The pursuit of healthiness

Published: July 17, 2011

There’s no dearth of nutrition information explaining what’s good for health and what’s not, but the difficult part is navigating through this plethora of information. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

No matter how many times people deny it, they are always conscious of looking good and staying fit. The growing awareness of healthy foods, losing weight and fad diets is a hot topic in every other shindig. Eating healthy, as experts are explaining, is not about deprivation of food but rather choosing appropriate foods in right quantities. This means replacing our beloved deep fried items, sugary confectionaries and gravies oozing with ghee and so forth with better food options.

Hence, in creating a 180 degree healthy change in their lifestyles, people are substituting their regular food items with healthier options like brown bread instead of white, vegetable fat spreads instead of margarine and olive oil instead of ghee and regular cooking oil.

There’s no dearth of nutrition information explaining what’s good for health and what’s not, but the difficult part is navigating through this plethora of information. Whether you are flipping through magazines or standing in the lane of a super store, there are countless diet plans and products guaranteeing weight loss and proclaiming to be natural.

But it’s not as easy as it seems; steering through the world of food can be tricky, especially when it comes to unifying the necessary nutrients and discarding those that are harmful. Additionally, due to the proliferation of many myths regarding food, implementing everything that is churned out of the rumour-mill can be harmful, as the information people accept as facts, cannot be further away from the truth.

Moreover, the inclinations towards fad diets which guarantee weight loss in a specific time frame are extremely harmful to one’s health. Fayza Khan, Consultant Dietician and Vice-President of Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society, suggests that the key is to change your dietary habits gradually and overcome one bad eating habit at a time. “Start by incorporating a salad before meals and keep it consistent for two weeks. Once you feel motivated to go a step ahead, start adding and substituting other foods as well,” she said.

The food pyramid is a good guide as it indicates the quantity of various food groups an individual should consume daily. “Getting an opinion from a nutritionist is a good method to regulate diets.  They can counsel, assess and tailor a diet that suits an individual best and evaluate the physical changes and taper it accordingly. Inappropriate diets tend to create deficiencies and make people lose muscle instead of fat,” adds Khan.

“When you’re looking to improve your eating habits and losing weight, don’t look for quick fixes which are based on extreme changes. Also remember that cutting down on one food component completely doesn’t give you the license of eating everything else in excess amounts,” suggests Samina Umer Mukaty, a nutritionist and group fitness instructor.

However, she doesn’t agree entirely with the healthy food substitute notion, Mukaty feels that even though brown bread aids digestion by providing good amounts of fibre, it should only be consumed in the right amounts.

An excess, can reduce the intake of nutrients and create a misbalance. The abundance of preservatives, artificial alternatives and additives found in some products can have side effects and deteriorate health. “The key is to reduce the size of the portions and servings instead of opting for things that are artificial”, says Mukaty.

Sabeen Zubair modified her eating habits around six years ago and has since lost weight which has increased her energy level. “The extreme diets left my hair, skin, nails and immunity in an awful state. I turned to a nutritionist who suggested a diet that was highly beneficial for me as it helped me balance my daily intake. I was able to stick to it because I was satisfied with what I was eating.”

Hence, it is better not to dwell upon those quick-fix diets which are in vogue, but rather contemplate long-lasting changes that can be accommodated for many years to come. Consider the overwhelming advantages of healthy foods and adopt a healthy lifestyle from the outset.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2011.

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