As the festive season rolls in with parties, social gatherings, and the inevitable indulgence in delicious food, many of us face the challenge of balancing celebration with health. In my recent interview with Farzana Chaudry on BBC, we explored the intricacies of making traditional Indian festive dishes healthier without compromising on taste, and the role of mindfulness in fostering healthier eating habits.

Some of the key points discussed are:

Making Traditional Dishes Healthier

The key to healthier Indian festive dishes lies in subtle modifications. Reducing quantities of ingredients like ghee, oil, sugar, and jaggery by 10% to 20% can make a significant difference. This gradual reduction is hardly noticeable but effectively cuts down on excessive fats and sugars. Over time, as you keep tweaking these quantities, your family’s palate adapts without feeling a stark difference in taste. It’s a gentle approach to healthier festive favourites, ensuring both taste and health go hand in hand.

Mindful Plating at Buffets

Buffet-style meals, a common sight in Desi homes during festivities, pose a particular challenge. The trick is to start by filling your plate with healthier options first – think vegetables, whole grains, and proteins like dal, chicken, fish, or paneer. By prioritising these nutritious choices, you create less room for less healthy options like pakoras, samosas, and parathas. This strategy not only ensures a balanced intake but also subtly reduces the quantity of indulgent foods consumed.

Navigating Social Pressures

During social gatherings and family events, refusing food, especially those lovingly prepared by someone like an ‘Auntiji’, can be socially challenging. The approach here is to try a little bit of everything, focusing more on healthier dishes and less on unhealthy ones. When it comes to sweets like gulab jamuns, savouring just one and appreciating it mindfully can satisfy your craving without overindulgence.

Embracing Mindful Eating

Mindfulness is a game-changer in healthy eating. It involves being fully present and aware while eating, appreciating the colours, textures, aromas, and flavours of the food. Eating mindfully helps in slowing down the eating process, leading to better digestion and satisfaction with smaller portions. This practice is particularly helpful during the festive season when overeating is common.

Quick and Healthy Meal Ideas

For those on the go, rustling up a quick, healthy meal is crucial. A simple yet nutritious option could be a stir-fry using canned beans (like kidney beans or chickpeas), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, peppers, mushrooms), and whole grains like brown rice. The addition of spices not only enhances flavour but also ups the health quotient.

The festive season doesn’t have to be a time of guilt.

By incorporating small changes in how we prepare traditional dishes, prioritising healthier options, and embracing mindfulness in our eating, we can enjoy the festivities without compromising our health.

It’s all about balance, moderation, and being present in the joy of eating.

Happy holidays.