As a kid, the scope for food-related issues was limited. I particularly remember, not liking a vegetable was one of my biggest problems. On some days, if I were lucky, mom would whip up something of my choice. But most of the times, it was 'gulp it down with some water.' But as an adult, food problems are far more complicated than the good old day. Looking back now, they almost seem like privileges.
As working professionals, we are in a constant struggle with a lot of things. While trying to strike a balance between work and life, we often compromise on a lot. Social life, good mental and physical health and the list is endless. Topping the list is food. More so if you reside away from your family.
The food issue is an invitation to many of our problems. Additionally, while we spend most of our time sitting in the office, the sedentary life is an invitation for weight gain.
I have come across people who skip or eat minimal dinners to maintain their weight and feel light by the end of the day. But is that a healthy habit? Dinners are often the time when we choose to either eat out or load up on salads in an attempt to eat healthily. But this meal constitutes an essential part of our diet and needs attention. The Bridge Chronicle spoke to nutritionist Dr Namita Nanal to learn our way out of the dinner issue. She has an MHSc Food Science & Nutrition, along with a PGD sports nutrition. She is also the founder of Slimming Solutions, Mahim. Nanal elaborates on how eating the right food for dinner is essential for our health.
How essential is dinner as a meal?
Dinner is one of the most important meals of the day as a lot of the choice we make the next day depend on it. It is also linked to good sleep, maintaining blood sugar levels and digestion. What we eat significantly affects our choices of breakfast and dinner the next day.
How is skipping a dinner different from replacing?
Eating only sabzi and dal while avoiding rice or chapati is replacing. But skipping is not eating anything at all. If you want to lose weight and ensure a healthy diet, you need to reduce the calorie intake and reimagine your dinner. Skipping meals leads to nutritional deficiencies.
What is an alternate dinner?
Eating dinner early and keeping your meal light is of utmost importance. Also, eating early by 7:00 - 7:30 pm can also help in better digestion. An alternate dinner could be one bowl meals such as - khichadi or stir fry veggies with a protein portion. It is not always necessary to have an elaborate dinner, but chose alternatives such as chutney, dosa, sambar, idli, parathas.
But often, going out and meeting friends overlaps with dinner timings, so how do we strike a balance between the two?
Choose options such as idli sambar, vegetable sandwich if you are going out. Stir fry vegetables with a bowl of clear soup is also a good option. For non-vegetarians, grilled chicken, grilled fish and chicken tikka lean on the healthier side. It is vital to avoid oily gravies such as butter chicken or dal makhani. These are often loaded with heavy cream and butter and are high in calories. Additionally, avoid eating shorbas as they contain cream and maida.
How many times is it ok to eat out?
If you have important meetings and cannot do away with eating out, choose lunch over dinner. An early meal gives your body enough time during the day to burn calories. Follow it up with a light dinner.
What quick-fix dinner ideas would you suggest?
Working professionals hardly ever have the time or energy to come back and cook a meal. Hence, healthy quick-fixes can go a long way in eating right. A pro-tip to ensure you don't go hungry for long hours is to carry fruit or nuts with you. These are healthy snacks that fix hunger pangs. Roasted chana, dry fruits give you a sense of fullness almost immediately. It is also necessary to avoid long gaps between meals, as it leads to mindless eating.
How do we know our diet is balanced?
A balanced diet contains all the necessary nutrients in an adequate amount — further categorised into two types — Macro and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the ones our body requires in large amounts - Protein, carbohydrates and fats. Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients (lesser quantity). Maintaining an optimum level of hydration is also equally important in a balanced diet.
To ensure your food intake fits your lifestyle, analyse the level of activity. If you have a sedentary lifestyle (most of us because of our work from home), then reduce the carbs intake.