We are told insistently to follow good food habits or eat healthy foods from our childhood. It is sure that our grandmothers and mothers have a clear idea of what the good food habits are. You have seen that it is quite normal in our family that from our early years we are forced to eat or drink foods like milk, various types of vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, and mutton which are considered as healthy food. Eating foods from restaurants or shops was very rare.
Do you know that our traditional dishes are full of healthy foods? Why am I saying this? Think about our daily food items. In the morning we generally start with tea and biscuits. After that it is our breakfast time. What is our usual breakfast? Normally we drink milk or eat chapatis or bread with fruits, sweets etc.
Then comes lunch time. Rice is our staple food. With rice we also eat vegetables, fish and eggs, and occasionally we also have chicken or mutton. A noticeable feature of Indian dishes is that we generally start our lunch with bitter gourd, or mixed vegetables made with bitter gourd, and the last item is chutney and curd. Chutney or pickles may be made of coriander, tomato, raw mango, tamarind, olive etc. We know that along with many health benefits, bitter gourd also enhances the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Chutney or pickle also brings flavour and taste in food and also have many health benefits. From curd we get calcium, which is essential for healthy bones, and it is also helpful for digestion.
In dinner generally we take light food. Normal dinner items are mainly rice or chapati, vegetables, fish, milk, sweets etc. .
Another noticeable aspect of Indian dishes is that it includes seasonal vegetables and fruits, and we know that it is very scientific and beneficial for our health.
Food habits of any particular country or region is normally influenced by the culture, availability of different kinds of fruits and vegetables in that particular country or region. Today, in the time of globalisation, our food habits are also influenced by the culture or foods of the other parts of the world. Now eating cake on Christmas or any birthday party is a very common thing. Often we can see strawberries are available in local fruit shops.
However, from the above discussion we can see that we get almost all types of nutrients from the foods that we consume daily. So, why are we so concerned about good food habits today? What is wrong with today’s food habits?
Now think about childhood days, when life was not quite so busy. We used to eat food mainly made by our mother and grandmother and it was always freshly prepared food. We also used to dine together. In that time there was no refrigerated foods. Refrigerated foods were an occasional matter.
But, nowadays, we are used to processed food, refrigerated food and fast food. What are the causes behind these changed food habits? There are many reasons for this change in food habits. This is mainly because of our busy life and with that, the growing popularity of fast food. Another reason is that these foods are very tasty.Today, we can see a crowd around almost every fast food centre or restaurant. Why? This is because we have little time to spend in the kitchen. So, it is easy to dine in fast food corners.
And as we know, fast food is the main reason behind many illnesses like stomach upsets, heart problem, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and many more, so, today it is very relevant to discuss about good food habit.
Balanced diet is another name of healthy food. In this discussion it is very important to know what the balanced diet is. Normally ‘diet’ refers to the variety of foods that are consumed habitually over a period of time. And a balanced diet is that kind of diet which contains all types of required nutrients for health. Now, question is, what are the nutrients that comprise a healthy diet. Let’s discuss that.
- Protein: known as body’s building block, helps in tissue growth. We get animal protein from meat, fish, egg, dairy products and plant protein from lentils, nuts, seeds etc.
- Carbohydrates: sources of energy. Example of carbohydrates are sugar, bread, rice, pasta etc.
- Fats: also source of energy. Oil, butter, ghee, oily fish, dairy products are examples of fat.
- Minerals: mainly needed for bone growth and strength, nervous system, immune systems etc. We know that milk and milk products like curds, cottage cheese are rich sources of calcium. Dark leafy vegetables, poultry, red meat, eggs are good sources of iron. Mineral iron helps to prevent anaemia. Iron also helps in formation of haemoglobin present in red blood cells in our blood. Banana, tomato, potato, sweet potato etc. are potassium rich foods. Potassium is needed to keep our muscle and nervous system working properly. There are many other minerals like zinc. Phosphorus, magnesium which are needed for a healthy body.
- Vitamins: essential for bone growth, metabolic rate, vision, immune system etc. We get vitamin A from milk and yellow fruits and vegetables like papaya, carrot. We get vitamin C mainly from citrus food like lemon, orange etc. We know that sources of vitamin D are mainly sun rays. But some foods like oily fish and eggs are also sources of vitamin D.
- Fats and Oil: Butter, cooking oil, ghee, and nuts are good source of fats, and we know that fats and oil are energy giving foods.
Besides these, water or fluids are necessary to keep our body hydrated and to stay healthy. Water or fluids are as important as foods, even more important than foods.
Water or fluid also help to flush out toxins or unwanted things present in the body via the excretory system.
Now compare the above mentioned foods with the foods we traditionally consume. It is clear that our traditional dishes are absolutely healthy.
Another important thing is that besides food items, good food habits also include something more. They are washing hands before eating, rinsing mouth well after eating and at last, but not the least, eating together with family members and in a calm and peaceful environment.