Enough of muffins, pastries and vada pavs. Mumbai, start eating veggies and pulses to get fitter

Junk food and empty calories are making an entire generation unfit; experts suggest going back to a simpler diet

fitter mumbai Updated: Jul 20, 2017 16:28 IST
Anubhuti Matta
Anubhuti Matta
Hindustan Times
Fitter mumbai,Fitness in Mumbai,Diets

When was the last time you had a meal that contained vegetables, pulses and protein? It’s hard to remember, right? Now, when was the last time you ate a dessert for no reason — a muffin with your morning coffee, or a cookie in the middle of the work day? When was the last time you ordered pizza? Ate a vada pav?

No, don’t start punishing yourself. There’s a simple reason you have more memories of the snacks than of the balanced meal — put simply, you can’t eat a thali on the go.

But there’s a very simple reason you should try. Junk food and empty calories are making an entire generation unfit, say nutritionists.

“From obesity to hormonal problems, diabetes and heart disease, this generation is experiencing in their 20s and 30s ailments that used to affect 50-year-olds,” says Dr Shazia Khan, dietician and nutritionist at Wockhardt Hospital. “We have more fitness options and far better awareness than our previous generation, yet we are unhealthier than our parents.”

Dr Richa Anand, nutritionist at the Hiranandani hospital in Powai, agrees. “It’s a sorry state. I see at least five to six teenagers with weight issues a week,” she says. “The number of 30-plus cases has doubled in the past three years.”

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People are leading sedentary lives, their increasing intake of processed and convenient foods that are devoid of nutrients is taking a toll on them. “There are apps for just everything, you are not walking to do groceries, you’re playing on your phones, replacing wheat rotis with breads and not even cutting your own vegetables. Buying them pre-cut doesn’t mean they may be cleaner like their wholesome counterparts,” says Dr Anand.

Do you get what you see?

One of the most important things about our health is what we eat and how much we eat. “What may be advertised as healthy may not be so at all,” says Dr Indrayani Pawar, team leader dietician at Khar-based Hinduja Healthcare Surgical.

“Packed juices are loaded with sugar, cholesterol-free vegetable oils may not be what they claim to be. But we buy them without looking at the back of the pack,” Dr Pawar says.

Experts also pointed out how most people were not aware of portion control — what to eat and how much.

“The belief is, the more the better so that you don’t get hungry quickly. But, that’s the wrong way to be going about your diet. Eat small meals at short intervals instead,” adds Dr Pawar.

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Many foods are advertised to lure customers who have little time. “They try and get the attention of younger couples and sympathise with them for not eating right as they don’t have time. But, you are being sucked into a black hole,” she adds.

The right choice

Dr Varsha Gorey, senior clinical dietician at Apollo Hospital suggests replacing processed meals with natural ones and to get the right mix of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals.

“Don’t eliminate certain categories of food, but select the healthiest option from each category,” says Dr Gorey.

“For instance, don’t fry; grill or steam instead. Add nuts and beans to your diet, decrease red meat intake by a serving-and-a half a day. Small changes like these can cut the risk of diseases,” says Dr Gorey.

Small tweaks are never harmful, says Dr Anand. Instead of high-calorie desserts, go for energy bars that are sweet and nutritious.

“Don’t follow diet fads. Always consult a nutritionist because, diet charts must be customised to one’s body,” says Dr Anand, adding that it is dangerous to follow someone else’s diet or try to emulate celebrities.

“It will only land you in trouble. Ask your doctor what to eat and how much,” she says.

Finally, all nutritionists agreed the best way to eat is to go back to simpler, more natural foods. “And remember, a swim or a 10-minute walk is never a bad idea,” says Dr Pawar.

‘My grandkids don’t even recognise some grains’

Lajwanti Verhani, 77, says she and her husband had a lot more physical activity in their day than do their children.

“Our food portions were bigger but we sweated it out too, so we were fitter in our prime,” she says. Lajwanti has always been a homemaker and her husband, a businessman. But even in those roles, there was a lot more physical activity, she says. “We worked in the house and played with the children, which took up a lot of energy. We ate thalis that comprised bajra and jowar rotis, helped ourselves to generous portions of vegetables cooked in oil and neither avoided nor overdid sweets or fried food. We knew we’d burn it off,” she says.

“My grandchildren don’t even know some of these grains,” she says. “They avoid ghee and oil, but don’t realise how important these are for our bodies.” Even though her five grandchildren, now in their teens, seem fit, she says it worries her that they don’t realise how harmful it is in the long run to eat junk food as frequently as they do.

“We try to be strict at home and ensure they eat a balanced meal, but they all eat out so much, it’s natural to worry,” she says.

‘We’re concerned about how often we eat out’

About a year ago, 26-year-old recruitment manager Sahil Advani would order fast food for lunch every day. “It would be a burger and fries or a roti roll,” he says. His then girlfriend and now wife, Vinita, a chartered accountant, though conscious of her diet, would give in to cravings for fried and sweet foods every evening, when they met.

Together they’d binge on pizzas, pav bhaji and dishes of cheesy pasta. Then they realised they were putting on weight and that raised an alarm. Now married for nine months, they carry homemade food to work, but still eat out thrice a week.

“We do try and balance it out with grilled and steamed dishes or just a salad, but sometimes we have to give in to our fondness for the unhealthy too,” says Vinita. “I know eating out this often is unhealthy and can have damaging effects, but it’s the best way to socialise.”

For young couples who eat out this often, Dr Richa Anand, nutritionist at Hiranandani hospital, advises ordering with care. “Ordering grilled and steamed food is a good idea but giving into cravings for dessert will nullify those healthy choices,” she says. If you are eating out often, don’t allow yourself more than a day of unhealthy food a week, she adds. And try to work out.

Following their weight gain, the Advanis are going to the gym together every night. “We feel better and lighter and will try and continue this routine,” says Vinita.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 10:56 IST