Eating healthy South Asian guide

Research has shown that South Asians have a genetic predisposition for cardiovascular disease, which tops the list for the causes of death worldwide. South Asians tend to express these genes at a younger age; this trend carries over even with migration out of South Asia to different parts of the world. Expression of the genes may be inevitable even in the absence of obesity, which is considered as a major risk factor. However, such expression may be delayed if you have a healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating habits amongst others (including exercise and getting enough restorative sleep).
Eating healthy comprises many things:

Eating in a timely fashion: It is best to eat six small meals through the whole day with an interval of about 3 hours between the meals. You should keep a gap of 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. Pre-packaging meals is one solution to avoid skipping meals. 

Healthy preparation techniques: 

Frying is the commonest cooking method in South Asian diet; to avoid the health risks associated with this method – use olive oil instead of butter/ghee and smear the pan with just enough to avoid sticking. Even better, use healthier techniques – steaming (as done in the southern parts for dishes like “idli”/”kothu roti”) and tandoor oven. 

For dishes that require milk, use low fat alternatives; try to avoid cream and coconut milk. A healthier alternative to paneer is tofu.

You should not add salt during the cooking process – you may be satisfied by the natural salt content in some of the foods. Keep the salt shaker on the table for those who may want to add the extra salt to their plate.
(3)    Controlling portion requires an effort on your part as South Asian culture involves indulging in food during social events. Before attending events, have a handful of a protein-rich food like almonds and at the event, keep sipping on water – these are some techniques to avoid overeating.

Water is the best liquid for our system. Decrease the intake of caffeinated drinks (including tea) and juices because these tend to dehydrate the body. Popular South Asian drinks like tea and lassi have healthier varieties – green tea and lassi drinks made with fruits instead of syrup and made without added salt/sugar.

Most snacks in the South Asian diet are fried; so, limit portions. Even better, use the baked alternatives that are available now.

You can enjoy desserts if you control portions and limit eating these to only 1-2 x per week.  

It is important to have at least 3-4 servings from each group throughout the day – milk/alternatives, grain products, vegetables/fruits, and meat/alternatives. It is important to have 2 items from the same group at one meal. If you are interested in further details, EatRight Ontario ( is a good resource. 
Preparing any meal starts at the grocery store. Using the above tips, prepare a list always before venturing into your grocery store. It is important to resist the temptation to buy anything that is not on your list. 
It helps to plan meals together to suit everyone needs. If the caretaker works also outside the home, divide the days of preparing meals amongst the family members but make sure that all members follow the same rules.
By making some of these healthier choices, you can continue to enjoy the South Asian diet and avoid worrying about being the next statistic in cardiovascular disease.

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