Balanced diet for healthy weight loss

Following a wholesome and balanced diet is essential to maintain fitness. A balanced diet has been divided into five food groups. One should eat at least one item from each group for us to get all the necessary nutrients. Cereals (like chapathi, dosa or rice) should take up quarter part of the plate while another quarter should comprise of protein like pulses, fish or meat. Meanwhile, fruits and veggies should be included in the third quarter and milk and milk products like butter milk and yoghurt in the remaining part. A healthy person requires three meals a day. The human body gets the carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in a balanced and healthy way when we eat three nutritious meals a day. It is not possible for the body to absorb enough nutrition if you restrict your meal to just one per day.

For instance, puttu and kadala or Bengal gram curry is a popular breakfast item in Kerala. Until now, this combination was considered to be a healthy option for a filling breakfast. However, when we look at it from the parameters of a balanced diet, puttu and kadala only has protein and carbohydrates in them and nothing else. It is better to use sprout Bengal gram so that it would have the same fibres that are seen in vegetables. Or you could eat a banana with this combination in order to include a fruit.

What about idlis?
Pulses are included in the idli batter. Meanwhile, you could add a variety of veggies in sambar. It is better to have idlis with sambar rather than chutney.

Should you include raw vegetables in the diet to make meals well balanced?
There is no need for that. You could eat the regular dishes like thoran (stir fry), avail or mezhukkupuratty that are cooked at home. However, try to include vegetables in every meal.

It is a common practice to replace rice with chapathi in order to shed weight. It is a diet that is self designed by most people. Is there a danger in that?
It indeed is dangerous as rice is a storehouse of vitamin B 12. There would be a deficiency of that vitamin of you say ‘no’ to rice. Usually, we get nutrition from whatever ingredients are there in our house. That is why nutritionists advise to include items from every food group.

People in Kerala get enough food. However, they hardly think about the nutritional value of it. There is a saying that anything white in color should be avoided from your menu. Are white rice and white sugar harmful for health?
Yes. Our red rice contains fibre and vitamin B 12 as they aren’t polished. But, polished white rice has only carbohydrates and nothing else. This would make you put on weight. Similarly, sugar too isn’t great if you are trying to lose weight. You could use jaggery instead of sugar. But, that too should be used in moderation. As jaggery contains iron it is better than processed sugar.

What are the foods that should be strictly included in daily diet?
Fruits and veggies should be eaten at least twice a day. These would be enough for your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. You could include yoghurt for a meal as it is a great source of probiotic which is significant to maintain gut health. Our overall well being depends on the gut health. The metabolism would be affected if proper absorption of the food doesn’t happen in the stomach. It would then lead to poor health, diabetes and hyper tension and many other diseases.

Is calculating calories a good trend?
Instead of calories we should think about the nutrients present in the food items that we eat.

Is it safe to follow the fad diets that are seen in Youtube or the keto diet? Can teenagers take vitamin supplements?
These aren’t healthy trends to follow. Keto diet suggests 80% fat and 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates. It is true that you would lose weight if you follow this diet for one or two months. However, you cannot continue this on a long term basis as it would lead to severe nutrient deficiency. Besides, this could affect liver and kidney too. It could even lead to minimal hair fall. It is better to not turn to such diets to shed weight. Adolescents should not try these fad diets as they require wholesome nutrition for proper growth and development. The most practical way is to make some slight changes in the regular food that we eat at home.

It is possible to include millets and oats in daily diet? Is it necessary to change our traditional food habits?
You could include these things occasionally in your diet. There is no point in thinking about the items that aren’t available regularly. So, you could modify whatever is available to make your menu healthier. For instance, you could switch to rice that has more fibre content while making dosa or idli or include lots of fruits and veggies. Oats would be effective only if you eat the ones that are rich in fibre like steel cut oats, rolled oats and whole oats. White oats isn’t effective at all.

Is it alright to eat until stomach gets full?
No, you shouldn’t eat till you are full.

How much food should you eat for dinner?
Dinner should be had at least two hours before going to bed. Try to eat dinner before 8.30 pm.

Health experts say that one should drink lots of water. Does the quantity of daily intake of water changes with age?
People from adolescents and above should drink 8 – 12 glasses of water daily. If you cannot drink plain water, you could drink buttermilk, tender coconut water or lemonade. But, make sure that you do not add sugar in them. It is better not to drink sugary drinks or juices. Try to eat fruits rather than extracting their juice. The fibres are lost when fruits are turned into juice. Moreover, you tend to add sugar even in fresh fruit juices.

Can eggs be included in daily menu?
In a balanced diet, two egg whites should be eaten daily. Meanwhile, the yolks could be eaten twice a week. Some studies say that it is safe to have egg yolks too. But, these studies are often conducted among Americans. We are Indians and thus have a different genetic pre disposition. That is why it is said that we should have it in moderation. Meanwhile, kids who shouldn’t be worried about conditions like fatty liver can have an egg daily.