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Eat that bowl of dal

Busy with books, students skip meals and live on wafers. Nutritionists chalk out the perfect energising meal. Venetia D’Souza tells us. On your mark

india Updated: Feb 23, 2008 02:54 IST
Venetia D’Souza

With less than a week to go for the HSC examinations, 17-year-old Dishanth Kembhavi eats at odd hours, skipping meals almost everyday. His diet comprises a “heavy” lunch at 5 pm followed by breakfast the next day after a 14-hour gap.

But Kembhavi says that the regime, though not perfect, is perfectly in sync with his revision schedule. After all, he can’t afford to let a complete roti, sabji, dal and chawal fare make him sluggish and sleepy. “I do most of my studying between 12 midnight and 3 am and need complete concentration during these hours,” he says.

As students move into the final lap of Board exam preparation, quick meals and all-night study take precedence over wholesome meals and eight-hour sleep cycles.

“The fear of failure leads to a loss of appetite and excessive intake of stimulants like tea and coffee,” says Dr Richa Anand, executive dietician, LH Hiranandani Hospital. She suggests that instead of wafer-chai binges during breaks a six small meal (see box) plan for the day is more effective. She said that a single bowl of sprouted bhel or a plate of chicken tikka provide 8 to 10 gms of proteins and are far better than wafers. “Proteins play a crucial role in rejuvenating body cells and are hence important for adolescents,” she adds.

“You cannot blame the child. They are under so much stress that they will eat whatever is easily accessible,” says parent Muneera Daya. Daya followed a “light, wholesome dietary plan” during the run up to her son’s ISC Board exams. An easily digestible bowl of vegetable sticks just before the afternoon examination ensured that Shezaan was energised and not sluggish.

Dimpy Singh, nutritionist, Health Awareness Centre, says that the food students consume needs to be easily digestible. “It takes the body 72 hours to digest a meal of fish curry and rice and 24 hours to digest a cup of tea, but just 20 minutes to process a bowl of fruit,” she says.

In addition to monitoring dietary intake, Dr Gaurang Desai, consulting physician, LH Hiranandani Hospital advises parents to watch out for symptoms, which could arise due to nutritional deficiency. Breathlessness and inability to concentrate might be an indication of a drop in hemoglobin levels, especially in girls who are menstruating. “Bananas, spinach, and dates along with medication can set things right,” he says.

Something to chew on

Dr Richa Anand, executive dietician, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital advises this diet instead of three heavy meals

Breakfast: Glass of milk and brown bread vegetable sandwich: 250 to 275 calories, 10 gms proteins. Or Idlis/uttapam with sambhar.
Midmorning: Fresh fruit with 10 to 12 assorted dry nuts and buttermilk: 150 calories, 5 to 7 gms proteins.
Lunch: options for packed lunch
Mix vegetable khichadi (rice, dal and vegetable all cooked together) and curd or whole wheat chicken or vegetable sandwich: 300 calories, 10 to 14 gms proteins
Late evening: Vegetable or chicken soup (restrict use of cream and corn flour): 50 to 100 calories, 2 to 6 gms proteins
Dinner: Salad, chapatti and rice, dal, soya or paneer or chicken or fish (3-4 times week): 400 calories, 18 to 24 gms, vegetable and curd
Bedtime: Fruit: 50 to 75 calories