On World Health Day, Balanced Diet Is a Must-Have in this Pandemic

Indian population (women and children) are anaemic due to their diets lacking in iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12. 

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Pandemic is helping us to change diet and lifestyle for further healthy survival
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We talk about making a ‘change’ all too often and all too easily, but making even a small change in our lives can be a very difficult thing to do. Be it a change in our daily routine or a change in what and how we eat, none of it comes easy.

Before the pandemic struck, the main reasons to make dietary and lifestyle changes were either to lose weight or to tackle a specific medical issue like high cholesterol, blood sugar or other disease.

In the wake of the pandemic, the interest in improving one’s diet to boost overall health and immunity is at an all time high and here lies the opportunity to make a change and stick to it. Making a change now might be easier than ever.

Seeking the Balanced Diet

Talking about diets, the traditional Indian diet has been quite balanced and nutritive, but over the years, the quality of the Indian diets is wanting on many counts.

For one, our diets are lacking in protein, both in quality and quantity, confirmed by many surveys.

Another big problem is that a large part of the Indian population (women and children) are anaemic due to; their diets lacking in iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12. Our fruit and vegetable is poor across all age groups.

No wonder we are plagued by micronutrient deficiencies. Easy fatigability, being low on energy and compromised immunity are the tell-tale signs of such deficiencies.

Fibre, a valuable component of the healthy diet, is underrated and often misunderstood. It’s seen in a limited role as a digestive aid but there is more to it.

Its significant role in building immunity has come to the fore during the current health crisis.

How to Build a Balanced Diet

With the aforementioned shortcomings of our diet in mind, is what we can do to boost our well-being:

  • Make sure every meal includes a source of good quality protein. Go easy on the carb content, so replace a good part of the carbs with protein sources like dals, soya, milk, curd, nuts and seeds. This will ensure satiety and help you meet your daily requirements of protein. (Protein Requirement for a healthy adult is 0.83g/kg of body weight/day)

  • Iron absorption from vegetarian sources is limited, so you can enhance your iron absorption by pairing the iron-rich food with a source of Vitamin C sources (fresh chutney, citrus fruit or adding lemon juice to dal).

  • A conscious effort to include some veggies at the very start of a meal will ensure that we get to eat enough of them. For those who do not like veggies, some unconventional preparation methods like making a dip or adding it to breads works well.

  • In addition to nuts, their less decorated cousins - seeds (flax, watermelon, sunflower, etc.) are worth your attention. They provide adequate zinc, magnesium and Omega 3 fats. Make these a part of the snack menu.

  • Use as much as possible of fresh ingredients and avoid the ready-to- eat, ultra-processed foods.

  • Fermented foods are also great additions in the daily menu.

Despite all good intentions, there are likely to be roadblocks in this process of change. Some of the commonly encountered ones are:

Not Having Enough Time

  • Piggyback the desired new activity into your already existing routine. For instance, if you need to prepare a healthy snack, boil channas while you are working in the kitchen so that the snack preparation effort is not a separate allocation of your time.

Healthy Foods Are Boring

  • Many lament that eating healthy foods is boring and unappetising, thus not sustainable. In such cases, don't simply eliminate the unhealthy favourites from the menu.

All you have to do is substitute healthier ingredients into the recipe. If you love bread, there is no need to cut it out altogether, but you could look to substitute mayo with hummus or a yogurt dip in your sandwich.

Reducing the portion size of the not-so-desirable foods can help achieve the goal.

Boosting health through diet modification is easy and doable with minor changes in the daily routine that don’t take a toll on your time and resources.

(Neelanjana Singh, Nutrition & Wellness Consultant & Author of ‘Our Kid Eats Everything!)

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