There’s a recurrent question that prompted Namita Jain to pen her 12th book recently. “For over 25 years now, I’ve been talking and writing about fitness, health, wellness and food. Invariably, the discussion always veers towards recipes. ‘Can you give me the recipe?’ they ask. So, I decided to put everything together in one place,” says the Mumbai-based nutrition expert, with a postdoctorate in wellness from Young Scientist University, USA.
Low Fat, Low Guilt: Recipes & Lifestyle is Namita’s labour of love, a collection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes, with healthy twists. From soups and salads to pastas and low-calorie biryanis, the book is a treasure trove of nutritious recipes and lifestyle tips that aim to make healthy eating a pleasurable experience.
Seemingly innocuous things like using egg whites instead of whole eggs and lightly sauteing the vegetables instead of frying them can make a world of difference to the nutritional value of our meals, says Namita, consultant to the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI).
Excerpts from an interaction with the celebrity nutritionist and practising wellness specialist at Bombay Hospital:
How does one deal with food-induced guilt?
No food should cause guilt. Food is not your enemy. In fact, there is no good food or bad food. We need to redefine our relationship with food. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating bland food. The idea is to make food work for you. Have goals and make sensible choices to reach them.
Is it healthy to give in to food cravings?
Yes, you should give in to food cravings, occasionally. Say, you are on a holiday or out with friends, it’s perfectly fine to eat to your heart’s content. Don’t be too hard on yourself. But ensure that you get back to a healthy diet – something that’s sustainable and defines who you are. Many people don’t realise that they use eating as an emotional crutch. Bulimia, anorexia, and other eating disorders call for timely diagnosis and counselling.
Should health/fitness studies be taken seriously?
Truth be told, there is no super exercise or superfood. Fads will come and go. Your goals need to be clear. Where do you find your harmony? Once you understand that, you can survive, even thrive, amidst the differing expert findings. Besides, what works today may not work after three months. You need to revisit your food and fitness habits from time to time. It’s an ongoing personal process.
So, what’s your take on the recent coconut oil debate?
Earlier, ghee was considered taboo; now, it’s called nectar. That’s the way food debates work! As I see it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with coconut oil. It’s a part of vegan diets. I, personally, prefer olive oil, though. However, all oils are high in calories. One gram of fat contains nine calories! So, moderation is the key. Ensure that your oil intake is limited to two tablespoons per day. A healthier alternative would be to consume nuts and seeds, such as sesame seeds, melon seeds, etc, with rich oil content.
What’s the ratio of diet to fitness for weight loss?
It’s 80% food, 20% exercise, and 100% attitude!
Is weight the gold standard for health?
You can’t judge someone’s health quotient on the basis of their weight. There are people who are obese, yet nutrition-deficient. On the other hand, there are those who are underweight, yet healthy. We need to take a holistic look at one’s genetic tendencies, lifestyle, and metabolism before deciding on a diet plan.
Can a general diet plan work for all?
By and large, a healthy diet works for everybody. Eating fresh foods, at regular intervals is the main feature. However, there may be variations based on certain health conditions. For instance, if you have diabetes, you need to eat every three hours. Similarly, for those who have high blood pressure, foods low in salt may be recommended. With diet plans, slow and steady is the mantra. Yo-yo diets are a big no-no.
Is it a good idea to emulate the fitness habits of celebrities?
As long as it inspires you to embark on a healthy lifestyle, go ahead and buy that fitness book written by your favourite celebrity. However, it’s important to be realistic about your goals. You have to consider the person’s genetic makeup and understand their professional realities before you blindly follow any fitness or diet plans.
Any last words on healthy eating?
It’s all about the mood. So, go in for variety; keep the portions small. Never skip a meal; have an early dinner. Plan a diet that works for your palate. Experiment with different recipes. Healthy food can be tasty, too. Don’t look at food in isolation. It needs to complement your lifestyle and aspirations. The right food can be the best stress buster!