Food Inspired Healthy Living - Striking a Balance Between Healthy & Tasty

From the perspective of a self-proclaimed conscious foodie…

Food is a source of nourishment for all living beings, but for me and many like me, food is a lot more. Food is passion, food is an emotion, food is love, food is a hobby. I think of myself as a foodie - my life revolves around food. From planning everyday meals and experimenting with recipes and ingredients to exploring new cuisines and food-inspired cultures, food forms a large part of my life. Even when I travel or visit a new place, it's the local food, the hidden eateries, and the worshipped food stalls that excite me the most. I do my research in advance, as many of you might relate, so as to not miss out on experiencing the best foods a city or a region has to offer.

With that said, I am also quite health conscious. So, although I am always thinking about food, as years have gone by, my outlook towards food has changed. I am no longer that gluttonous eater who cannot be satisfied unless there are hordes of junk and fatty fried snacks, or sugary sweet delights involved. For me, it's more about balancing tasty with healthy. I have my cravings like every other person out there, but now, I know how to control them while also satiating my cravings. So, here are some tips on how I came about being a conscious foodie and how you can be too!

Don’t wait till you turn hangry

When hunger strikes, all sense of control disappears. Feeling hangry is a real emotion! It has struck me more than once. It turns me into a greedy little pig who can only be satisfied with large amounts of tasty, unhealthy foods. If I am hangry and have to order food, I almost always go for burgers and fries or cheesy pizzas or oily and colourful Hakka noodles and fried wontons. But, if I’m yet to reach that threshold of hunger, it’s easier to order healthy (also tasty) food like a whole wheat sub full of veggies and roast chicken or appam and vegetable stew. So make sure you cook or pick your phone to order a little before you get too hungry.

Plan your meals in advance

The most times I end up ordering is when I haven’t planned a meal. And that’s why I have started making it a point to plan meals in advance. Decide during lunch what you would be cooking for dinner and at dinner, your menu for breakfast and maybe even lunch if you are that free. Want to make dosas the next day? Soak the grains and pulses the previous night so you are not left with a reason to not cook and order instead. And if you are too lazy to cook an elaborate meal, there’s always this delightful soul food you can turn to - dal khichdi! Minimum effort, a good amount of nutrition and can be embellished with ghee tadka (and whatever else you fancy) for that extra kick.

Craving junk? Make it at home!

Who said healthier options can’t be as tasty? If you are craving junk food, making it at home is always going to be healthier. You have control over your ingredients - from the amount and type of oil to the source and quality of ingredients used. Plus, you can customise it by adding and eliminating ingredients to your liking. and adding your twist to the popular dishes.

Replace ingredients with their healthier siblings

You can get healthier by eating the same food but by substituting your ingredients with healthier ones - like replacing white polished rice with hand-pounded or brown rice, refined flour noodles/pasta with whole wheat or sugar with jaggery, date syrup or honey. If you come to my house today, chances are you won’t find any sugar, refined flour, or white rice in my pantry. But, honestly, I now prefer these whole ingredients, one because I have developed a taste for them and two because they are actually tastier - they have earthier tones, bolder textures, and heightened flavours.

Expand your palate

We are surrounded by a bounty of ingredients all offering different flavours, textures, and nutrients. So it's important your diet is versatile and you keep trying new types of foods and incorporating new ingredients in your diet. Apart from the nutritional value, trying new foods is also very satisfying and broadens your palate and introduces you to flavours that can be delightfully surprising.

Start your day right

One thing that has now become a part of my routine is starting my day with a big bowl of fruits or a loaded fruit/vegetable smoothie. When I start my day right, I feel less guilty even if I end up succumbing to those cravings later in the day. Make sure your breakfast packs all the right nutrients - fresh fruits, seeds and nuts, eggs, oats/granola so that as the day progresses, even if you digress from healthy eating, you have at least packed some nutritional power in your stomach early in the day - which will help with your gut health and metabolism to digest the trash you might end up eating during the day.

Lastly, don’t overthink

Being healthy physically is important but so is your mental health. So avoid fixating on your health to an extent that it stresses you out and affects your mental and emotional wellbeing. While eating well is important, so is giving in to your cravings sometimes and having a good time. What works for me is keeping weekends open for all the new foods I want to try and to fulfill my cravings for unhealthy food. I then make up for it during the week by loading every meal with lots of nutrition, chock-a-block with veggies, and pulses, sprouts, and all things healthy. Although this works for me, for you it might be something completely different...just find your sweet spot. Find that balance and stick to it!

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