Nutrition month: Adopt healthy home-cooking with these meals | The Financial Express

Nutrition month: Adopt healthy home-cooking with these meals

A Thali carries a lot of significance and is an inherent part of the dietary culture in all regions of India.

Nutrition month: Adopt healthy home-cooking with these meals
1. Restaurant foods are often loaded with fats, salt, sugar and other additives. (Representative image)

By Dr. Meghana Pasi

People choose to eat different types of foods for multiple reasons like religious differences, health conditions, food allergies, environmental reasons or simply based on their likes and dislikes. Also, with such a diverse culture, every state in India has a different cuisine. However, the dishes cooked by our Nanis and Dadis are always special to us, and they top the charts.

But how many of us now with the so-called modern lifestyle prefer to cook our meals at home when given a choice of dining out or ordering food. Most of us feel, “we don’t have time to cook, or cooking requires lots of efforts or we can’t cook like our moms and eating out is a lot more convenient.”

Thinking of it deeply, there are several benefits of cooking at home-

  1. Restaurant foods are often loaded with fats, salt, sugar and other additives. Whereas the same dishes prepared at home tend to be more nutritious and contain fewer calories. Home cooked meals can help you stay away from chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension, cardiac disorders, cancer and diabetes
  2. It boosts your immune system, keep you calm and happy
  3. Preparing meals at home can help you keep control over ingredients and portion sizes
  4. You can handle the hygiene and quality of the food and avoid allergies and food borne illnesses
  5. Even cooking simple meals can be very satisfying and act as a stress buster.

One might still wonder, what should I cook everyday which is healthy for me and my family as well as suits our palate.

Well, be it

a North Indian meal – chole/rajma, raita, sarson ka saag, baingan ka bharta, roti, lassi, kheer, halwa, chicken tikka, matar paneer;

a South Indian meal – rice, sagu, palya, sambar, rasam, koshimbir, buttermilk, payasam, vangibhai, puliyogere;

a West Indian meal – chapati, dal, buttermilk, bhindi sabji, dhokla, missal, wadi, shrikhand, gudpoli, rice, khichadi, rotla

OR an East Indian meal – rice, momos, thukpa, fish curry, dalma, mishit doi, rasogulla;

a Thali from any region prepared with a combination of different food groups in the right portion sizes can become a delicious healthy meal. A Thali carries a lot of significance and is an inherent part of the dietary culture in all regions of India.

While preparing any regional Thali, just be mindful about:

  1. Including all four food groups on the plate in the right portion sizes. Remember, a single food group cannot provide us with all the nutrients,
  • Cereals / grains: eg. rice, chapati, pulao, paratha, rotla, mudde, pasta, noodles. All these are great sources of carbohydrates and fiber.
  • Pulses / dals /meat /egg /fish: eg. rajma, chole, tur dal, udad dal, mung, sprouts, soyabean, chicken, egg, fish. These are rich sources of proteins.
  • Vegetables: sagu, palya, bhaji, sabji, salad, koshimbir, saag, curries, gravies, kormas etc. A seasonal vegetable from any region, will supply all the required vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Milk product / dairy: raita, curd, mishti doi, buttermilk, paneer. These give us proteins, calcium, probiotics and act as a great digestive.
  1. Using fresh, healthy ingredients and keeping your meals simple
  • Simple cooking can be tasty and quick. Mix vegetable khichdi or pulao or rajma rice with buttermilk or curd, paneer wrap with boiled channa and lassi or pasta with paneer salad and curd are all great meals for a soul-filling healthy lunch. Non-vegetarians can opt for items like fish curry with rice and curd.
  • A light dinner eg. bisibele rice with curd, dal rice and vegetable or soup with pulao are the best choices to end your day with.
  • Steaming, sauteing and grilling in place of deep frying can help reduce nutrient losses.
  • Replace salt with lemon and herbs to reduce the sodium intake.
  • Cut down on sugar by using substitutes like fruit pulps, dry fruits, figs and dates.
  • Choose whole grain versions of pasta and bread instead of refined wheat options.

One cannot opt for all this when we order food, or buy packaged food, however while cooking at home we tend to make conscious efforts to choose healthy.

  1. Incorporating our age-old fit food hacks
  • Add a teaspoon of ghee over chapatis, in dal / rice. This is an excellent source of Vit. A and antioxidants.
  • Have a glass of Golden latte (Turmeric and black pepper milk). When both these spices are consumed together, their immune boosting property increases.
  • Our traditional idli, dosa, dhokla, appam, buttermilk, kanji, pickles contain good amount of probiotics which help in keeping our gut healthy. Hence, include these in your daily meals.
  • Add spices like pepper, ginger, garlic, green chilli, cumin, cloves, fenugreek seeds, turmeric to your everyday foods. These spices carry chemical compounds which have antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties which help fight several kinds of infections.
  1. Keeping healthy ready-to-eat munchies on your dining table.
  • Keep a stock of roasted chana, peanuts, fruits, tender coconut, nuts, seeds, chikki, makhana, peanut butter and dates. These foods do not require cooking and are extremely nutritious.

Happy Cooking!

(The author is Nutrition expert, Arogya World, MyThali Programme. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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