Is there such a thing as Healthy Diwali?
Diwali is a very special day for millions of Indians living all over the world. No Diwali celebration is complete without the platefuls of burfi, besan, laddoo, halwa etc. The vast array of traditional sweets means the festival of lights might almost be called the festival of mithai! With the prevalence of diabetes being 4 times higher in South Asians than in the Europeans, this is a particularly testing time to avoid those soaring blood sugar levels not to mention the weight gain.
Is there such a thing as Healthy Diwali? If you’re watching your weight, mindful of your health, are diabetic, have high cholesterol or have heart disease, ghee and sugar laden mithai and salt heavy snacks are not a good option. But this doesn’t mean you have to suffer and forgo the fun…
- Plan ahead. Set yourself realistic targets for the festive period as many people don’t just celebrate on Diwali itself but the celebrations may continue for many days - such as keeping your weight stable or not gaining more than 2lbs overall. Limit the indulgence only to the festive period and do not feel obliged to polish off all the leftover sweets and chocolates that have been given to you by friends and family!
- Avoid skipping meals, this is particularly important for diabetics.
- Ask friends and family not to buy you mithai as their Diwali greeting. Identify a range of alternative gifts at prices to suit the price for e.g. Nuts and dried fruit or fruit basket or perfumed candles, floating rangoli, pooja thali etc to name a few.
- Make moderation your Diwali mantra. Have mithai and fried snacks in small amounts. Eat slowly.
- Before eating snacks drink water and continue to sip water to bring in that feeling of fullness.
- If you are making mithai yourself, use low fat ingredients like lower fat milks and other dairy products. Use natural sweeteners like dried fruit and dates to make the sweets.
- Traditional Indian hospitality believes “the guest is truly your God” so why not treat your guests to healthier dishes. If you are hosting the Diwali celebration why not include healthier options of traditional dishes such as baked samosas or kachoris? To make baked samosas, brush both sides with oil, place in a warm non-stick frying pan and cook gently until light brown on both sides. Put on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 mins or so until golden brown. Instead of using fried ingredients, make chevda by using roasted shelled peanuts, lower fat crisps, rice krispies or cornflakes, roasted chick peas and spices.
- Impress your guests with a selection of salads such as avocado salad, tomato and onion salad, Indian salad, cholesterol busting dishes such as soya cocktail sticks, chana masala chaat, oat tikki, muttar paneer made with tofu etc (many of these recipes are available on the HEART UK website, plus our free 7 Day meal plan.).
- Replace saturated fats like ghee and butter with small amounts of unsaturated fats such as pure vegetable oil (usually rapeseed) olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil etc to make your dishes.
- If you are having fizzy drinks choose sugar free or diet varieties.
- Be aware that alcohol is high in calories and so can contribute to weight gain. Alcohol is also an appetite stimulant and can lead to overeating especially those moorish savoury fried snacks. Remember too much alcohol on an empty stomach can cause blood sugars levels to drop dangerously low in diabetics.
- If you are diabetic do check your blood sugars so that you are aware and can plan to eat accordingly.
- Fit in extra physical activity during these celebrations. Why not join in the garba / bhangra / disco moves at the diwali party? Great for burning those extra calories.
Even the most disciplined diet-followers let down their guard and get into the festival spirit so go ahead and enjoy yourself with family and friends, keeping the above tips in mind, and get back to being fit and healthy as soon as possible.
Above all a Very Happy and Healthy Diwali!
Should you wish to speak to a dietetic advisor in Hindi, Urdu or Punjabi you can call the helpline on Tuesdays 10-3 pm.
Baldeesh Rai, HEART UK's Senior Dietetic Advisor
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