Nutritionist and weight loss Guru, Ishi Khosla
Indian festivals are a good way to get-together. Holi, the festival of colours, marks the arrival of spring – the season of new beginnings. The colourful spirit should be complemented and reflected through the colours of traditional delicacies.
Celebrating holi or rather any festival in India has its own charm as it has a regional touch to it. Different communities in India, have their typical ways of celebrating holi by preparing special sweets, snacks and food. Thandai with the addition of Bhaang, Puran Poli, chakli, “Gur poli”, and “Sakharpoli” in West, Shakarpara, batashas and gujjias in north, sweet khichidi and other sweets like kheer, basundi and halva among the Gujratis, different kinds of sweet rice and different varieties of fruit mixtures with sherbets down south are the few commonly known delicacies of this colourful festival. Not to forget the tongue tingling savory snacks like “samosas”, “pakoras”, kebabs, stuffed breads and many others.
The goodness of these traditional calorie packed snacks lies in being nutrient dense too. The credit for nutrition goes to the special ingredients like nuts, coconut, jaggery etc. used in making desserts and sweets. Nuts, a source of good fat alongwith other essential components like antioxidants, vitamin E and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, folic acid etc. are virtually a part of all Indian sweet and desserts. Coconut, an important component of gujjia contains heart friendly constituents and has been long known for its anti-infective, anti cancer properties. To add to the irrresitable flavour, jaggery is used. None of the Indian sweets are relished unless prepared using desi ghee. Similarly, the traditional Indian snacks, pooris, malpuas etc. are also soaked in desi ghee/ oil. No doubt, desi ghee is rich in calories but it surely scores over many refined oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, and cottonseed oils.
Interestingly, holi marks a change in season when the body ‘s immunity can be challenged and viral infections begin to spring up. Right from influenza to chicken pox, mumps, it is a season for many infectious diseases. Adding brightly coloured vegetables, nuts, dry fruits, seeds, can certainly help and boost immunity.
For many, holi is incomplete without indulgence in bhang- an intoxicant mixed with other vegetables and deep-fried with a crust of dough to be eaten as pakoras or ground and mixed into a drink of milk, sugar and almonds. Having bhang has been a cause for many accidents, and avoidable misery on holi, it is a better idea to opt for healthier beverages like thandais, lassie, coconut water, kaanji, lime juice or fruit and vegetable juice.
Celebration with special foods is common. Unfortunately, some of the foods we eat for pleasure are not always foods that are best for our health. It may be difficult for a person to strike a balance between likes and availability. However, maintaining this delicate balance helps a lot in our health and well-being. Small changes in preparations to suit the requirements of today can combine pleasure with good health.
To enjoy this colourful festival in a healthy way, add colour and variety to your platter through:
• Introduction of lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables. They are unique combination of bright colors, high nutrition and have special benefits. They contain disease fighting protective plant pigments called phytochemicals (phyto means plant), which give them their colors as well as antioxidant properties. They work as great snacks and substitute for sweets. They can be introduced in the form of vegetable fingers, Salads, fruit chaat.
• Avoiding fried foods and go for roasted or baked snacks like roasted mixtures/ baked papris.
• Decreasing fat intake in traditional preparations.
• Use whole grains instead of white flour to make traditional preparations. Use atta, ragi and chana flour too prepare snacks and sweets. So next time, you make your gujjia, add a little atta or ragi, cut down the sugar and bake it instead of frying.
• Reduce the intake of sugar in preparations or use low calorie sweeteners.
• Keeping a check on the portion sizes. Eat less or reduce portion sizes when eating out, as the food is usually higher in calories.
There is no formula for eating right, which can be used for everyone. Find your own unique solution. Following the principles of healthy eating, eating with awareness, along with common sense is all that is needed. With a little effort eating out can be a joyful experience without much burden of calories on your bodies.
Indulgence with intelligence- secret of enjoying any festival!