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A food diktat that works

Insane diets that most celebrities follow are at best talking points or subjects of books that get their dietitians and trainers 15 seconds of fame. Sanchita Sharma writes.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 15, 2009 00:28 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Incredible as it may seem, most people are gluttons for dietary advice. Even people who eat everything in sight have an opinion on Kareena Kapoor’s size-zero veggie diet and Madonna’s macrobiotic salmon diet coupled with a 2-hour workout. If it is food, fibre and calories, with a dash of celebrity thrown in, most people are hooked.

Insane diets that most celebrities follow are at best talking points or subjects of books that get their dietitians and trainers 15 seconds of fame. The meal plan that would actually work ‘Dietary Guidelines for Indians’ was released by the Department of Science and Technology and the Diabetes Foundation (India) on Friday.

These guidelines were desperately needed, as the old ones had not touched subjects that have become a part of modern diets, such as heart- damaging trans-fats (found in vanaspati, processed food and ready-to-use noodles, soups and gravies), alcohol or artificial sweeteners.

Like most people, I’m tired of being told that I need 50 gm of protein every day. How much is 50 gm? How do I calculate it? I don’t like milk, so which other non-meat sources can I look at? No one has given me very answers so far. The new dietary guidelines may answer such questions. For example, they clearly say that a person needs 1gm of protein per kg each day. So, a woman weighing 60 kg would require 60 gm of protein per day. She can get this 60 gm from nine servings of wholewheat flour (one serving = 25 gm), two bowls of cooked dal (60 gm of raw pulse), two pieces of lean meat (chicken or fish), or 500 ml (half litre, two large glasses) of double-toned milk. It clarifies that fat (both visible fat in oil, butter and ghee, and invisible in nuts, cereals and pulses) should provide less than 30 per cent of total energy. This is about 4-5 tsp of oil a day for a 1,600 Kcal diet recommended for a sedentary Indian adult. Saturated fats such as butter, ghee and mayonnaise should be limited to one tsp (10 per cent of total energy), with the recommended intake being under 7 per cent for people with artery-blocking high low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol).

The guidelines okay moderate use of artificial sweeteners approved by international food safety watchdogs such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These include saccharin (Sweet ‘N’ Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet), aspartame (Equal, Sweetex, Sugar-free, Sugar Free Gold), acesulfame-K, neotame (used in beverages, dairy products, pharmaceutical products and chewing gum.) and sucralose (Splenda, Zero, Sugar-free Natura). Stevia (Stevi0cal, Gwiser) and some sugar alcohols (Sorbitol, Xylitol, Mannitol, Maltitol) have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.

All this, coupled with eating small meals every 3-4 hours, 8-10 glasses of water, alcohol in moderation and small portions when eating out, an hour of exercise five times a week, will help you stay healthy. With luck, you may even get a near-washboard stomach, irrespective of age.