As Indians, we’re pretty lucky. When looking to eat healthy, you can’t go wrong with our cuisine.
But then, all cuisines have something going for it. And I believe it pays to arm ourselves with the health secrets from around the world. After all, we need all the help possible to stay fit in these junk food infested times.
Go on, learn three rules each from these three healthiest food belts in the world.
The French Connection
Wine and cheese notwithstanding, the French are the leanest people around. Still it takes hundreds of reports, from the likes of the World Health Organization, to confirm for us what the French have known for centuries – plain common sense. They may eat whatever they want, but they abide by strict rules:
1. Meal times for the French, culturally, are a long drawn affair where they eat slowly and catch up with family and friends. This means they eat with gusto but savour their food slowly – no rushing through meal times for them. This not just helps the body digest everything properly but keeps the lid on the number of calories ingested too.
2. French food is real food prepared in the kitchen, with time taken to choose, buy and prepare meals. In fact, for them cooking is part of their culture, and unlike many other countries they take pride in eating home cooked food. And home cooked food is, without a doubt, far healthier.
3. They naturally exercise strict portion control. Typical restaurant portion sizes are smaller than most other cuisines.
The Japanese Approach
Fresh ingredients cooked simply or not at all, minimal use of oil, small portions, lots of sea food on the plates (and less meat), greens and antioxidant rich foods like seaweed and green tea – the Japanese sure follow a perfect model for healthy eating.
1. We too would do well to turn off the TV and cell phones and follow the Japanese lead by spending more time enjoying meals. According to the Japanese principle of ‘eating with the eyes’, you’ll get more satisfaction per calorie by paying attention to presentation. Eating on the run (the way we all do these days) is an efficient way to consume loads of fat and calories without even realising. Whereas feeding your senses and thinking of mealtimes as stress breaks make meals more satisfying and slow you down enough to consume fewer calories.
2. They eat a gut friendly diet as fermented foods form a major part in their menus.
3. Another tip to snag is that Japanese don’t eat a lot of desserts; often a seasonal fruit like an apple, a persimmon or a tangerines is served after a meal, or maybe a small portion of pounded rice with a sweet bean paste topping. On special occasions, red bean and green tea desserts are served – super healthy to boot.
Greek cuisine is a perfect balance of health and taste, a balance we too can do well to strive for. Some of their food rules to emulate:
1. Load up on fibre. Their focus is on simple staples – basically abundant plant-based foods that are rich in fibre, like fruits, vegetables, breads and grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
2. Saying no to processed foods, they eat mostly seasonally fresh foods and do the least possible to food when cooking. For example, Greeks prefer to lightly sauté foods with a bit of olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. Smart move!
3. Finally, like the Japanese they too stick to fresh fruits as dessert.
(Kavita Devgan is a weight management consultant, nutritionist, health columnist and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)