Eat 3 square meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Have a good breakfast [never skip] opt for something quick and healthy like oats, plain cereal [add fruits and milk to both of these to improve flavour and value], whole wheat bread [use a little peanut butter instead of butter], dosas [ragi or wheat – without oil].

Make sure your lunch and dinner is balanced with a cereal item [rice, chapati, ragi balls, whole wheat bread], pulse/egg/meat [for protein – a must with each meal], vegetables [both cooked and raw if possible] and yogurt [contains protein and B vitamins] to finish it off. Cafeteria and restaurant meals usually serve these items – say no to the extras like the sweet, fryums, pooris and oily gravies.

If you’re packing lunch, then try a khichdi with veggies or a vegetable pulao with either egg or channa. Or be creative and try a combination of vegetables with grams [cabbage- channa subji or palak- moong curry] along with phulkas or dosas. Add a raitha to any of the above and you have a complete, balanced meal.

Also, ensure that you eat on time no matter how much work you have to complete. If you skip or delay eating constantly you could develop acidity / heartburn or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease. When you’re hungry, you don’t have enough willpower to resist the junk you like.

Examples of nutritious evening snacks are – tender coconut water, buttermilk, marie biscuits, popcorn [not the microwave kind], whole wheat sandwich [no butter], salad [without dressing], fruits, boiled or roasted corn, corn bhel, sprouts, dhokla/khandvi and fruit juice [no sugar]. Opt for these instead of the junk. Don’t buy the unhealthy stuff at all – keep your kitchen stocked with the above goodies so even if you are tempted, you can’t get it.

Tea or coffee twice a day won’t harm you but if you’re taking more than that – the stimulant compunds in these beverages will add to your stress levels, not bring them down.

Eat a little less cereal foods at night but make sure the protein and vegetable items are there. Eat dinner two hours before going to bed. If, unavoidably, you’re eating late, sit for half an hour before sleeping. Here’s one you’ve probably heard before – Eat just enough to feel satisfied, be aware of what and how much you’re eating at all times and don’t overeat just because the food is tasty. Eat like this and you won’t have to worry about weight gain.

If it helps, plan the day’s eating starting with times of meals and what you’re having for each. Also, you can prepare a week’s menu so that you don’t have to think too much about what to cook.

Save money by using less oil. You only need half a litre per adult per month. Opt for Safflower [kardi] / Sesame [til] / Groundnut / Mustard / Rice bran oil rather than plain sunflower oil. There are a variety of blends also available in the market.

Carry a bottle of water to work, make sure you drink at least one and a half litres in a day. More if you sweat a lot or if you’re exercising really vigorously.

Quit smoking! You’re destroying most of the vitamins that are present in the food you eat. Once you kick the habit … enjoy ….being able to breathe deeply, an enhanced sense of smell, rejuvenated taste buds, improved skin tone, fresh smelling clothes and good breath.

Lastly, EXERCISE. The rule of thumb is it should be vigorous and something you enjoy so that it’s sustainable. If you don’t make time for organized exercise, you could walk briskly on campus, use cycles or even climb stairs. 30 – 45 minutes of vigorous exercise, 5 times a week keeps you at your normal weight, your digestive system healthy, energy levels balanced throughout the day, reduces stress and risk of developing lifestyle related diseases later on in life. Keep your exercise schedule simple yet flexible and. If you didn’t wake up early this morning, make time for it in the evening or before dinner – even short bursts of brisk walking or jogging for ten minutes done at different times during the day are OK. If you’re overweight, an exercise regime along with the above principles of eating will get you back in shape at a steady pace.

Being healthy is a choice that you make. You can begin by simply becoming aware of the health – related choices you’re already making every day. Become aware of what you put in your mouth. The experience of taste is fleeting, your body actually has to deal with whatever you eat. Don’t take it for granted.

You don’t have to implement everything discussed here all at once. Take small, consistent steps and once these become habits, start with the next few steps. If you over-indulge or aren’t sticking to the plan you made, don’t become discouraged, get back on it NOW. Here’s wishing you a long, healthy life!

Smitha Suresh
Smitha Suresh did her MSc in Food Science & Nutrition.
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