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Seven Ways to Make 2019 a New Year

Another calendar turns its page. Another morning begins. A few hours of excitement and resolve and the very next week, we relapse into old habits, bad rituals and deep-dyed routines about our food and life.

So how is 2019 going to be any different from any other year if we continue the ignorance, oblivion and almost brutal neglect of our health and happiness?

It is simple. You do not have to boil the whole ocean. Just start with a small drop. And a few red flags.

Warnings Abound Look at some recent headlines about WHO (World Health Organisation). Among other issues like epidemics, malnutrition and poverty, this flagship body is busy being worried about salt-intake! Yes, its member States have taken a resolution for 2025 right away, agreeing to reduce the global population’s intake of salt by 30 per cent by then. This active intervention emerged from a consensus that there is a dire need to curb the spike in diabetes and obesity in adults and adolescents as well as in childhood overweight issue by 2025.

As per the 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13), that was approved in May 2018 by the Health Assembly (for guiding the work of WHO in 2019–2023), reduction in salt/sodium intake and elimination of industrially-produced trans-fats from the food supply have been picked up in GPW13 as part of WHO’s priority actions. Closer home, as per the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s 2018 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR), a paradox has been observed in South Asia - The fastest growing economies of the world but also the regions that are struggling with triple malnourishment: food insecurity, undernourishment and obesity. On the one hand, 38 percent of children are undernourished; and on the other hand, regions like India also see a surge in lifestyle diseases and obesity.

When global think-tanks are getting concerned about the shadow that has crept inside every country, food plate and demographic-strata, how can individuals stay blind and oblivious to health issues?

It is time to get really serious about what to eat, when to eat and what not to eat. Try embracing these simple checks. A little consciousness and discipline can go a long way in ensuring good health for good.

1. Don’t snack and drive

In other words, it is time to attend snacking with the same gravity and responsibility as is given to substance-abuse, because, hey, it is a form of abuse after all. Stop eating junk snacks. Avoid fried stuff. Get into the habit of replacing burgers and processed cans with plates of fresh fruit or dried nuts. If you are too busy to cook, go for healthy ready to eat organic breakfast options.

2. Watch fat, not fat people

Unhealthy weight gain is an invisible monster. It does not appear in pounds but inches. As per WHO metrics, total fat should not exceed 30 per cent of total energy intake and when it comes to intake of saturated fats, the limit should not cross 10 percent of total energy intake. For trans-fats, it has to be less than one percent of total energy intake. Industrially-produced trans-fats are a big no-no, but they are the ones easily consumed without blinking an eye. According to NIN (National Institute of Nutrition), fats are important - about 1/5th of diet or 20 per cent should be devoted to fats all three kinds -polyunsaturated, mono-saturated and omega-3 fatty acids.  But pick nuts (almonds, walnuts, apricots and figs) and good fats.

Of course, in our fast-paced lifestyles, the dominance of saturated fats and trans-fats is too much to get rid of in one single day. So start small. Go for fats that are not processed or refined through too many factories. A small spoon of organic ghee is better than gallons of unhealthy fat that make their way into stomachs via junk-food packets.

3. Open your mouth – No Ha Ha Ha

Be sweet but hold that sugar. WHO also recommends limiting intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake – as part of a healthy diet.  This is again where one needs to observe those biscuits and seemingly-harmless condiments and side-food items that are not easy to spot. One may be consuming far more sugar than one ought to and may never realise it unless every pinch of sugar is carefully observed.

4. Pass the Salt - Ahead

It is high time that we realize that salt is just a taste-enhancer and a prop to support us with key minerals – but only in moderation. Salt should be around less than 5 g per day (equivalent to sodium intake of less than 2 g per day) if one needs to take care of hypertension, stroke and heart diseases.

But today’s processed foods are bristling with energy, fats, free sugars and salt/sodium. We need to wake up to the benefits of a healthy diet. That’s not tucked into sugar, fat and salt for sure. It is somewhere else.

5. Pick whole stuff. Eat Food. Don’t Drink/Swallow it.

Let us try to go back to what our forefathers did. We may, thanks to humanity’s progress, not need to hunt for fruits and cereals but we can at least start eating them more and in a proper manner. There should be enough fruit, vegetables, other dietary fibre, millets, whole grains, legumes (lentils and beans), nuts etc. on our plate. Go for unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat etc. and fruits instead of stuff that comes out of assembly lines.

6. Have fun in the kitchen

Visit it once in a while and not in a hurry. Do not dash for the next meal. Let us use our fingers to steam or boil food instead of frying it in oil and swiping right on that food app. Picking groceries with some patience, and with our own hands is more rewarding than going it in haste or outsourcing it. Eating as per one’s body type and attention to choices is going to change one’s health drastically. If one wants to cut down on dairy-food or use lean meat or choose organic-sauces, then the shopping has to be more discreet and planned than it was till now.

In short, a balanced, responsible and conscious diet is not that hard to achieve. Including all essential nutrients is not some elaborate mathematics. It is simple. Once some basic habits seep into our daily schedules and diligence, we can be sure that we are taking adequate protein, carbohydrates, fat, micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and even sugar or salt. But only as much as is needed. Just add a bit of that time factor now.

7. Sense and Time – Two Sauces for Good Food

Let us remember the five major food-groups - fruits and vegetables, cereals and pulses, meat and dairy products and fats and oils. Do remember that we need to consume them at the right hour and in the right portions.

Let us ditch those breads, biscuits, milled polished rice and refined wheat flour. Let us pick better carbs and good proteins (eggs and egg whites, yoghurt, milk and sprouts) but also remind ourselves to eat them in the morning and reduce portions during evening hours. Eating brown rice and millets give a higher nutritive value but it is better to have them for breakfast or lunch. As per the NIN, 30 grams of cereals and millets along with 100 grams of starchy vegetables is a good meal. WHO also noted that eating at least 400 g, or five portions, of fruit and vegetables per day, can curtail the risk of NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) and ensure an adequate daily intake of dietary fibre.

As to those pre-packaged snacks, doughnuts, cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits, sauces and wafers, we can always accommodate them on a cheat-day.

Let us take charge of our lives. So that when 2029 arrives, we are ready to greet it happily and healthily.


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