In a world inundated with fad diet plans and quick fixes promising overnight transformations, the true goal of being healthy often gets lost in the noise. Amidst the uproar of unrealistic diets and extravagant promises of shedding 10 kilos in seven days, you have to remember your true goal. It is a journey that begins not with deprivation or radical overhauls, but with healthy diet changes that are sustainable in the long term, without having to eliminate your favourite food.

Embarking on this sustainable diet journey demands a departure from the rigid confines of crash diets and rigid meal plans. Instead it calls for the mindful exploration of foods that resonate with your unique body, acknowledging that health is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour, but it’s about building a connection with the very essence of what sustains us.

From embracing whole, unprocessed foods to savouring the joy of mindful eating and replacing unhealthy snacks with wholesome alternatives, each step is a step ahead on the journey of a healthier, more vibrant you. We got in touch with Dr Priti Srivastava, dietitian and nutritionist, and Dr K.S. Himabindu, cardiologist and a nutrition expert, both of whom also share their expertise on coto, a web-based social community platform for women. Their guide to realistic diets and healthy diet changes are the only things you need to see this year!

Healthy diet plans and changes you can make this year

Dr K.S. Himabindu suggests these healthy alternatives to your favourite evening and mid-day deep-fried snacks. Here are some easy diet tweaks, tailored to the Indian palate for a wholesome, nutritious mealtime experience.

Satisfying samosas

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These delicious, deep-fried triangles hold a special place in the heart of every Indian. But the oil they are fried in, especially if you are getting it from the neighbourhood shop, adds kilos to your waistline faster than you can imagine. You can easily make them healthier by baking or air-frying them at home. You can also swap maida for whole-wheat flour, add veggies like pureed spinach to the dough, and make the filling from scratch for more control over its nutritional content.

Swap the pakora

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These deep-fried desi fritters come in various shapes and forms, and they are a staple every time the sky is overcast or there’s a little nip in the air. But they are little calorie bombs, thanks to the oil content. For some healthy diet changes, you can try swapping pakoras with healthy, grilled veggie kebabs that are flavourful, yet lighter on the tummy. However, if you still prefer eating pakoras, you can either shallow-fry them or toast them on a tawa with a little oil for flavour and crunch. So you still still have a plate full of delicious pakoras, sans the fat.

Health-friendly paani-puris

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The tangy, crunchy, spiced balls are a true summer delight. But did you know that while they may seem ligh and healthy, they’re filled with sugar and oil, courtesy the sweet chutneys, potatoes and the deep-fried puri. You can give this chaat treat a healthier touch by adding sprouted moong dal to the stuffing, and opt out of the sweet paani. Or if you are making them at home, you can use homemade chutney by using a lot less sugar.

Guilt-free sips

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Do you often find yourself gulping down a bottle of store-bought packaged juices or soft drinks when you are feeling thirsty or after a meal? These liquids spike up your blood sugar and leave you craving more, thus piling up your calorie intake. Instead, opt for freshly squeezed fruit juices diluted with water (or sparkling water for the fizz), coconut water, or herbal teas for a healthy diet change.

Titbits

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You may usually grab a packet of namkeen or chips for those 4:00 pm hunger pangs, but they do more harm than good. Ditch them and get yourself healthier treats such as roasted makhana or chana, homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, or baked vegetable chips.

Refined grains are a no-no

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All refined grains lack nutritional value and do no good for you. White rice, maida, and polished dals are staples in most Indian kitchens, but they lack fibre and nutrients due to the excessive refining that they go through in factories. You can instead swap these with whole grains like bajra flour, millets, brown rice and whole pulses for wholesome nutrition that will take you on a healthier route. Healthy diet changes are nothing but finding easy ways to incorporate food into your diet that you benefit from.

Some healthy diet plants to follow in 2024

Dr Priti Srivastava has curated the following two suggestions to further keep up with your journey of healthy diet changes.

Flexitarian diet

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The words “flexible” and “vegetarian” form the flexitarian diet, which promotes a predominantly plant-based approach, while allowing occasional consumption of meat and other animal products. Its flexibility appeals to individuals seeking the health benefits of a plant-focused diet without fully committing to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. By prioritising plant-derived foods and limiting animal products, this diet offers the potential for weight management and improved overall health, by giving the best of both worlds. Not only will you get to explore this new diet, but also learn the various simple food swaps that can make your meals healthier.

Mediterranean Diet

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Renowned for its heart-friendly appeal, the Mediterranean diet embraces culinary traditions of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil, this diet emphasises moderation and diverse nutrients. Studies consistently highlight its association with reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, and even cognitive decline. With a focus on fresh, unprocessed foods, it’s not just a diet but a lifestyle change promoting long-term health benefits and will also be an easy diet for Indians to follow with simple meal swaps.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What changes when you eat healthy?

Healthy eating will help you feel your best and have plenty of energy. And it is one of the best things you can do to prevent and control many health problems, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Can a healthy diet change your life?

By making small and gradual improvements in your food choices over time can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar and inflammation — all of which can improve your cardiovascular health.

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