Most people agree that there’s room for improvement in their food habits. However, do you grapple with the thought of healthy eating, because you are not quite sure what that means? Don’t worry, because there is always a starting point for each one of us.
As a fitness consultant, I see many people around me having no or very little knowledge of what’s healthy and not, and the feel-good and motivational catch phrases that are thrown around all the time in ‘fitness’ circles, like ‘Clean Eating,’ or ‘Calorie Tracking,’ or even a simple one like ‘Dieting,’ only tends to leave them confused even more! Then of course, there are hundreds of those diet names, that sound so important and yet make very little sense. One way of working around this is to start researching from scratch and learn about all these terms, the logic and scientific rationale of the followers, the deviations and modifications possible, the side effects…. and the list will not really end.
If you are among those who don’t have the inclination for this, then there is no need to despair. ‘Healthy’ eating habits are a result mostly of watching what you eat. Being conscious of what you buy. So, to help you get started, I am going to give you a reality check about some of the supposedly healthy items that you have been stocking up in your kitchen since forever. Below is the list of 5 food items that are quietly sewing up your clothes a little tighter every night –
1. PACKAGED FOODS: I see people’s pantries and refrigerators packed with Nutella, breakfast cereals, muesli, flavoured spreads, frozen smilies, readymade soups, etc.
Did you ever care to flip the bottle or the box to read the food label? I am assuming NO! The first ingredient on the label is what makes 70 percent of that product. For e.g., the first ingredient on the rear label of Nutella is sugar and then vegetable oil. Edible vegetable oil is nothing but refined fat, as its nutrients have been stripped off in the refining process. In the long run, this might definitely contribute to a fatty liver!
Second very common ingredient you will notice on the back label of these products is invert syrup – a mix of both glucose and fructose that gives you a sense of satiety. This is sugar that makes you yearn for more sugar and hence a vicious circle is created. So while these packaged foods make promises of ‘NO ADDED SUGAR,’ they still add glucose, fructose, or chemical sweeteners to make it taste better.
So, the first and easiest thing to do to clean up all the ‘unhealthy’ junk from your shelves, is to stop feeding yourself and your family this category of ‘unreal’ quickfixes. Instead make them cheese dips and spreads at home.
2. CONFECTIONARIES: Cakes, biscuits, rusks, etc. are a complete no no. In my opinion, these are the worst culprits. Biscuits and confectionary products cannot be low on calories because all major ingredients are extremely calorific with little or no nutritional benefits. Refined flour, hydrogenated fat (which is a type of trans fat,) sugar…. all these can cause various health disorders such as obesity, diabetes etc.
I see everyone recklessly hogging on biscuits, puffs, cakes, mathis, etc every evening, on the pretext of ‘high tea!’ And then they say – ‘I eat only one roti at night!’ How can you not gain weight when you have consumed calories equivalent to four rotis already along with your evening chai?
So think twice before eating anything mindlessly. Always remember, except water (and a few other things as well) every other food item has calories – plain to see, or hidden. It is on you to use your common sense to make healthy decisions. If cakes and biscuits are your poison, learn how to bake. That way, you’ve not only fixed your sweet cravings, you’ve also picked up a new skill!
3. SUGARY DRINKS AND JUICES: Fruit juices are often perceived as healthy. However, what many people fail to realize is that fruit juices are also laden with sugar. The small amount of vitamins and minerals in the juice do not make up for the empty calories contributed by the large amount of sugar in it. Take a look at this – 350 ml of coca cola contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar, whereas 350 ml of canned juice contains almost 9 teaspoons of sugar. These juices are just a euphemism for brightly coloured sugar water.
Controlled metabolic studies show that liquid sugar can cause insulin resistance, raise triglycerides, and cause belly fat accumulation in as little as 10 weeks.
So please keep this in mind next time before reaching out for those sugar-loaded tetra packs.
4. LOW FAT AND DIET FOOD: I am pretty sure that grabbing ‘low fat’ and ‘diet’ stuff feels like a failsafe option to you. But while our shopping baskets are bursting with these so called guilt-free foods, our waist lines are getting bigger. Remember this – the products labelled as ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’ might be low on fats, but they are chock full of the other calorie-heavy nutrients like sugars and carbs. In fact, low fat foods aren’t much better for you than their full-fat counterparts. In the name of ‘low fat,’ more sugar, salt, and several chemical additives are added to make the food taste better.
Fats have had a bad rap, but they play a significant role in weight management, absorbing nutrients, maintaining healthy skin and hair, regulating body temperature, insulating internal organs and much more. Obviously, not all fats are created equally, that’s why healthy fats are recommended.
Can’t do without that sugar in your tea? Can’t resist the chocolate and the pastries on the dessert counter? Well, here’s a quick look at this particular compound that most people simply cannot do without.
No nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats, and no enzymes – just empty and quickly digestible calories that actually leach out minerals from the body during digestion – that is the definition of Sugar. It puts the body on a loop, whereby feeding it more sugar, just makes it demand for even more sugar. I am often asked how much sugar can one consume safely. In my opinion, sadly, there is no safe amount of processed or refined sugar to be consumed. The naturally found sugars in fruits and vegetables are balanced by the fibre and enzymes which slow down the sugar absorption and do not overload the liver. Processed sugars, on the other hand, stress the liver, which can lead to a fatty liver, may increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and result in many more adverse health conditions.
Want to quit sugar but not sure how? Let me give you an easy tip to quit sugar if you are addicted to it: start by cutting down your sugar intake to half. If you drink 2 cups of tea or coffee, stop adding sugar to your second or evening cup of tea for 3-4 days. On the fifth day, reduce the sugar in the evening tea further by half for next 4 days. You might get some cravings in between, but just hold tight, and drink loads of water when cravings strike. On the 9th day, stop all added processed sugar. Ta-da! You’ve done it!
You will be surprised to see how quickly you can actually overcome this addiction. Just take one step at a time to start your fitness journey. The main thing is to keep at it, and not give up. So, here’s to eating healthy and eating wholesome food!
Therefore, Carpe Diem!
Author Credits – Swati Sodhi