Diwali diet cheat sheet: This is how you shun festive flab

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 07, 2015 15:44 IST
Don’t fall for foods that claim to contain no sugar or artificial sweeteners. They may not have table sugar (sucrose), but could have other natural sweeteners that widen waistlines. (Shutterstock)

The weather’s turned tolerable, the festive and wedding season has begun and most of us are inundated with invites that promise fun liberally tempered with fattening food and drink.

For most of us, the annual weight gain – usually about one kg -- happens in the last two months of the year, with those who are overweight putting on more weight, found a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013. You can, however, avoid the festive flab by using these cheats to negotiate high-calorie pitfalls over the next three months.

‘No added sugar’ doesn’t mean ‘no sugar’

Foods that claim to contain no sugar or artificial sweeteners may not have table sugar (sucrose), but could have other natural sweeteners (fructose, dextrose, dextrine, malitol and high fructose corn syrup) that widen waistlines. Go for products labelled “no added natural and artificial sweeteners”.

While artificial sweeteners are low in calories, they do not satisfy the brain’s sugar cravings that make you feel full, reported researchers in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. This leads to increased appetite and cravings for sugary food, so if you have cravings, don’t give up completely on sugar and carbs.

Read: Here’s a quick guide to perfect your festive evening

Read: Here’s how you can satisfy your sweet tooth this Diwali

Cholesterol free isn’t fat free

Foods that are free of cholesterol may be full of other artery-blocking and high-calorie unhealthy fats that go under harmless sounding labels such as edible oils, vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated oil or fats.

All these labels are euphemisms for trans fats, which is as efficient at blocking arteries as bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), which is found only in food from animal sources, such as meats, eggs, butter, full-fat milk, cheese and ghee.

Go natural: Shun packaged, processed foods

Even packaged foods labelled “100% natural” are very often high in calories. Unless eaten in the raw form, most packaged foods high amounts of sugar, sodium and fats, including fattening trans fats, and may even have permissible artificial colouring and preservatives.

Fresh, whole foods --- fruits, vegetables and whole grains – on the other hand, are low in calories and give you all the essential protein, fibre and vitamins needed. If you’re looking for organic, however, insist on certified products.

Don’t go for seconds

Closely watch how much you eat and make it a rule not to go for seconds, especially when eating out. Most of us tend to overeat when we go out because we’ve paid for the meal and don’t want good food to be binned. Don’t be embarrassed to get leftovers doggy-bagged. You’ll not only do your waistline a favour but also save yourself the trouble of cooking a meal.

Go easy on alcohol and juices

On average, you should not have more than one alcoholic drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man -- a portion size is 330 ml (one can or small bottle) for beer and 150 ml for wine (one bottle has five portions of wine). Two or more glasses of drinks, including wine, flavoured yoghurt, smoothies and non-sweetened fruit juices, have calories equal to a pizza slice. Since these are usually accompaniments to a meal, you end up having 300-500 extra calories per day that you often forget to factor in your carefully crafted diet plan.

Diet Cheatsheet

10 cheats to survive the buffet table without weight gain

1. Have a healthy snack at home before going out. It will help you go easy on deep-fried hors d’oeuvres, such as chips and kebabs

2. Have at least one glass of water along with every unit of alcohol (one small peg of whisky, gin, run or vodka (30 ml), or a glass of beer (330 ml) or wine (150 ml)

3. Sit far away from the snack table so you don’t eat just because the plate is at arm’s reach

4. Mix water, diet colas or mineral water in alcohol. Soft drinks and juices are high in calories

5. Don’t have more than two glasses of wine or two pegs of alcohol

6. Avoid the cheese dip, have tomato or yoghurt-based dips instead.

7. Snack on vegetable sticks, low-fat crackers and foods that are grilled, not fried

8. Choose a fruit platter, yoghurt or low-fat ice-cream for dessert

9. Enjoy one or two small treats so you don’t feel deprived

10. Don’t go back for seconds

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