Fit and festive
Naini Setalvad recommends some healthful food for the forthcoming days of fun and feasting
Come Dussehra and Diwali, it is time to remember that Indian food can be very nutritious and can help us gain victory over disease and illness, making our lives radiant with well-being.
Savouries, sweets, and beverages are flowing during the festive season. However, unfortunately, the festive foods are filled with what I call ‘legalised harmful drugs.’ These are white flour and white sugar, deep-fried in bad fats, etc., that destroy our mind, body, and soul. Dussehra and Diwali are festivals celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I truly want everybody to eat food that is pure and good for you. Please understand that it is not about self-denial but simply about infusing your body with good health through fruits, dry fruits, seeds, nuts, coconut, desi cow’s ghee, milk, paneer (Indian cottage cheese). And just see how your entire being dances with positive vibrations, not just through the festive season but all year round!
So, let’s switch to good food and stop the self-destruction around and within us, like Goddess Durga, who fights against evil and always comes out victorious. This Diwali, fill your platter with pure foods that wholly satisfy your five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound.
Here are some healthy options during the festive season:
• Mithais made with dry fruits like anjeer (figs), khajoor (dates), apricots, raisins, etc., and nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashew nuts, etc., which are vegan and gluten-free.
• Payassam made with unpolished basmati rice, jaggery, and coconut milk is also vegan.
• Sandesh made with nolen gur (date palm jaggery).
• Mishti doi (sweet curd) made with nolen gur.
• Pineapple shrikhand made with stevia and milk.
• Puran puri made with whole wheat flour, desi cow’s ghee, jaggery, and a lentil, making it lactose-free.
• Sheera made with whole wheat flour and jaggery.
• Rasgulla made with stevia.
• Gur papdi made with whole wheat flour, jaggery, and cow’s ghee.
• Biranj made with saffron, dry fruits, jaggery, and unpolished basmati rice.
• Roasted and salted nut mix of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews.
• Roasted and salted seed mix of pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, melon, and flax seeds.
• Sweet potato chaat.
• Makhana chaat.
• Farali aloo with chaat masala.
• Aloo tikkis with ragda, green chutney, and date chutney.
• Dhoklas with green chutney.
• Baked samosa with green chutney.
• Panyaram with coconut chutney.
• Roasted chivda with nuts and dry fruits.
Once you start eating these pure and delicious foods that are made with fresh ingredients, you won’t feel the slightest temptation to turn to the fried, sugary, festive treats that are bad for you. There is no way you will feel deprived. I remember the words of our late president Abdul Kalam: “Healthy food, healthy body, and healthy mind.” These words—which he said to me while awarding me and many like-minded people on 16 August 2008 for spreading nutrition awareness throughout the country—resonate in my mind. So now, let us all collectively work towards making our nation the health capital of the universe!
Here are some recipes for healthy alternatives you can serve during the festive season:
1. Makhana Chaat
100 gm makhana
150 gm curd
1tsp cow’s ghee
¼ tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp sweet khajoor (dates) chutney
¼ tsp jeera (cumin) powder
Salt to taste
1. Roast the makhana in a hot kadai (frying pan) and allow it to cool.
2. Blend the curd and add salt and jeera powder to it.
3. Place a few makhanas in a bowl.
4. Pour the curd over it till the makhanas are soaked.
5. Put 1 tsp sweet chutney over it.
6. Sprinkle red chilli powder over it.
7. Serve immediately or the makhanas will become soft.
2. Khajoor Nuts Barfi
1 cup seedless dates, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped mixed nuts: almonds,
walnuts, cashew nuts, and pistachios
¼ tsp skimmed milk
1. Roast all the mixed nuts on a tawa (griddle) till they turn brown. Now, in a separate pan, melt the ghee and add the roasted nuts till they release an aroma.
2. Blend the seedless dates and milk together until smooth.
3. Sauté this mixture in a non-stick pan till it is well cooked and till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add the dry fruits, and mix well.
4. Pour this mixture into a mould (slightly greased) and allow it to rest until cool. Cut it in square or bar-shaped pieces and serve.
3. Seed Mix
2 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp melon seeds
Sea salt to taste
1. Mix all the seeds in a bowl and keep it aside.
2. Take 4 to 5 tbsp water, add salt, and mix well.
3. Pour the salt water in the seed mixture and mix it well.
4. Dry roast the mixture in a wok by periodically stirring it till you get a nutty smell and crisp texture.
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