• Avantika Jain

Goa Medical College

I was silently sipping my morning coffee when my grandmother of 82 years handed me a bunch of almonds, soaked and peeled, “for memory and great skin!” she chuckled. It was customary to eat a fair share of dry fruits in the morning at mi casa. I seldom realized that a simple ritual provided the daily dose of protein, iron and a flock of micronutrients, vital for healthy living- especially if you’re a vegetarian.

Coming back to my role model, or Dadimaa as I call her, introduced me to her guide to eating healthy- “The 3 pillars are Balance, Variety and Moderation.” Originally a Japanese concept, it forms the foundation to all that I sincerely believe.

A satisfying and sustainable diet is one that is balanced – nutritionally, but also that it includes items you are particularly fond of. It is foolhardy following a diet that doesn’t stimulate your taste buds.

If you don’t love what you eat, then you’re not eating right at all.

A fan of Mexican food, a dish I wholeheartedly enjoy are Tacos- a traditional Mexican dish with an outer tortilla and an inner filling. The authentic tacos form a balanced meal with the carbohydrates of the tortilla, protein from the meat and beans filling and vegetables for the flavour and crunch. Packed with sauces and fiber, the tangy flavour will leave you smacking your lips for more. The alluring part about tacos is, you can customise them according to your gut sensitivity… and spice threshold.

The next pillar is Variety. Nutrients come in every shape and form. No one enjoys the humdrum routine of the same food every day. The way you make nutrition exciting is by regular experimentation and rotation. From Biryani Sundays to Ramen Wednesdays, change and variation of the same item paired with different ingredients can do wonders, at the same time exposing your body to a different set of nutrients all together.

And finally, the most important pillar of them all, moderation.

If your diet was a rollercoaster, moderation would be the safety belt. Anything in excess is not good. We recycle the same advice when it comes to junk food, bad habits or steroid prescriptions. Taper it off, slowly. If you’re used to 3 spoons of sugar in your coffee, make it two. If you can’t stop, reduce, moderate, control. Slowly and steadily, you’ll be able to sustain a healthier lifestyle.

In Greece they say ‘Lagom’ which translates to- ‘not too little, not too much. Just right.’ And I think it resonates with the very quality we aim to constitute.

The pinnacle of gastronomy was achieved by the Greek, which formed the foundation of their staple diet as well as national cuisine -Salad.

I am aware that most people are averse to eating ‘their greens’, but to be absolutely candid, it is among the most nutritious dishes in the world. It’s a masterful blend that encompasses a variety of ingredients that go well together, but at the same time retaining each item’s individuality.

Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salads will save you from cardiovascular disease and are a light and affordable option for everyone.

Nutritionally rich is an asset, true, but what about taste?

Let me let you in on a little secret. You get to pick what goes in a salad! Anything raw from fruits to greens, boiled pasta to cheese, leftover food in the fridge, your salad can be unique and you get to decide what you want it to taste like. It could be as bland as you want or as quirky as you prefer. This is what makes salad truly wonderful.

From the French in the west to the Vietnamese in the east, every culture has their own idea of healthy food that has sustained them for centuries.

After globetrotting around the world through continental restaurants and internet recipes, finally, we know what we all love the most. Home-food. Food cooked by our mothers and fathers and old loving grandmothers. The Indian staple is curry and brown rice laced with spices that boost your metabolism and comforting coconut milk. While the rice takes care of the carbohydrate intake, the curry is a

source of protein like chicken or chickpeas. The flavourful Indian spices that we are all so fond of actually have anti-inflammatory and healing properties.

But what makes home-made food the most important of them all is because it contains the secret ingredient no chef or restaurant could ever replace or substitute .…Love.

The love and sheer attention that goes in preparing a customized version of a meal can never be underestimated. And the people that love us always make sure we eat right. And for this, we should be forever grateful.

So maybe what works best for your body is what your mother makes for you every day. It’s the staple food of your region. It’s the fruits available in the local market. It’s the vegetable that grows in plenty at the nearby farm. It’s what your grandma gives you before you leave for college. Maybe instead of looking for inspiration in food blogs or recipe books, sometimes it’s wise to just open the pantry and create something new. There are no rules, balance the elements, moderate portions and create a variant. Don’t stop looking for new foods, but never forget your roots.

Explore, experiment, innovate. The world is your raw ingredient and you are its Gourmet Chef!

So, what’s the key to healthy eating? You tell me.

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