Diwali – Top healthy tips
Diwali is celebrated once a year and is one of the biggest events in the Hindu calendar. It is the festival of light and the celebration of good over evil, light over darkness and new beginnings.
Lighting lamps and fireworks are a big feature of Diwali, but it is also a time full of delicious foods, including a wide variety of traditional sweets, deep fried delights and the coming together of families for feasts that can continue for days. However, much of the foods on offer during these festivities are higher in sugars, fats and salt, and although delicious,
regular consumption can contribute to health issues in the long term.
With the risk of type 2 Diabetes being up to 6 times more likely in South Asians than the general population, it is important to be mindful of our intake of certain foods throughout the year. So can we still have a healthier Diwali and enjoy ourselves? Of course! We have put together some of our top tips to help you still enjoy the festivities by being more aware and
mindful of your food choices.
1. Plan ahead: Know what foods you are going to be making or want to enjoy over the weekend, set some realistic goals about what you would like to consume, staying within reasonable limits and ensuring you can limit the indulgence to this period. Avoid ‘saving up’ calories Do not skip meals in the lead up to big dinners – this will likely only make us overly hungry
by the time we come to eat our meals and end up overeating to compensate. Instead, focus on still having nutritious meals throughout the day, if your festivities begin in the evening time.
2. Ask for alternative gifts: Traditionally, mithai, or Indian sweets, are given as Diwali gifts. However, these are often deep fried or very high in sugars, and if you are left with boxes of mithai, it can be tempting to work your way through them. Instead, consider asking relatives and friends for alternative gifts, such as decorated candles that can be lit during Diwali, or fruit and nut baskets, or traditional thali sets. If you are given lots of sweets, can you regift them or take them to work for others to enjoy?
3. Practice more mindfulness: We don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t enjoy any of the delights during Diwali. But
since there is often an abundance of choice and quantity, it can be hard to set limits. Try to practice taking a small portion of your favourite items, eating them slowly to help you savour the flavour and enjoyment. Be sure to not arrive overly hungry somewhere, as this can easily make us eat more, and faster too.
4. Try homemade mithai: If you traditionally provide guests with a range of sweets, try creating your own and using
lower fat milks or other dairy products, as well as reducing the sugars and maybe using dried fruits for sweetness.
5. Include healthier options: If you are hosting, include a range of more balanced choices, a twist on the classics. Such as
baking samosas or kachori, offering roasted spicy chickpeas as snacks, chaat masala salads, or baked aloo tikki with extra vegetables. Load up on vegetable curries such as aubergine, spinach and peas, or okra and tomato-based curries. You can also swap out some paneer dishes with some tofu, to help reduce the fat and also provide the benefits that soy can bring.
6. Heart healthy oils: Replace the fats such as ghee and butter when cooking, for unsaturated fats such as olive
and rapeseed oil to create delicious meals, still full of flavour.
7. Be aware of drink choices: Fizzy drinks often are high in added sugars, so offer alternative lower sugar drinks such as
squash, fruit cordials and maybe some fun mocktails using sugar free drinks. Keeping hydrated with water is also very important, and you can flavour your water with fresh fruit if you like. If you choose to consume alcohol over Diwali, keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories and may contribute to stimulating our appetite, leading to increased chances of eating
more. Try to avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, as this can cause blood sugar levels to drop.
8. Keep active: Can you fit in any physical activity during the Diwali celebrations? Perhaps some family games or dancing such as Garba and Bhangra to keep you moving! Or taking a walk around your neighbourhood or park in the evening to enjoy the display of fireworks.