Safe Food & Healthy Diets for a better Lifestyle

By Minal Shah, a Senior Nutrition Therapist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund 

One of the pillars of good health is having healthy and nutritious food that is safe and free from any contamination. In this regard, food safety plays a vital role as it ensures that the handling, processing, and distribution of food is done so that contaminants that cause foodborne illness are not present in any food items.

Foodborne illness is infectious and toxic and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food. Many foodborne diseases can have long-term effects on the human body and lead to fatal outcomes if not treated on time. Access to safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.

A healthy diet helps to reduce and fight malnutrition in all its forms. It also plays a vital role in preventing non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, stroke, and cancer, major lifestyle diseases affecting most urban populations. Some of the essential components of a healthy diet include the following.

  • 5-6 servings of whole grains, rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre: Avoid simple carbohydrates like refined flour and polished rice, as an excess of simple carbs is stored as fats.
  • 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day: Choose whole fruit and fresh vegetables over juices or processed and canned products which contain a lot of fibre, sodium, and preservatives. It is also vital to restrict starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams to maintain a healthy diet.
  • Have healthy protein-rich food: Items like low-fat milk and milk products, pulses, lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are an excellent addition to a healthy diet. As proteins are the body’s building blocks and have a vital role in keeping us healthy and strong, it is super important to have them in your diet.
  • Reduce the number of simple carbs like sugar: High intake of sugary beverages can lead to increased weight and dyslipidemia, among other diseases.
  • Restrict the total amount of fat to less than 30 per cent of the total calories: Include more healthy fats like nuts and oilseeds in your diet and restrict oil or ghee for cooking to 2-3 teaspoons per day.
  • Reduce consumption of salt: Have less than 5 grams of salt (equivalent to about one teaspoon) per day as it helps prevent hypertension and reduces the risk of heart disease. It is best to use iodized salt.
  • Drink sufficient water: Water is needed for the body to function effectively. Depending on your weight and activity levels, keeping your body always hydrated is critical.
  • Restrict empty calories to once a fortnight: Junk food and trans fats are a significant cause of obesity and other non-communicable diseases, so it is best to have them in moderation.
  • Exercise daily: Physical activity for at least 30-45 minutes every day is necessary for a healthy lifestyle and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity. 
  • Practice mindful techniques: Take time to destress and get adequate sleep so that your body can function optimally.
  • Cook food at home: Always choose home-cooked food over restaurant food, even if hotels claim that their food is healthy. It is always better to eat meals cooked at home as they are fresher and more nutritious.
  • Portion control is the key: Portion control is significant if you try to have a healthy diet. Always serve yourself small portions of high-calorie foods and generous amounts of healthy foods like vegetables, salads, and soups.
  • Choose local food sources: Healthy diet need not always be expensive. Seasonal and locally available food can be included in the diet at a low cost to meet the nutritional requirements of everyone in the family.
  • Learn to experiment: Be open to trying new food. Eating only to relish the taste buds can cause nutritional imbalances, so occasionally, be open to trying new dishes even if they may not always match your choices.
  • Follow simple steps at home to ensure food safety: Clean your hands with soap and water before cooking and after eating. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or cooking to avoid germs.

In conclusion, small conscious steps can go a long way in eliminating food wastage while at the same time ensuring that meals are healthy and nutritious. After all, the main goal of food is to ensure that it nourishes your body and keeps it healthy and active for the longest time possible.  

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