`Follow a dietary pattern that fits your lifestyle, appetite and physical activity`

By Shruti Saxena | Updated: Feb 20, 2015, 09:56 AM IST

Are you a working woman? Then you must be spending most of your time handling work, family, kids, travelling, meeting deadlines and what not. The nutritional requirements of women are different from men, so eating well is very important to avoid illnesses.

According to a study conducted by WHO, nearly 1.62 billion people affected by anaemia are women and young children. In an exclusive interview with Shruti Saxena of Zee Media Group, Dr Loveneet Batra, Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis La Femme, gives important tips for healthy eating and its role in maintaining good health.

Shruti: What healthy eating habits will you suggest for women who juggle work and family? Suggest a healthy diet plan.

Dr Batra: Juggling a home and career can be stressful and can lead to poor fitness regime for working women. Finding a balance between personal and professional life with fitness, diet is crucial while giving your health the priority it deserves. Here is an example of a healthy diet plan:

Discriminate, don’t eliminate

Contrary to the popular belief, you don’t need to opt for “no-carb” diet to stay fit. Carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel for your brain and red blood cells. The trick is to choose wisely and know your portions. You don’t have to rely only on cereals, such as wheat and rice, for your 130g of minimum carbohydrate requirement. Milk, pulses, legumes, fruits and vegetables are good sources of carbohydrates as well. Focus on low glycemic index, high fibre carbohydrates such as rye, barley, amaranth, rajma, chana, dalia, brown rice, and oats.

Eat real foods

Don’t be misled by health halos of “fat free” or “sugar free” labels. Some of the most popular fat free dressings are high in sugar and chemicals used as preservatives, taste-enhancers or thickening agents. These chemicals are categorised as obesogens, which promote obesity. Eat foods in their natural forms. Good fats are important component of a balanced diet and are required not only as a part of metabolic reactions in the body but for burning stubborn body fat.

Research suggests that sugar-free products are highly addictive and increase your sugar cravings in subsequent meals by hindering the functioning of appetite regulating hormones.

Eat out smartly

When eating out start with slow foods (foods that automatically slow down the pace of eating), such as salads or hot soups with vegetables, then pick low-fat protein foods such as chicken, fish, soy or low-fat dairy products, and eat starch last. Avoid breadbasket as you start your meal. Simple carbs are addictive, cause hunger rebounds and add on to mindless calories.

Break the fast

Your body responds to not eating for hours by slowing down its metabolic rate. By eating breakfast, you wake up your metabolism and get your engine humming, burning those calories you need to burn to lose weight. Research suggests that people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day.

Don’t drink your calories

It’s very easy to drink a lot of calories without realising it. Cutting liquid calories can be more effective for weight loss than cutting the same number of calories from your solid food intake. Calories consumed through solid foods typically give you a greater feeling of satiety, or physical fullness, than those taken in liquid form.

Eat what you love

Don’t ruin your favourite foods with guilt as deprivation and shame are powerful emotional triggers for overeating. Remind yourself that all foods can fit into a healthy diet when you balance eating for enjoyment with eating for nourishment.

Every meal is either a net gain or loss

Focus on a fresh healthy meal, which has a balance of complex carbohydrates, low fat proteins and good fats. Junk food is full of empty calories, which provides no nourishment to body and triggers unwanted cravings.

Identify your trigger foods

We all crave for one or the other food item. These can be sweet or salty. Make it a point to identify your triggers and then keep them out of your house. You can eat them once in a while, but after every indulgence make a point to stick to at least four healthy consequent meals.

On rising, within 30 minutes of waking up: Fresh fruit

Breakfast: 1 glass milk and 1 cup oats

Mid-morning snack: Buttermilk or handful nuts

Lunch: Yogurt + sabzi + chapati or paneer + vegetable dalia

Mid-afternoon: Makhana

Evening: 1 glass skimmed milk + fresh fruit

Dinner: Dal + sabzi + brown rice or 2 egg whites sandwich in whole wheat bread

Shruti: Women generally suffer from more nutritional deficiencies than men. Which nutrients do they require more to stay energised?

Dr Batra: Women need extra amount of certain nutrients than men, particularly iron which is found in whole grains, legumes, spinach, raisins, soy, meat, fish and poultry, and calcium, which is high in milk products.

Shruti: Many women crave for that perfect figure their favourite celebrity has. Is it okay for them to follow rigorous diet regime for this purpose?

Dr Batra: When trying to stay healthy and fit or aiming for a perfect body, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. The key is diet solution, which lasts forever and doesn’t have an expiry date to it. Follow a dietary pattern that fits your lifestyle, appetite and physical activity.

Shruti: Suggest some quick and healthy breakfast and snacking tips for working women.

Dr Batra: A healthy breakfast should include low-fat protein and complex carbohydrates. Some easy, healthy and tasty breakfast options include milk and oats, milk and popped amaranth, sprouts salad, paneer, roti, yogurt with vegetable poha, vegetable dalia with soy nuggets added.

It’s very important to eat small frequent meals every 2-3 hours. You can rely on skim milk, yogurt, buttermilk, fruits, roasted chana, makhana, hummus and veggies or coconut water for easy healthy snacks with zero preparation time.

Shruti: For women having desk jobs, what healthy food swaps would you suggest that would add on to their platter and not pounds?

Dr Batra: Swap tea/coffee loaded with sugar with plain buttermilk or yogurt. In place of fruit juices or aerated drinks, opt for coconut water. If you are craving something crunchy, you can have makhana instead of chips, or carrots and cucumber with hummus. To combat sweet craving, opt for fruits or low-fat milk based snack, such as rasgulla.