Trays of ladoos and bowls of syrupy jalebis or plates of puffed pooris with ghee-laden curries... the delectable delicacies can be difficult to say no to. Diwali inevitably comes with the irresistible tag of indulging in high-calorie savouries and sweets. Diet plans go for a toss and so would that trim waistline. Post the festivities guilt seeps in as you feel bloated and sluggish. One way to avoid that is to not give in to temptation and enjoy the sweets and special treats in moderation? Experts say it is largely portion control and regulated fitness regime all through the festival that will ensure you do not compromise on your health. Here we list 20 tips to help you enjoy Diwali guilt-free.
Tip 1: Prepare your body
Maintain your diet and exercise routine before the festivities begin. Sleep well to remain energised. Ensure that you do not indulge in sugary treats, greasy snacks and fried junk food before Diwali to add in extra diet allowance for the festival. Cut out on extra salt and white sugar. Eat your vegetables and fruits. So, even if you overeat during Diwali, you will not feel too guilty.
Tip 2: Homemade is healthier
Consider homemade sweets with healthier ingredients such as low-fat milk kheer, multi-grain ladoos or sesame seed bars to enjoy the festival guilt-free. Jaggery, dates and dry fruits are nutritious substitutes for white sugar. Opt for roasted, baked and steamed snack options. Or use an air-fryer for frying the snacks. ‘With homemade sweets and savouries the best part is that you can control the amount of fats (read ghee or butter) in the recipe. You can also avoid the harmful practice of reusing oil while frying, a common practice for preparing snacks and sweets in shops,’ says Sakina Mustansir, dietician, Prime Hospital, Dubai.
Tip 3: Take small bites
When you eventually sit down to dine on tables laden with the choicest of dishes the only way to indulge in mindful eating is to consume small portions. When you take small bites it gives your brain enough time to signal to you when to stop. You can indulge in traditional sweets and desserts by slowly relishing their taste, instead of filling your stomach with them. Eating slowly will help mix the food with saliva, making it alkaline, which is the body’s natural pH.
‘A simple way to make sure you chew your food properly is to keep your spoon or fork down after every bite. This will keep your portion size in control,’ suggests Sakina.
Tip 4: Don’t party on empty stomach
Cravings kick in when we are hungry. Before attending Diwali parties avoid skipping a meal or going on an empty stomach. Ensure that at home you eat a light snack of salads, fruits or nuts before sharing blissful festival moments with relatives and friends. This will prevent you from eating larger portions. Yet another smart way to cut down your food intake during Diwali is by drinking water before eating, it will make you feel full for longer and also help avoid overeating.
Tip 5: Go natural
Even during festivals it is possible to eat healthy. The trick is to avoid processed sugar, white flour, refined grains, readymade masalas, packaged snacks, soups and sauces. Instead opt for wholegrain, organic and all natural sources that will keep you feeling light and fit. ‘While planning your recipes replace refined flour, excess sugar and unhealthy fats such as dalda, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavorings and food colourants with whole wheat flour, millet flour, low fat dairy, ghee, honey, jaggery, rock salt and whole unsalted nuts. Use natural food colouring from beetroots, grapes and berries,’ says Juliot Vinolia, chief dietician, Medeor Hospital, Dubai.
Tip 6: Mix some herbs
Adding traditional herbs to your dishes will not only enhance the flavour of your dishes but also boost your health. Research supports the fact that herbs also aid in appetite suppression, increase insulin sensitivity and come loaded with anti-oxidants. They are also known to be antibacterial and antiviral. ‘Introducing functional foods such as cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and fenugreek seeds into sweets and delicacies will help manage blood glucose levels. Herbs such as turmeric, garlic, berries, lemons, broccoli, mushrooms, pumpkin, banana, yoghurt and a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in our daily diet will increase your immunity and protect you from disease causing free radicals during Diwali,’ suggests Juliot.
Tip 7: Splurge on water
Begin your day with a big glass of warm lemon water. It will kick start your metabolism and cleanse your system of unwanted toxins. Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning helps boost your immune system. It keeps the body well-hydrated and helps fight hunger cravings. Additionally, drink 10 to 12 glasses of water daily to flush out toxins from your body and to prevent overeating. Remember to not gulp down water hastily as you may swallow air, which, in turn, will cause bloating.
Tip 8: Offer healthier alternatives
When you entertain your guests, offer them healthier alternatives to oily snacks and sugar-laden sweets. Substitute with healthy nuts – almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, raisins or dried cherries and figs. Make snacks using wheat flour, finger millet (ragi), pearl millet (bajra), semolina and soya seasoned with herbs and dried green leafy vegetables such as coriander, mint, fenugreek and spinach. ‘Include stir-fry veggies, salads, soups and yogurt-based dishes while serving your guests. Since we consume the Diwali special recipes mostly in the evenings, it is best to balance it by eating less throughout the day,’ says Sakina.
Tip 9: Sip on these teas
Rich in anti-oxidants, herbal teas aid in digestion. Drinking green tea can boost your metabolism and help you increase the body’s efficiency to burn calories during festivals. Green tea can also help reduce excess fat that you tend to put on after Diwali. ‘Sipping a cup of peppermint tea or consuming cumin or caraway seed water helps ease digestion. They also keep our blood vessels clean and our mind alert,’ points out Juliot.
Tip 10: Fill up with fibre
Diwali recipes are often rich in oil and thick with cream making it easier for you to pile on the pounds. This is then the best time to pack in food high in fibre. One of the best detoxifying agents – fibre – will help wash down all the collected debris in the intestines. Food rich in fibre is filling and will ensure that you eat in moderation at the several soirees you attend. So, choose whole wheat bread, oatmeal, broken wheat, red unpolished rice, quinoa and various kinds of millets to create a variety of fibre-friendly meals. Some Indian recipes that can be made with these grains include oats cheela, moong dal idli, broken wheat upma, ragi-rava dhokla, quinoa apple kheer and sweet potato halwa.
Tip 11: Low-calorie breakfast
Most of the Diwali festivities are scheduled for the evening and night. A smart way to chop off your calorie intake would be by following a balanced breakfast. This will ensure that you stay full for most part of the day. ‘Start the day with soluble fibre such as soaked fenugreek seeds, oatmeal and soaked almonds. It will help curb your appetite and improve bowel movement. It will also form a thin layer inside the intestines delaying the absorption of glucose and aiding a sustained blood glucose level post meals,’ says Juliot. Begin your day with porridge made with whole grains using milk or soya milk sweetened with cinnamon, or opt for fruits, yogurt, granola bars with nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and wholegrain toasts.
Tip 12: No fizzy drinks
A golden rule for a healthy Diwali is to avoid fizzy drinks that increase your calorie intake. Though fizzy drinks quench your thirst, the excess sugar is harmful in many ways. Research studies point out that drinking even one serving of fizzy drinks a day can increase the risk of heart disease or cause heart attack by a 35 per cent. Diet soda drinkers are not safe either because these beverages are filled with carcinogenic chemicals such as caramel colouring and artificial sweeteners. When you are invited for Diwali parties opt for fresh fruit juices, lemonades infused with ginger or mint, almond thandai, khus sharbat instead of aerated drinks.
Tip 13: Reach out to fruits
Too many things on your Diwali list and you do not have time to include healthy meals? Opt for fruits. You will not only get a ton of nutrients but eating fruit will keep you feeling light and energetic. Fruits and vegetables such as berries, pears, melon, oranges, broccoli, and carrots are excellent sources of fibre, which keeps your digestive system healthy and helps prevent constipation. But like everything else fruit should be consumed in moderation and would not suit everyone. As fruits are heavy on fructose it can be a poor choice for diabetics.
Tip 14: Use fire crackers with care
Going easy on firecrackers will prove beneficial not only for you but also to the environment. For those with breathing conditions, the smoke from firecrackers can aggravate asthma, coughing and wheezing. Also, the chemicals in fire crackers tend to stick to the hands. If you don’t wash your hands well after bursting firecrackers, these chemicals can enter our body with food and cause gastric issues such as vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration.
Tip 15: Don’t do crash diets
To sparkle in your festive wear don’t be tempted to attempt crash diets. You might lose a few extra pounds in time but that weight loss will be short-lived. Crash diets have a negative impact on your body and mind. By depriving yourself of essential minerals and vitamins you risk weakening your immune system and actually lowering your metabolic rate. Drastically reducing the amount of your food intake leads to lack of nourishment for your hair and skin as well. Hair will be lacklustre and can fall out. Skin will end up looking dry and dehydrated. Instead, eat healthy and exercise regularly to look your festive best.
Tip 16: Sleep well
Post the festivities experts say you should go back to your daily sleep routine. Catch up on the sleep you lost while staying up late partying. Getting back to routine sleep pattern plays an important role in preventing weight gain. Lack of sleep can also make you more prone to feeling lethargic, stressful and anxious. Don’t forget compromising on sleep and eating meals erratically is the gateway for all metabolic diseases.
Tip 17: Stay active
Festivities should not deter you from taking out time to do physical activity. ‘Make time for exercise. Try to wake up early and squeeze in a quick workout or 30 minute walk. You can do a (high intensity training) HIT for 20mins and burn off those extra calories,’ says Sakina.
Cycling and swimming are great to boost your metabolism and to help you burn more calories. Ditch the car and walk instead. Dance workouts are a rage these days. So, opt for a Bollywood dance class or a sweaty Bhangra session to go with the foot-tapping music at Diwali celebrations. If you a yoga fan then start your day with surya namaskars and breathing exercises. Pick your preferred fitness style to keep yourself active and avoid prolonged sitting.
Tip 18: Intermittent Fasting
Religious fasting has been part of Indian culture for centuries. Now combine it with the new age fad of intermittent fasting and you get a great way to burn those extra calories gained during Diwali. ‘Intermittent fasting can be followed three to four times a week by normal healthy individuals with no history of diabetes or other health issues,’ says Juliot.
Intermittent fasting means following a diet that involves regular short bursts of fasting. There are many ways to practice this diet - the most popular approach is the 16/8, which requires fasting for 16 hours a day. Another version is the 5:2 approach that limits fasting to just two days a week. The alternate day fasting (ADF), follows a 24-hour period of fasting one or two days a week and the Warrior diet follows a 20-hour fast with one large meal consumed at night. However, please consult your physician before beginning any diet programme.
Tip 19: Give away
Diwali is synonymous with exchanging gifts but it can quickly slip into a festival of excess. Post Diwali if your house is filed with delectable boxes of festive treats then you will be tempted to devour them. A simple solution is to give away all the excess sweets and snacks. ‘Out of sight is out of mind. So, re-gift those unopened temptations. Or better still donate them to the needy or to your neighbourhood cleaner or building watchman,’ suggests Sakina.
Tip 20: Don’t fret
Yes, it was Diwali and you overdosed on those mithais and fried goodies. Diwali comes only once a year so, do not fret over what cannot be undone. It happens to the best of the health fanatics. We are social beings and celebrating with food comes naturally to us. The important thing now is to get back your dietary and exercise regimen after the celebration is over. Get a meal plan in place, eat food that will detoxify your system and hit the gym. Keep calm and eat yoghurt, it comes loaded with probiotics that soothe your intestines.