good health

Meals that work for women
Most working women neglect their basic nutritional needs. Ironically, the busier you are, the more crucial it is for you to eat healthy. Making healthy eating a part of your life can be tricky but it is essential
Dr. Anjali Mukerjee

Consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Carry fruits, raisins or nuts to office to snack on whenever you feel hungry
Consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Carry fruits, raisins or nuts to office to snack on whenever you feel hungry

From family to office, women today are masters at multi-tasking and juggling but when it comes to eating a balanced diet, many neglect their basic nutritional needs. Take the case of 29-year-old Ashwini. Happily married with a five-year-old son she came to me feeling edgy over her weight gain. Her marketing job kept her on her toes all day and she insisted she never overate. A look at Ashwini's day clearly indicated that her demanding routine was the cause of her problems.

It's a similar story for many women leaving for work with a cup of coffee hurriedly with some biscuits or cheese and toast, another two cups of coffee or tea at office, lunch is usually eaten out with friends or clients or some sandwiches or a dosa from a fast food outlet. Another cup of coffee in the evening with some cake or cookies shared with colleagues, perhaps followed by a small bar of chocolate to get rid of those gnawing feeling of irritability that creep up. Dinner is often ordered from a restaurant because your cook plays truant and you're too tired to cook. Result? You're having too much sugar, fats, processed foods and caffeine that will make you feel anything but good.

Weight gain, poor concentration, restlessness, irritability, low energy, hyperactivity, allergies, frequent colds, earaches and food cravings are all manifestations of a poor diet.

Making healthy eating a part of your life can be tricky if you are a working woman. Time, habit and convenience probably determine your food choices. Understandably ready-to-eat food packets or frozen foods do seem very tempting - they're convenient and time-saving. Unfortunately most packaged and processed foods are full of sugar, fat, preservatives and contain little or no nutritional value.

Ironically, the busier you are the more crucial it is for you to eat healthy. And healthful eating need not be too time consuming; all it requires is some awareness and planning. You might be surprised to learn that the poorer your diet the more cravings you will have for sugar, refined foods and caffeine. Interestingly, your cravings and taste buds are influenced by habit so if you reach for a carrot stick instead of chips every time you crave for something crunchy, your body will soon start asking for carrot sticks. The more you attune your body to eating nutritious foods, the more your body will crave it - even to a point where you crave for fruits and veggies the way you do junk food

More than two cups of coffee daily can cause insomnia, stress and a fast heartbeat
More than two cups of coffee daily can cause insomnia, stress and a fast heartbeat

Idli-sambar is a good option while travelling or eating out
Idli-sambar is a good option while travelling or eating out

Avoid eating out at fast-food outlets
Carry a tiffin; Avoid eating out at fast-food outlets

Some easy ways to fit healthy eating into your life would be to wake up a little earlier every morning so that you can fix yourself a healthy breakfast. You could carry some fruits, raisins or nuts to office to snack on whenever you feel hungry.

If you order food or eat out frequently; here are some pointers to opt for healthy choices.

Restaurant food is usually high in calories, fat, salt and sugar. However, it is possible for you to make smart choices while eating out by keeping the following in mind.

A restaurant that offers seafood is a good choice. Choose dishes that you can have grilled, baked, barbequed, steamed or roasted. Request that your food be prepared in less oil and that sauces, toppings, dressings and cheese be served separately. You could have a salad dressing made of olive oil and vinegar. If you're having a sizzler avoid the sauce and French fries, if you're having soup avoid the ones that are corn, cream and white sauce-based and settle for clear soup. Always have whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Have tandoori rotis instead of naans and dals without extra butter toppings or 'tadka'. Avoid fried foods and sugar totally.

When travelling out of city: Your daily menu could be like this for breakfast you could have fruits or milk with some cereal. For lunch have a sprout or pasta salad with a clear soup or an idli-sambar or tandoori rotis with some vegetables. For dinner opt for steamed chicken or fish with tandoori rotis and some vegetables

Smart daily choices:

n Stress on variety: By eating the same foods everyday for breakfast or lunch you're likely to develop a sensitivity to it which in turn could intensify your craving for it. An optimum diet consists of fresh foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and fibre, low in fat, salt and sugar and moderate in protein.

n Eat more complex carbohydrates and whole foods: Ideally complex carbohydrates which are the body's fuel should constitute 40-50 per cent of your diet. Consume more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains and reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates such as refined sugar, maida and alcohol they're high in calories and low in food value. Similarly avoid 'refined' foods such as white bread and settle for whole foods, which are those from which no part has been removed or chemically altered. Whole foods nourish the body with their vitamin, mineral, protein and fat content.

n Reduce fat and sugar intake: Just about one tablespoon of vegetable oil fulfils the body's daily requirement of essential fatty acid. And don't be fooled by 'cholesterol free' packages most are laden with calories and fat. Go easy on saturated fat that is found in animal protein, dairy products, coconut and palm oils. Likewise, you can derive all the energy your body needs from fruits, grains and other carbohydrates instead of sugar.

n Reduce caffeine and salt intake: Limit yourself to 1-2 cups of coffee daily' anything over that could wear down your adrenal glands and stress your body causing restlessness, insomnia and a racing heartbeat. A good way to kick the coffee habit is to withdraw slowly by mixing half decaffeinated coffee with your regular as you cut down. Herbal teas are a healthier option. Likewise, the body's daily salt requirement is just about one fifth of a teaspoon. To prevent a salt overload avoid processed, packaged or canned products. Excess salt over works the kidneys and contributes to water retention and potassium loss.

Above all, eat in a relaxed atmosphere, eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly, never skip breakfast and eat smaller meals more frequently.

The writer is a nutritionist. She treats obesity and related health disorders online. She can be reached at [email protected] /

Health Capsules

Sugary drinks may up uterine cancer risk

Washington: Postmenopausal women who consume sugar-sweetened drinks are at a higher risk of developing cancer of the endometrium - the lining of the uterus - a new study has warned.

Researchers found that postmenopausal women who reported the highest intake of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 78 per cent increased risk for estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer (the most common type of this disease). The more sugar-sweetened beverages a woman drank, the higher her risk. "Other studies have shown increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has paralleled the increase in obesity," said Inoue-Choi, who led the study at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "Obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogens and insulin than women of normal weight. Increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer," said Inoue-Choi. Researchers used data from 23,039 postmenopausal women. Between 1986 and 2010, 506 type I and 89 type II endometrial cancers were recorded among the women studied. "Too much added sugar can boost a person's overall calorie intake and may increase the risk of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer," Inoue-Choi added. The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. PTI

Chew more, eat less

People who increased the number of times they chewed their food before swallowing ate less over the course of a meal, says a new study. Slow eaters tend to be slimmer. But researchers didn't know whether asking people to chew more would change the amount of food they ate.

Steroid injections risky for preemies

Steroid injections given to pregnant women before they deliver a premature (preemie) baby may increase the risk of the child developing behavioural and emotional problems later in life, say researchers. Mothers, who are expected to give birth prematurely, are often given an infusion of glucocorticoids, steroids that mimic the natural hormone cortisol, to try to help the baby's lungs mature more swiftly.

Plant nutrient cocktail kills cancer cells

A new study has found that a combo of six natural compounds in vegetables, fruits, spices and plant roots killed 100 per cent of sample breast cancer cells without toxic side-effects on normal cells. "A primary cause of both the recurrence of breast cancer and deaths is a group of cancer stem cells that evade therapy. These, often multi-drug-resistant, cells have the ability to generate new tumours," Madhwa Raj, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, said. The research team tested 10 known protective chemical nutrients found in foods like broccoli, grapes, apples, tofu, and turmeric root before settling upon six curcumin known as tumeric, isoflavone from soybeans, indo-3-carbinol from cruciferous plants, c-phycocyanin from spirulina, reservatrol from grapes, and quercetin, a flavonoid present in fruits, vegetables, and tea. The researchers administered these six at bio-available levels to both breast cancer and control cells. They tested the compounds individually and in combination. They found that the compounds were ineffective individually. When combined, though, the super cocktail suppressed breast cancer cell growth by more than 80 per cent, inhibited migration and invasion, caused cell cycle arrest, and triggered the process leading to cell death resulting in the death of 100 per cent of the breast cancer cells in the sample. The researchers observed no harmful effects on the control cells. The study is published in the Journal of Cancer.

Premature births rising in India

Twenty-one per cent of the babies born in India are premature and the numbers are rising both in rural as well as urban areas, says a report. The report was released by the Indian Foundation for Premature Babies (IFPB) to raise awareness on pre-term births, a leading cause of infant mortality in India. "The paradigm of premature deliveries in India is changing and it has become a disease of the marginalised as well as the affluent," said Dr Lata Bhat, Fortis hospital. Around three lakh pre-term babies die annually in India. Late marriage, stress, junk food, lifestyle diseases all lead to infertility among urban women. They are then forced to go for assisted reproductive techniques to get pregnant which at times cause premature deliveries. In rural areas, infections at the time of delivery, poor health of the mother and advanced maternal age are the culprits. "Birth spacing, treatment of maternal infections, steroid injections, antiseptic cream for the umbilical cord and antibiotics to treat newborn infections can saave three-quarters of premature babies," said Dr Neelam Kler, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Tylenol in pregnancy may affect growth

Expectant mothers often take Tylenol, with the active ingredient acetaminophen, to deal with back pain, headaches or mild fevers during pregnancy. But frequent use may be linked to poorer language skills and behaviour problems among babies, says a new study. As the most popular over-the-counter drug in the US, Tylenol has been extensively studied in relation to premature birth and miscarriage, with no connections found.

TV impacts cognitive development

A new study has suggested that preschoolers who have a TV in their bedroom and are exposed to more background TV have a weaker understanding of other people's beliefs and desires. Researchers from the Ohio State University tested 107 children and their parents to determine the relationship between preschoolers' TV exposure and their understanding of beliefs, intentions, and feelings, known as theory of mind. Parents were asked how many hours of TV their children were exposed to, including background TV. The children were then given tasks based on theory of mind. These tasks assessed whether the children could acknowledge that others can have different beliefs and desires, that beliefs can be wrong, and that behaviours stem from beliefs. The researchers found that having a bedroom TV and being exposed to more background TV was related to a weaker understanding of mental states, even after accounting for differences in performance based on age and the socioeconomic status of the parent. However, preschoolers whose parents talked with them about TV performed better on theory of mind assessments. "Children with more developed theories of mind are better able to participate in social relationships. These children can engage in more sensitive, cooperative interactions with other children and are less likely to resort to aggression as a means of achieving goals," researcher Nathanson said. The study is published in the Journal of Communication. Agencies