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Supriya Bhattarai: What to eat, when, and why

Supriya Bhattarai: What to eat, when, and why

Dashain and Tihar are feasting times and we tend to eat with reckless abandon. But overindulgence has its downsides. It can lead to digestive issues and other health problems. So it’s important to enjoy festival delicacies without compromising on your health and fitness. What’s more, it’s important to eat right and eat well all year round. Following a good diet, one that provides your body with all the right nutrients should be your number one priority. Babita Shrestha from ApEx spoke to Supriya Bhattarai, a co-founder of Mitahara Diet Clinic and clinical nutritionist, to find out how to do that. 

First of all, what comprises a healthy diet?

A healthy diet isn’t about weight loss. You are always on a diet as long as you are eating something. A diet is not limited to specific foods but includes all your eating habits. Additionally, it’s crucial to integrate food and nutrition seamlessly into your overall lifestyle, which includes aspects like sleep, exercise, physical activity, spiritual well-being, and mental health. It’s also important to eat small, balanced meals every three to four hours. Each meal should include food groups like fruits, nuts, and seeds for optimum nutrition.  

How can we avoid overindulgence during the festive season?

‘Mitahara’ means ‘Moderate eating’ in Sanskrit and we often provide clients with practical tips they can follow to eat in moderation, which is the right way to eat. Firstly, it’s important to be mindful about portions when it comes to eating. Next is to never compromise with exercise. Usually during the holidays, our sleep schedule gets pretty messed up. Inadequate sleep can lead to unhealthy cravings so you must sleep enough and sleep well. Also, hydration is important, and so is saying ‘no’ when you have had enough. Oftentimes, we are pressured to eat and we keep munching whether we want to or not. 

Can food help prevent or cure diseases? 

The right food can keep diseases at bay. For instance, if you have high cholesterol, fiber can help you as it binds cholesterol in the intestine and removes it from the body. Those with high blood pressure can benefit from foods containing nitrates, commonly found in items like green leafy vegetables and beetroot among others. If you have diabetes, you must avoid beetroot and opt for foods with a lower glycemic index like avocado, barley, and whole grains. Likewise, osteoporosis, common in menopausal women, can be addressed by consuming calcium-rich foods, with sesame being a good option while omega-3-rich foods like flaxseed are good for a healthy heart.

What are some things to keep in mind while eating? 

Be mindful of carbohydrate intake and avoid things with high glycemic index like white rice and flour. Opt for whole grains like millet and barley instead. You can get plant-based proteins and healthy fats like omega-3 from sources like flax seeds. Many people don’t consume enough fiber. So, I’d suggest prioritizing eating fruits, salads, and green vegetables. Include colorful foods in your diet. The more colorful your plate, the better. Also, drink green tea as it’s rich in antioxidants. 

I’d also like to mention that loss of appetite is very common, especially in older people. You should focus on balancing all the macronutrients to avoid muscle wasting and undernourishment. Work-related stress and lifestyle changes can also reduce appetite. While food choice alone might not boost appetite significantly, increasing the frequency of meals might help. You can start with your favorite foods. Also, it’s a good idea to eat fruits and nuts between meals. 

Is fasting good for us? 

Occasional fasting is good for your gut. It can help reduce inflammation in the body and tackle oxidative stress and cholesterol issues as well. But to get the optimum benefits, you must fast for 18 hours or more. However, if you are pregnant, have health issues, or suffer from eating disorders, then fasting isn’t for you. 

How can one practice mindful eating? 

The best way to do this would be to maintain a food diary where you log in what you eat and when you eat. Reviewing your food diary time and again can help you identify your eating pattern, and dietary habits, and also figure out if some specific times or emotions trigger excessive food intake. You have to understand your eating habits to be in control of them.

Can you share a  trick to tackle food cravings? 

There’s a behavioral hack that’s extremely effective. ‘Breathe it out, Drink it out, and Sweat it Out.’ This helps during intense cravings. If you have an intense episode of craving, first try practicing deep belly breathing ten times then drink some water or herbal teas. If it doesn't subside try going for a short walk.

How can we take care of our gut health?

The intestinal microbiome is often called our ‘second brain’ since it influences our emotions through the chemicals it produces. So it’s imperative to pay attention to your gut health. This is where the 3P’s (Prebiotic, Probiotic, and Polyphenols) come into play. Probiotic foods include fermented foods like yogurt which will help promote the increase of friendly bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. Think barley, apple, and banana. Polyphenols are found in green vegetables, green tea, berries, and apples.