By Naini Setalvad
Relish delicious, balanced meals packed with nutrients to keep you satiated and energised this Navratri, says Naini Setalvad
Navratri or ‘nine nights’ is a time of fasting as well as colours, music and dance. It is the celebration of good overcoming evil; Lord Ram’s fierce battle and victory against Ravana. During this time, the three forms of Goddess – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati – are also invoked; and people pray, fast and abstain from certain foods.
In Hinduism, ‘Upvas’ (fasting) literally means ‘to get closer to God’ and it’s a sentiment resonating with most Indians. These nine days are a reminder to be a good sadhak (seeker), and do sadhna (practice), seva (service), and satsang (listening about the glories of God). Fasting not only enhances self-discipline and self-control but also improves health, re-energises the body and re-enfores positive vibes in our being. Stomach, intestine, liver and kidney, which are important organs, are given a rest. In short, fasting is a real cleansing device; a process for overhauling and purification.
Though fasting foods were intelligently chosen by our ancestors to prevent hunger pangs, overtime, the style of fasting has been further improvised and modified in order to make it more sustainable and less austere. The changes have been made keeping in mind that all nutrients needed by the body including proteins, fats and carbohydrates as part of the diet. Whether you’re a student, housewife, working professional or senior citizen, it is very easy to fast these days. Today, people fast by consuming fruits, dry fruits, select roots, condiments and vegetables such as ginger, bottle gourd, lemon, cucumber and mint. Grains have been substituted with potato, sago, sweet potato, raw banana, yam, amaranth (rajgira), waterchestnut flour (singhada atta), barnyard millet (sama), and buck wheat (kuttu). As lentils and pulses are not permitted, proteins can be obtained from nuts, milk, curd and paneer. The medium of cooking is ghee made from cow’s milk. For taste and tempering, cumin seeds and rock salt are used.
Let’s look at the properties of a few of the fasting grain substitutes: rajgira is a good source of calcium and protein, curtails hunger, and has a low glycemic index. Kuttu is a natural cleanser of the digestive track due to its fibre content, making it a natural detoxifying agent. Sweet potatoes are easily available, inexpensive, delicious, mood-boosters and a great source of vitamins including A, B5, B6, thiamine, niacin and riboflin as well as carotenoids. Sama is an amazing rice replacement, safe for diabetics as it does not spike up blood sugar levels. Sabudana is a good source of carbohydrates even if eaten in small amounts, and energises you for a longer time.
Sadly, today, fasting has lost its essence. Some of us use it as a tool to achieve body goals like weight loss and many have made it a feasting experience by overeating unhealthy food options and combinations. If well planned, Navratri diets can be a wonderful balance of all nutrients, keeping you satiated and rejuvenated. Ditch fried and sweet foods this Navratri and try out the menu and recipe that I’ve designed, given below. Like Goddess Durga, who fights against evils and always comes out victorious, we too need to adapt to a healthier fast and remove unhealthy foods from our diet.
• Morning wake up - water.
• Breakfast between 8am and 12 noon - fresh fruits and dry fruits like dates, figs and raisins. You could sip on herbal infusions in between or have a cup of tea/coffee with less milk. If still hungry, add a few nuts.
• Lunch between noon to 1pm - salad made of cucumber, a permissible vegetable (often white gourd or pumpkin) with rajgira or singhada roti, along with buttermilk/ curd/paneer.
• In between 4pm to 6pm - snack on nuts and if needed, sip on a herbal infusion or green tea.
• Dinner between 7pm to 8pm - vegetable soup made of bottle gourd, a small quantity of potato or sweet potato/ kuttu atta/ sama/ sago tempered with cow’s ghee, ginger, cumin and rock salt. This can be accompanied with mint chutney.
Baked sweet potato patties
250 grams sweet potatoes
1 tsp ginger-chilli paste
1 or 2 tbsp water chestnut flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
½ tsp chilli powder
Rock salt to taste
3 tsp cow’s ghee
• Roast the sweet potato in the oven till they are soft and peel the skin.
• Mash it well.
• Add all the ingredients except the ghee and make small patties.
• Pan-fry the tikkis with ghee till both the sides are brown.
• Serve with cucumber salad, bottle gourd soup, mint chutney and buttermilk.
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