The lockdown has got us back to our basics – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. Never before was our sole focus, only on these three aspects. We were in some kind of a rat race, only to spoil our health for our worldly demands. We are now talking about more meaningful stuff and realizing that ‘Health is the new Wealth’.
Roti symbolising Food or Nourishment in the above context is the most basic entity of our life. Food is core to our existence. It shapes us, nurtures us, moulds us and defines us in more ways than one.
So today, I will be listing down the basic requirements of keeping good nutrition, with no attached frills.
Let’s read about some simple, non-messy, healthy, nutritious, immune-boosting, quick foods that one should rely on during this nationwide lockdown.
Reminder – Indian kitchens are blessed with superfighters like garlic, ginger, lemon, mint, basil and spices. Look for these ingredients along with various spices and decide your early morning drink.
You can choose from –
Fresh lime and ginger juice in lukewarm water- Coconut Oil with pinch of turmeric and black pepper- Kadha made out of variety of spices- Cinnamon and honey mix- Amla shots with black pepper- Tulsi concoction with other herbs & spices- Green tea with lemon.
The reason you should focus on spices:
Spices have high ORAC values. In simple words, it means higher antioxidant capacity to fight free radicals and strengthen the immune system. Immune system being the first line of defence against any pathogen or foreign substance needs to be supported by safe and healthy food during this pandemic. Apart from starting your day with spices, using them while cooking your meals is equally beneficial.
Talking about tea/coffee consumption.
It is possible that one may overindulge due to ease of availability or out of boredom during lockdown. A simple rule that one must realise is that anything in moderation is good. If the caffeine and tanin consumption is in proportion and not exceeding the limits it can act as a stimulant and keep one alert and active. But when had in off limits can be habit forming, dehydrating and detrimental to health.
Having one fruit in the morning would be a healthy addition to your routine. Fruit is something which most urban families have ignored through these years. The maximum that I have seen people consuming is just a couple of bananas or apples in a week. Opt for seasonal variety of fruit (if possible) and avoid puréeing it into a juice or smoothie instead just ‘eat the fruit’. Fruit preference would be citrus fruits rich in vitamin C like amla, oranges, kiwi, berries, papaya, etc.
The quickest options that can be made are the traditional varieties of Poha, Upma, Sheera, Daliya, Porridges, Chillas, Eggs, Pancakes or Crêpes. These all can be made instantly and does not require too much of pre-preparations. Indian households are known to stock flours of various cereals & millets making it even possible to prepare some instant dosas. Go slow on the highly processed ready to eat breakfast cereals.
Milk is available on a daily basis and for people who can tolerate milk, a cup of ‘turmeric latte’ or ‘haldiwala doodh’ is recommended to boost immunity. Turmeric has a potent active compound known as Curcumin which acts as an anti-inflammatory.
You can stock up on cereals, millets, pulses and legumes as per your requirement as they are easy to store and have a long shelf life. With respect to procuring of vegetables try to be careful to not risk going out daily. Most new cases of Corona virus has happened during market visits as pandemic has reached the community spread stage in India. Procured vegetables need to be soaked and cleaned thoroughly in lukewarm salt and vinegar water. Pulses and legumes can be used more frequently during the lockdown.
I cannot stress the importance of this in the tropical Indian setting and how important a part it plays in building up your immunity. Curd (or Yoghurt) is a probiotic that helps to maintain the gut microbiota and obviously one of the best food for your gut. Gut is one part of the human body that controls many aspects of our health. Until recently gut was believed to only digest, assimilate and absorb nutrients from food. But it also houses almost 70% of our immune cells. And now researchers are even calling it our second brain. I am sure we have heard the term Gut-Brain Axis; this neurobiological integration is directly known to impact health & well-being.
Two simple rules that can be followed to assess your meals on parameters of balanced nutrition.
- Half portion of the plate should be filled with vegetables and fruits. Divide the remaining half between a serving of whole grains and a serving of lean protein like paneer, soya chunks, sprouts, dal, kadhi, etc. A serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy rounds out each meal.
- Even if you don’t understand the rules of nutrition, focus on a rainbow food preference when it comes to filling your plate. Get as much colourful food onto your plate as possible.
Non-vegetarian Food Consumption:
There are also a lot of misconceptions revolving around chicken and fish consumption. The virus does not spread through meat consumption but the hygiene and safety standards should be maintained. Since we normally boil or cook the chicken/fish, temperature goes well beyond 100 degrees celsius where all pathogens cease to exist. Giving up white meat in the fear of contracting the virus may not be a good idea since you need good quality proteins and one could still land up in trouble when they are using vegetables but not maintaining the hygiene and safety standards.
An inevitable part of our day, which is why it is important to pick the right one. Most of them are guilty of mindless munching. Remove all the chips, cookies, chocolates, deep fried snacks and replace them with healthy options like roasted makhanas, roasted chana, healthy crackers, moong bhel, roasted soya snacks, popcorn, khakras, flattened chana, jowar flakes chivda, etc.
- In case you prefer to have cooked snacks three simple ideas to offer the readers here would be as follows
- Incase you have leftover chapatis from lunch just tear them into small bites soak them in buttermilk and give some tasks to this.
- Or if you do have some vegetables in stock go in for either roasted eggplant or bottle gourd or beetroot fritters.
- Or just make a delicious healthy bowl of Sprouts bhel with some vegetables.
Nuts & Seeds
Most dietitians would recommend keeping nuts and seeds handy for snacking. But according to me if you are not a person with enough self control then munching on nuts/seeds/trail mixes would be a very bad idea as these are calorie dense foods and if you lose out on portion control than you can’t stop the weight from bulging. Interestingly one of the immunity imparing factor is the underlying obesity or Syndrome X – a conflux of cardiovascular ailments like high BP and high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes and obesity or the increased mid circumference girth. This metabolic syndrome suppresses the immune system and increases the risk of infections. It is also associated with low grade body-wide inflammation which disables the body’s core immunity to fight off pathogens. Avoid endangering the metabolic well-being by turning to “comfort foods”. Increased dependency on ready to cook, packaged or canned food lead to higher proportion of fat, sugar, salt and unwanted additives consumption. While you may end up tantalising your taste buds and ward off emotional distress but this could be the starting point for your health to dwindle.
The lockdown has unleashed the ‘chef’ within us with the various cooking challenges going on social media.
It would be possible for health enthusiasts to stray and fall for not so healthy options.Find healthy swaps to traditional dishes requiring refined flour and sugar. Instead use whole wheat flour or rice flour or mix of chickpea and moong flour. Try making yummy and nutritious Khichyu, Thalipeeth and Dhoklas out of these flours. Also try replacing sugar with jaggery or dates and raisins. Also since it is increasingly getting difficult to buy fresh produce on a daily basis. So in this case you can make dal tikki, baked beans, rajma chat, moongdal chillas, oats dosa, kala chana tikkis, hummus, etc.
Focus on recipes that are quick to make as most of the household work is also to be managed in absence of maids. Varieties of chokha made out of bottle gourd, pumpkin, potatoes etc can be made. Varieties of khichdi made out of tur dal, moong dal, daliya, etc can be made. In each meal ensure you get good quality proteins in your diet as it plays a pivotal role in supporting a strong immune system.
Since lockdown has forced us to be indoors there is limited to no sun exposure in most cases. This along with a restrictive diet is linked to the high prevalence of vitamin D. Vitamin D supplementation of 60,000 IU once a week may be beneficial to keep up with the immunity function. Immune cells can be largely categorised as Lymphocytes (T cells, B cells and nature killer cells), Neutrophils and macrophages. Vitamin D is known to enhance the function of immune cells including T-cells and macrophages. Along with Vitamin D, other micronutrient supplementation which are of importance are Vitamin C (BID), Zinc and Folic acid. All these should be taken only with due consultation from your doctor or dietitian.
A few more holistic guidelines to support a healthy immunity :
- Hydration is crucial. Drink atleast 2.5 to 3 litres of water. You can include warm water with lemon, buttermilk, rasam, cold soups, solkadhi, veg juice etc. 2-3 glasses of lukewarm water recommended throughout the day.
- Maintain personal hygiene at all levels. Frequent handwashing is advised.
- Getting adequate sleep of 6-8 hours daily. Try to maintain a regular routine and bedtime schedule.
- Practice yoga and meditation to calm and relax yourself.
- Regular exercising for atleast 30 mins. Find an exercise video online or dance to some music. One can also do some floor exercises, planks, sun salutations or zumba.
- Avoid smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Avoid sugary drinks or carbonated beverages.
- Listen to music, read a book, take up a hobby or play a game. Avoid excessive screen time.
- Try your hand at home gardening as it is very soothing for the soul and could be a productive way to engage yourself during this lockdown.
- Avoid undue stress. Give yourself time to unwind at the end of the day.
Above all being positive will help you strengthen your immunity and help you sail through this difficult phase.