It is that time of the year when markets are abuzz with activity and hotels and restaurants offer mouth-watering delicacies. No matter how hard you try, the temptation of eating out eventually overpowers you. Hindustan Times comes to the rescue of all you hassled souls, by telling you how you can be at your favourite restaurant and still enjoy a healthy meal.
Japanese cuisine wins hands down in a random poll among nutritionists as the healthiest cuisine. It’s not just about sushis, fermented rice with a variety of raw fish, you can actually select anything on the menu blindly and trust it to be a healthy option. Says Ritika Samaddar, regional head, dietetics, Max Healthcare: “Cuisines from places such as Japan, Korea, etc. are preferred by the calorie conscious, as they use a lot of seaweeds in their dishes. The veggies used are not just low in calories but very protective for people suffering from heart ailments, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.”
Mediterranean cuisine also finds favour with dieticians for its liberal use of olive oil and garlic in a diet that has seafood and green leafy vegetables. “Olive oil, nuts, fish etc are healthy sources of fat. There is less of red meat, sugar etc. in their diet that makes it healthy,” said a dietician from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, requesting anonymity, as she is not authorised to speak to the media.Although there are certain cuisines that are healthier than others, if the menu is chosen intelligently, any dish can be healthy. Indian cuisine, normally not considered to be very healthy, has some good options to choose from. "It’s all about making the right choices. Choose paneer tikka over a tandoori platter and steamed idlis instead of fried vadas," said Dr Surbhi Bali, chief nutritionist, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.
Switching from fried items to grilled, sautéed, stewed or steamed food items and opting for items made of whole wheat instead of refined flour instantly transforms your meal into a healthy one. In Italian cuisine, instead of pasta in white sauce that has butter and refined flour in it, the tomato-based wheat pasta has half the calories.
In Chinese, instead of refined flour noodles go for whole wheat ones. Steamed or brown rice is a healthier option; so are dried items. “Instead of colas, one can choose lime juice or coconut water. The vitamin C in fresh juices helps absorb the iron content in the body,” said Shilpa Thakur, chief dietician at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
Beyond five star hotels, many more restaurants are tweaking their menus to cater to the health-conscious. “It’s a big decision to switch to wheat momos instead of flour, as they are tougher to make. But with the kind of response that we got from people, we gradually started making our wraps, kathi rolls, hot dogs, pastas, etc. in wheat,” said Kajall Gangwani of Brown Sugar, a restaurant in Defence Colony that offers a menu made of just whole wheat.
A word of caution: do not overeat. “Whatever you eat should be in moderation, and you must continue with your exercise regime,” said Samaddar.