout, arthritis and gallbladder problems. In certain cases, it also leads to disturbed sleep and painful osteoarthritis. Eating right helps controlling the dynamics of blood pressure and cholesterol as it does in bringing down weight. Additionally, eating right is a habit that takes time to build. Irrespective of the festival or the event, help your loved ones set on this path of wealth in health with nutritious offerings from your kitchen.
Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.