good health
Smart swaps
Enjoy your favourite foods without compromising on taste. The key lies in substitutes that are tasty as well as healthy
Naini Setalvad Naini Setalvad

India is a foodie's paradise. Our faces light up when we add some 'good food' to our regular mundane days. From our weddings to our meals, we believe in a simple saying, the bigger the better. For us a good meal is incomplete without the strong aromas and fiery taste of our ingredients. Sweet, salty, spicy and tangy, our taste buds get satisfied only when one or more of these masalas tickle our palates.

The old adage "excess of everything is bad", fits true in our daily diet scenario. Heavy usage of spices cause burns, salt in excess leads to high blood pressure and the sugar is known for the harm it causes to all as it can lead to diabetes, heart diseases and a host of other diseases.

While it may be possible to go on a fad or crash diet and ignore these ingredients completely but at the same time let's not forget that each ingredient provides nutrients, vitamins and energy to our body in some form. The key here lies in making smart substitutions that lend taste to our dishes and also make for a healthy choice.

Exercise at least four days a week for half an hour
Exercise at least four days a week for half an hour

Some nutritionists claim that excess usage of chilli, especially red chilli, can harm the liver and cause burns in the stomach and lead to severe mouth ulcers
Some nutritionists claim that excess usage of chilli, especially red chilli, can harm the liver and cause burns in the stomach and lead to severe mouth ulcers

The ideal way to come to the right solution is to enjoy the meal and yet not worry about harming your health, by the intake of a balanced and right intake of all ingredients. It is difficult to tame our spoilt palate which only finds taste in unhealthy food. The easier route is to substitute the use of these ingredients by choosing the right choices over the ones we use daily.

How to reduce salt usage

  • Studies tell us that one of the fastest ways to lower the blood pressure for people suffering from high blood pressure is to eat less salt.

  • An adult should eat no more than six gm of salt a day, but most of us eat much more than this.

  • Interestingly most of the salt we eat every day is "hidden". Roughly 80 per cent of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods like bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals, and prepared or ready meals or takeaways. Only 20 per cent comes from the table salt we use for cooking.

Here lies the answer. We should be careful while buying the processed food.

Less use of sugar

  • We not only eat elaborate desserts also consume sugar daily in our beverages like tea, coffee, milk, juices etc. We need to eliminate or substitute it with a safe sweetener. It is crucial to note that the ideal sugar substitute is helpful for both diabetics and health-conscious individuals.

  • Over 110 studies over 20 years, have established the safety of sucralose. So choose a sugar substitute which is sucralose based.

  • We should also ensure that the substitutes we take do not harm our health and at the same time don't harm the taste of our food. These should not leave a bitter aftertaste and should be able to replicate the taste of sugar.

  • If you are cutting down on sugar intake to lose weight, it is essential that you look for a sweetener that adds 0 per cent calories to your food or beverages.

Eat less chillies

  • Chilli peppers, despite their fiery "hotness", are one of the very popular spices used in Indian foods.

  • Some nutritionists claim that excess usage of red chilli can harm the liver.

  • It can also cause burns in the stomach and lead to severe mouth ulcers.

  • An interesting substitute for chilli powder could be a dash of bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin.

With the robust lifestyle and the rising stress levels, it is difficult to keep a check on the food that we consume each day. It is advisable to be careful and chose wisely as it may harm us in the long run. Fad diets may give fantastic short-term results but these may also cause irreversible harm to our body. Always keep in mind; shortcuts may cut short your life. Be wise enough to eat right and in the right amounts to lead a longer, healthier and happier life.

The writer is a Mumbai-based renowned nutritionist, obesity and health consultant. She has a website

Tips for a healthy lifestyle

1 Drink a glass of water in the morning at room temperature. It will help to clear your system, build a higher metabolism rate and flush out toxins from your body. Some researchers even point out that it helps in reducing weight!

2 Lack of sleep can damage your physical health as you are alweays tired. Studies have shown that eight hours of sleep per day is the average requirement for adults.

3 Do not skip breakfast, as it is the most important meal of the day for a healthier lifestyle. If you do skip it, you will start bingeing on foods that are high in fat and sugar, but low in vitamins. Many studies say that breakfast eaters are significantly less likely to be obese and get diabetes as compared to non-breakfast eaters.

4 Study the ingredient lists of your favourite products as it shows whether the food you are about to buy contains unnatural and unhealthy ingredients. You can find information on the internet about various unhealthy ingredients. Be vigilant and study your favourite and other common foods that you usually buy. Harmful ingredients may cause various diseases, allergic reactions and even cancer.

5 Exercise at least four days a week for half an hour. Try to get as much physical activity as you can. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.