When I first shifted to Mumbai, I met this guy, Shaurya. He was not just my colleague, but we also ended up becoming friends. We celebrated his 30th birthday together, and that day he shared his medical history and all that he was suffering because of his destructive food habits. He is a chain smoker, and 90% of the food he’s consuming is from restaurants or packaged food. As a result, he is now severely suffering from backache, fatigue, constipation, diabetes, and obesity.
And the irony of the situation is that he knows the solution to his problems and the root cause, but he feels it’s too late for him. He blames it on his hectic schedule of work-life. However, he knows he needs to incorporate healthy food habits and quit tobacco.
30 is not an age where one must go through so much pain and health issues. What hurts is that when people should be energetic and dedicated at such a golden age, instead act naïve and take health for granted.
No matter how hectic life gets, what’s the point of living it at all and doing all the hard work if you aren’t taking proper care of your body and overall well-being?
What’s the end if you aren’t healthy enough to enjoy life for which you’re working so hard day and night? Nothing is worth it if it’s making you compromise on the very basics and essentials of living a happy and healthy life.
You’d get different definitions of healthy food and lifestyle habits from everyone. For example, some would tell you to stop eating outside food, some would recommend quitting sugar, many would advise you to join a gym, and some would say eat everything and keep exercising.
So much content with suggestions around a healthy lifestyle and healthy food habits on the internet might make your head spinning, but I am here to make your healthy eating journey easy and realistic.
The rule of thumb is- we all need a variety of nutrients to lead a happy life. A good amount of protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals, etc., constitute a healthy meal. You do not have to quit anything except smoking (because that can be fatal).
The intake of insufficient nutrients has been a significant health concern. Due to lack of nutrients, major health problems in India lead to malnutrition, obesity, protein deficiency, diabetes, and diet-related non-communicable diseases.
Health and nutrition remain the most significant contributing factors to the lower risks of several diseases, strengthen immunity, keep the skin healthy, help better digestion and aids in the overall well-being.
The nutrient requirements vary from person to person, and it depends on several factors like age, gender, lifestyle, physical fitness/activity.
You are not alone in craving delicious food, toothsome desserts and flavoursome appetizers, and that’s why you need to believe me; healthy eating doesn’t mean that you cut on everything you love. It’s OK to eat once in a while, but making it a habit is not OK.
“Healthy eating is a way of life, so it’s important to establish routines that are simple, realistically, and ultimately livable.” – Horace
Yes, you can eat what you love and still be healthy and fit. Four important things to focus on when you eat anything-
- What are you eating?
- The timings (when are you eating?),
- The quantity (how much you’re eating),
- And the quality (look for the ingredients on the labels).
All I need from you is a little dose of willingness and receptiveness to making small steps or changes for a mindful, healthy eating journey.
After all, ‘A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.’
Why Does Eating Right Matter?
People who eat foods high in sugar, sodium, and energy without adding healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains lead to an imbalanced diet and suffer from various health issues.
On the other hand, a diet rich in nutrients has been proven to offer endless health benefits and keeps your body strong and healthy.
According to various medical reports and research, there are about 72.96 million cases of diabetes among adults in India. And unfortunately, India has been observed as the world’s capital of diabetes.
Another shocking statistic by an expert from the industry states, “that an average Indian consumes a minimum of 14–15 teaspoons of sugar like sweets, soda, sugary drink, fruit juices and desserts.” Yes, unbelievably, it’s true.
On the other side, World Health Organization has put a limit of up to 5 tablespoons of sugar a day. So, we know that Indians by far have already exceeded the limit, ultimately leading to poor health and other dangerous diseases among Indians.
I know that we Indians give more focus on the taste than on the overall health benefits. I am not proud of saying that, but that’s how at least I have experienced where I have grown up.
When I got into fitness and blogging a few years back, I learned about various ways to incorporate healthy items into my diet quitting nothing.
Eat right not just for your stomach and body but also for your mental peace, soul satisfaction, good sleep and long, robust life.
What Are The Types Of Food
It’s the combination of wholesome foods that adds the perfect nutrients to the plate. So let’s look at the three categories of the food-based approach regarding its functions.
Energy Rich foods-
This group includes foods rich in carbs and fats. Examples- vegetable oils, sugars, whole grain cereals, etc
This group includes foods rich in proteins. Examples- pulses, milk products, nuts, oilseeds, animals based, etc
This group includes foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Examples- fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc.
What Are Some Healthy Food Habits?
I can tell you it will not be a piece of cake, but you will eventually reap the endless benefits of incorporating these healthy food habits. You don’t have to change things overnight; start with more minor changes for a realistic approach.
Keep experimenting and make a note of things that are most viable for you. I have shortlisted some practical and essential food habits for a healthy lifestyle.
A bowl full of fruits and vegetables
If you don’t like to have fruits and veggies, it’s time for you to flip your taste buds and make efforts to make your bowl colourful.
Make fruits and vegetables your best buddies as they’re excellent sources of minerals, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins.
WHO recommends at least 400gms (or five portions) of fruits and veggies per day? Therefore, include small quantities in your everyday meal to ensure the intake of dietary fibre.
Go for fruits that are fresh, frozen, seasonal, or dried. Avoid consuming fruits post meals and the best time to consume juicy fruits is usually in the mornings.
Always shop for local vegetables and keep track of the quality of the greens.
Too Much Salt Is Bad
Do you know that around 1.65 million deaths in India are because of heart diseases caused by more than 5g of salt intake per day? High sodium adds to high blood pressure and eventually leads to a higher risk of a heart attack.
Some ways to control your salt intake-
- Stop using excessive salt while preparing the curries and dishes.
- Avoid sprinkling extra salt on top of fruits, veggies and other food dishes.
- Try not to keep the salt bottle on the dining table.
- Pick products with low sodium content.
- Avoid consuming processed food with high sodium content.
- Be wise when eating out and always check or ask for the amount of sodium going in your food.
- If possible, reduce your consumption of papads, pickles and chutneys, which is native to India.
- Use herbs and spices instead to add flavour like paprika, turmeric, black pepper, garlic or onion powder.
Note- WHO’s recommendation is a maximum of 5gms of sodium per day.
Remove Or Reduce Processed Food From Your Diet
You might say that you can survive on processed food because it satisfies your taste buds. However, you must think about it as it’s not healthy at all. The disadvantages of processed food are that it can lead to cancerous symptoms and increase your sugar levels, leading to serious health problems.
Foods that go under major technological or any such modifications are called processed food.
Some processed food examples are pizzas, pasta, noodles, Gol Gappa, chaat, chocolates, etc. The list is long, and hence it’s important to note that many preservatives are a part of such food items to add to their appeal and increase their shelf life.
Avoid consuming fried and processed food with high-fat percentages post 6 pm. It can lead to horrible health issues of thyroid, PCOD, obesity etc.
If processed food makes up a significant part of your meal, you need to cut on quantity and variety. It’s not healthy and is mostly high in sugar, fats and has low nutrient value.
Note- food hygiene and sanitation is paramount if you are a street food person. It’s wise to be aware of your food preparation, its ingredients and hygiene levels.
You Need Protein Power
Protein-rich food not only strengthens your bones and muscles but aids in refining the overall quality of your skin, hair, body tissues, etc. So protein is essential, and add some part of it to your meal every day.
Whether you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, adding protein to your diet will have limitless benefits in the long run. Some great vegetarian protein sources are broccoli, soy products, lentils, pulses, spinach, paneer, nuts, Greek yoghurt, etc.
An average Indian should consume a minimum of 0.8- 1gms of protein per day for a minimum daily requirement. I will keep it short here, as you can check my blog on protein sources to know all about protein and its benefits.
Drink Enough Water And Keep Yourself Hydrated
Straightforward, nothing can replace the tasteless, odourless and yet the most potent component of our body. In addition, your body makes up almost 60 to 70% of the water. Therefore, it’s essential to meet the daily requirement of liquids.
Many health experts recommend having at least 2.5 litres of water for women/per day. And 3.5 litres of water for men/per day.
If you do not have enough water, it will lead to dehydration, resulting in dizziness, dullness, and skin acne.
Start your day with a glass full of water, and always stay hydrated, especially during hot summer months. Try infused water if you want to add some twist to everyday water consumption.
No Form Of Smoking Is Safe For You
There are no ifs and buts about this, and nothing will change the fact that smoking is hazardous for your overall health. So stop inhaling the poisonous smoke and protect your lungs by staying away from it.
Whether you replace your tobacco with electric smoke, hookah, cigar, there isn’t any way you can escape the long-term health problems that it brings along.
Don’t wait for tomorrow; the time is now for you to quit smoking. Start by replacing it with some candy or chew gum. Then, inform your doctor, friends, or family to understand the journey of leaving smoke. Finally, remind yourself of all the reasons that might push you more to quit smoking ultimately.
Give yourself a break and think about all the damage it has been doing to you. Nothing is worth the pleasure if it can take your life.
Cook At Home And Eat Homemade Food
With the easy availability of ingredients and technological advancements, you can make those pizzas, burgers, desserts, etc., all at home. Of course, I’m not telling you to consume such food items every day, but occasionally to calm your cravings.
Cooking at home can be a great way to ensure the quality of the ingredients used, the hygiene while preparing the food, and understanding what goes behind setting up your food plate.
‘Ghar ka khana’’ is the best as it encourages spending quality time with family and kids. Moreover, home cooking is a great way to distract yourself from hectic work life. Many even consider cooking as therapeutic.
As per various studies, people who eat more at home naturally avoid processed food, extra sugar, and unhealthy ingredients. And this leads to a happier life with better mental health.
Don’t Just Swallow, Chew Your Food
Always keep some time to eat peacefully and chew your food correctly. But, unfortunately, with the hectic work schedules, we often do not give importance to the way we consume our food, and that’s where we end up disturbing our entire digestive system.
Do not just swallow your food; chew it a minimum of 32 times for food items that are easily chewable.
Proper chewing of food helps it break down, resulting in better digestion, nutrient absorption, and controlled food consumption.
Set Up A Routine
Setting up a proper plan and routine of what you will be eating, when you will be eating and how you will be eating is equally important.
For example, you can have a morning buffet with fruits, juices, cereals, milk, poha, sandwiches, etc. But, your dinners must be easy on the stomach. You can have a salad bowl with fresh vegetables (roasted, boiled etc.) with nuts and some zesty salad dressing.
Never skip breakfast. Always finish your dinner much before you good night’s sleep. Early dinners around 6:00 pm–7:00 pm help the body for smooth digestion. Setting up regular meal timings will help your body better manage the digestive system.
Some Easy Swaps For Everyday Food Habits
Food has a world of its own and getting baffled sometimes among so many options becomes natural. However, you can make your food journey uncomplicated and mindful with small, simple steps.
Life can be overwhelming sometimes but make food your priority because that’s what keeps you moving, happy and healthy.
Healthy and delicious food alternatives are readily available in the market. You can even make super easy and nutritious forms of food you love.
Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” – Bethenny Frankel
Minor changes in food habits can go a long way. Healthy swaps will help you reduce unhealthy and unnecessary calorie intake and will make your food more nutritious.
Look at some of the healthy food alternatives-
- Replace your soft drinks/ synthetic drinks with lassi, buttermilk, fresh fruit juices and coconut water.
- Replace ice cream with frozen yoghurt
- Replace potato fries with sweet potato wedges
- A great healthy alternative to sugar can be coconut sugar, dates sugar, jaggery and stevia.
- Go for dark chocolates over milk chocolates.
- Ditch sweets and enjoy dried fruits. You can even consume naturally sweet fruits like berries if you have a sweet tooth.
- Try oatmeal, chia pudding, granolas instead of sweet cereals coated with sugary syrups and dips.
- Avoid white bread and choose whole grain, sprouted, flax or oatmeal bread.
- Say No to outside food and start incorporating healthy homemade meals into your diet.
- Try infused water instead to enjoy flavours instead of soda and unhygienic local drinks.
The Main Idea
Healthy eating is not about rigorous dieting, skipping a meal, looking thin instead; it’s about eating what you love, enjoying your meals. A balanced diet is about combining various foods in the suitable type, proportion, and moderation.
Be aware of nutrient requirements and choose the components of your food plate wisely and smartly. Love yourself enough to know what’s right for you.
If you balance your food game with vital nutrients, it will help you grow, make you feel strong, boost your confidence, and give you enough power to combat any health problems. And you will live and feel young even when you will turn old.
A simple way to start is just START!
I’d love to know which of the food habits would you pick to incorporate into your lifestyle? Comment below.
Disclaimer- All content, including advice, suggestions, and health benefits provided on this blog, is only informational. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. We recommend that you or any other person who has a medical concern consult a professional or doctor for more information.