A healthy diet is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and good mental and physical health. However, it can be difficult to figure out what exactly constitutes a healthy diet as it is extremely subjective and varies from individual to individual.
You may have certain health conditions such as diabetes or PCOS that require a specific diet plan. Your diet plan may also need to be modified depending on your physical activity level and whether you engage in a daily exercise routine. Similarly, a diet plan can be made for specific concerns such as weight loss or even weight gain.
To ensure that you follow the diet that is most suitable for you, it is advisable to consult with an expert. Uttiya Jana is a nutritionist with a Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of Calcutta. Her publications have been featured in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She brings cutting-edge academic research combined with her practical and experiential knowledge of over 10 years as a nutritionist to the table.
We interview her regarding some of the most common concerns regarding weight loss, comfort eating during the pandemic, balanced diets, and even touch upon how vegetarians can follow the keto diet.
Q: What are the biggest diet and nutrition myths common among Indians? How do we work on educating the public about the same?
A: The most common myth related to nutrition and diet is that no fat should be included in the diet for reducing weight. But what people don’t know is that fat does not make us fat. It is a myth that a no-fat diet can reduce body weight. Most importantly, fat plays a crucial role in our body, so a no-fat in the diet can make a person ill.
Proper nutrition education should be given to people, and most importantly, people should go to an expert who can give proper direction regarding their diet. Don’t go for magazine diets or YouTube diets because a random diet will not help you. Yes, you can become thin by implementing such diets, but these diets can also lead to other health complications. So, it’s better to take help from an expert who will consider all your medical conditions, age, physical activity level, and many other factors that are necessary to prepare a proper diet chart for an individual.
You have to be concerned about your body, so better late than never. It’s very important to have a balanced diet to stay healthy, fit, and active, and for this, you need expert help because only an expert can decide what should be included for a balanced diet.
Q: What are the most common concerns people come to you with?
A: The most common concerns are obesity and diabetes. These two are completely interrelated.
Nowadays, a lot of people are figure-conscious – everyone wants to reduce excess body fat and look thin. It can also be necessary to reduce weight for medical conditions such as hypo or hyperthyroidism, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, gout, and arthritis.
Diabetes cases are also very common as it’s a metabolic disorder, so diet plays a crucial role in controlling the sugar level in the blood. It is important to maintain a proper diet besides taking insulin or medication.
These two concerns are very common. Other than these, people with renal problems, liver disorders, gastric problems, skin and hair fall-related complications, and anxiety disorders also come to me for diet counseling.
Q: The keto diet is all the rage right now. How would you recommend a vegetarian follow this diet?
A: Yes, the keto diet is trending for the reduction of body weight. Here, the main source of the meal should be fat and protein with a very little amount of carbohydrates – less than 50gms per day.
Vegetarian people can consume different types of oil such as olive oil, rice bran oil, ghee, and butter as their fat source. For their protein source, they can use soybeans, rajma, different pulses, and nuts such as groundnuts, walnuts, and almonds. People can also consume cheese and full cream paneer, as well as some low-carb vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.
While the keto diet is extremely effective in reducing your weight, it’s not good for your health as it can cause some side effects. The keto diet is basically used for patients who are suffering from neurological disorders such as epilepsy. So, I would recommend that vegetarian people choose other balanced diets for weight reduction.
Q: Comfort eating has gone up during the lockdown. What would you say to people who feel guilty about this?
A: Food is directly related to your mood. So, during this lockdown, people are stressed and have more time at hand due to which they are eating what they want. This may have led to weight gain or an increase in your overall BMI, but no worries.
During times of stress, it is important to eat healthy meals, but also to eat comfort foods that will keep you mentally healthy and will bring you joy and satisfaction. The most important thing is to balance this comfort eating with regular exercise.
I do not recommend sacrificing your favorite foods for weight reduction. So, please don’t feel guilty, eat whatever brings you happiness and comfort, and try to exercise daily for both your mental and physical health.
Q: What are the easiest ways people can modify their regular diet for weight loss?
A: While a proper diet is necessary for weight loss, it is not the only factor.
Firstly, you must lead a healthy lifestyle where you get proper sleep at night, a minimum of 5-6 hours each night. This can improve your metabolism and provide adequate energy for the rest of the day.
Secondly, you have to select the right foods and their proper amounts to get all the essential nutrients needed for your body. An expert dietitian or nutritionist can help with this.
Thirdly, it is necessary to engage in regular physical exercise and yoga to balance energy consumption and expenditure.
And lastly, I would say, avoiding and dealing with stress as well as thinking positive will help keep your weight in control. This happens as stress release cortisol, a hormone that can make you put on weight. So, positive thinking is very important for a healthy mind and body.