From family time to overtime women today are supercharged. Sure they’re masters at multi-tasking and juggling but when it comes to eating a balanced diet, many neglect their basic nutritional needs. Take the case of 29-year-old Ashwini who was a patient of mine. Happily married with a five-year-old son she came to me feeling edgy over her weight gain. Her marketing job kept her on her toes all day and she insisted she never overate. A look at Ashwini’s day clearly indicated that her demanding routine was the cause of her problems.
It’s a similar story for many women- leaving for work with a cup of coffee hurriedly had with some biscuits or jam and toast, another two cups of coffee or tea at office, lunch that’s usually eaten out with friends or clients or some sandwiches or puffs from a fast food outlet. Another cup of coffee in the evening with some cake or cookies shared with colleagues, perhaps followed by a small bar of chocolate to get rid of those gnawing feeling of irritability that creep up. Dinner is often ordered from a restaurant because you’re cook plays truant and you’re too tired to cook. Result? You’re having too much sugar, fats, processed foods and caffeine that will make you feel anything but good.Weight gain, poor concentration, restlessness, irritability, low energy, hyperactivity, allergies, frequent colds, earaches and food cravings are all manifestations of a poor diet.Making healthy eating a part of you life can be tricky if you are a working woman. Time, habit and convenience probably determine your food choices. Understandably ready to eat food packets or frozen foods do seem very tempting- they’re convenient and time-saving. Unfortunately most packaged and processed foods are full of sugar, preservatives and contain little or no nutritional value.
Ironically, the busier you are the more crucial it is for you to eat healthy. And healthful eating need not be too time consuming all it requires is some awareness and planning. You might be surprised to learn that the poorer your diet the more cravings you will have for sugar, refined foods and caffeine. Interestingly, your cravings and taste buds are influenced by habit so if you reach for a carrot stick instead of chips every time you crave for something crunchy, your body will soon start asking for carrot sticks. The more you attune your body to eating nutritious foods, the more your body will crave it- even to a point where you crave for fruits and veggies the way you do junk food Some easy ways to fit healthy eating into your life would be to wake up a little earlier every morning so that you can fix yourself a healthy breakfast. You could carry some fruits, raisins or nuts to office to snack on whenever you feel hungry.If you order food or eat out frequently:
Restaurant food is usually high in calories, fat, salt and sugar. However it is possible for you to make smart choices while eating out by keeping the following in mind.A restaurant that offers seafood is a good choice. Choose dishes that you can have grilled, baked, barbequed, steamed or roasted. Request that your food be prepared in less oil and that sauces, toppings, dressings and cheese be served separately. You could have a salad dressing made of olive oil and vinegar. If you’re having a sizzler avoid the sauce and French fries, if you’re having soup avoid the ones that are corn, cream and white sauce based and settle for clear soup. Always have whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Have tandoori rotis instead of naans and dals without extra butter toppings or ‘tadka’. Avoid fried foods and sugar totally.
When travelling out of the city: You’re daily menu could be like this- for breakfast you could have fruits or milk with some cereal. For lunch you could have a sprout or pasta salad with a clear soup or an idli-sambar or tandoori rotis with some vegetables. For dinner you could have steamed chicken or fish with tandoori rotis and some vegetables
Smart Daily Choices:
- Stress on variety: By eating the same foods everyday for breakfast or lunch you’re likely to develop a sensitivity to it which in turn could intensify your craving for it. An optimum diet consists of fresh foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, low in fat, salt and sugar and moderate in protein.
- Eat more complex carbohydrates and whole foods: Ideally complex carbohydrates which are the body’s fuel should constitute 50-60 percent of your diet. Consume more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains and reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates such as refined sugar, maida and alcohol- they’re high in calories and low in food value. Similarly avoid ‘refined’ foods such as white bread and settle for whole foods, which are those from which no part has been removed or chemically altered. Whole foods nourish the body with their vitamin, mineral, protein and fat content.
- Reduce fat and sugar intake: Just about one tablespoon of vegetable oil fulfils the body’s daily requirement of essential fatty acid. And don’t be fooled by ‘cholesterol free’ packages-most are laden with calories and fat. Go easy on saturated fat that is found in animal protein, dairy products, coconut and palm oils. Likewise, you can derive all the energy your body needs from fruits, grains and other carbohydrates instead of sugar.
- Reduce caffeine and salt intake: Limit yourself to 1-2 cups of coffee daily anything over that could wear down your adrenal glands and stress your body causing restlessness, insomnia and a racing heartbeat. A good way to kick the coffee habit is to withdraw slowly by mixing half decaffeinated coffee with your regular as you cut down. Herbal teas are a healthier option. Likewise the body’s daily salt requirement is just about one fifth of a teaspoon. To prevent a salt overload avoid processed, packaged or canned products. Excess salt overworks the kidneys and contributes to water retention and potassium loss.