Ultimate Grandmother Hacks by Kavita Devgan talks about inculcating time-tested food habits so we can develop a cohesive healthy lifestyle and rediscover the joy in eating. An excerpt from the chapter Don’t Stress… Go Splurge:

There are times when our family has a mango fest. Our dinner then is mango, some more mangoes for dessert and then some more. Basically the dinner menu looks like this:

Hubby: Just mango, lots of it.

Son: Mango sandwiches (nothing fancy, just thick mango slices between two slices of bread).

And I have mango cubes with parathas. Basically, we do everything wrong. The meal is not balanced; it is all carbs, there are no proteins and it is, without a doubt, steeped in calories too.

So why do you think we do it? How am I, a nutritionist advising people on the right eating rules, comfortable with it? The thing is that mangoes are very dear to all of us and they are seasonal. So, we all want our fill of this delicious and juicy fruit. Secondly, no one is in the mood to cook. Thirdly, everyone needs these cheat days every now and then to stay sane and happy, and yes, even a nutritionist and her family.

It’s okay, really!

I have grown up not equating food with stress, and believing that it is important to just let go at times, and dump the rules. The more we forbid something, the more our mind obsesses about it. However, when you know that you can splurge at times, you won’t crave for cheat meals daily. I learnt this basic food psychology lesson by observing the way splurges are given wholehearted approvals in our family. Indulgences were not just approved, but often encouraged too.

I have grown up not equating food with stress, and believing that it is important to just let go at times, and dump the rules.

Secondly, and this I never tire of repeating: No food is intrinsically bad, it is only bad if you have it in excess. So, it will obviously be wrong if we make it a habit and have regular dinners like that. However, an occasional meal like this is actually good for our soul. And the soul needs to be fed too.

In addition to pure pleasure, this dinner netted us lots of goodness too. Mangoes are not just nutrient-packed and bursting with colour and flavour, they are also a powerful source of polyphenols which fight inflammation and help keep cancer at bay. Also, you get over 20 vitamins and minerals and lots of fibre. The crucial point here, however, is: breaking the food rule, and doing it while exercising control. This is called structured, sensible cheating on your regular healthy diet.

Coming to proving the facts that I have stated, according to some research, that humongous piece of chocolate cake (or anything else equally decadent) you had at a birthday party won’t necessarily go sit on your waist. According to scientists, our body’s feedback system is so tuned that it is most likely to compensate later resulting in a negligible net gain. This system does not tally up in-and-out calories quite as precisely as most experts will have us believe. It is the long-term average (calorie intake) that determines our body weight, not how many you have in one meal or one day.

It is the long-term average (calorie intake) that determines our body weight, not how many you have in one meal or one day.

This is exactly what I am trying to say too: As long as you eat sensibly most of the time, you don’t need to stress about an occasional splurge. In fact, it might actually be good for you.

Satisfying Splurges

I seriously suggest you splurge too. However, splurge strategically. Ideally, plan when and how you splurge, so that they are not spontaneous or emotional and there is some semblance of control over them.

Splurge on food you really-really like. For example, I never eat chocolates as my cheat meal but mangoes are a different story. So the point here is: Choose your splurges well.

Understand the difference between cheating and ‘structured cheating’. Between enjoying your favourite foods occasionally versus eating everything wrong that you adore all the time, opt for the earlier.

When you have a cheat meal, make sure it’s 100 per cent worth it! Also, please don’t feel guilty.

Be prepared to balance out the splurge soon. If you had a carb/fat fest, then cut down on these foods the next day or exercise a little extra.

Finally, splurging is a tool that should be used sparingly and smartly.

Excerpted with permission from Ultimate Grandmother Hacks by Kavita Devgan, published by Rupa Publications, MRP Rs 295, Pages 236.

Also Read: Meet Nethra Kaul From Like A Bird On The Wire: An Excerpt

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