Globally, hospitality is an expression of warmth, affection and respect. And more so in India, which believes that atithi devo bhavah (guest is god). From this stems the Indian approach of graciousness towards guests in all social situations.
Interestingly, people from the Land of Hospitality, the Pakhtun (south-central Asia), predominant in all provinces of Afghanistan, start their ancient code of ethics with hospitality, also referred to as milmastiya. It appears to have originated with providing refuge to guests.
In India, it is often believed that the more you serve and feed your, the better host you are. However, in the current environment of abundance and excesses, this takes a tricky turn, especially when it comes to those trying to follow a disciplined diet, or a special regime to meet specific health needs.
In a society where saying no to hospitality is considered offensive, here are a few tips to not get derailed during the festival season.
Plan your days in advance with respect to food. Depending on the occasion, decide on when you would like to eat your better meal. Save up calories for that time, ideally in the earlier part of the day. Stick to vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk and yoghurt, soups, salads, eggs or lean meats during the other meals.
Evening is the time when hunger strikes the hardest and self control is at its weakest. Make evening snack time your meal time. For those at home, this should be a simple solution, but those who cannot because of work constraints, eating healthy snacks only requires a bit of planning ahead. Break up the meal and divide calories between office and home would help prevent loading up calories late at night. Grains or cereals before 8 pm and vegetables, soups, salad, pulses, nuts, cheese, yoghurt and lean meats, later.
In case, you are likely to eat late in the evening, reduce or avoid grains or cereals. Ideally, move away from the dessert counter and skip desserts. If you must, just take a bite or share it with somebody.
Celebrations, festivals and weddings also involve shopping, ensure you carry the right snacks and have the right options to avoid giving into unhealthy food.
Balance by allowing yourself two-three grain- or cereal-free days a week. Step up a serving or two of fruits or low-fat dairy on these days.
Also, beware of sugars in sweets and drinks. Instead, celebrate with healthier sweets such as natural dry fruits, honey-coated, chocolate-coated, jaggery-coated or caramelised nuts, dark chocolates rather than high calorie sweets.
Most importantly, maintain a food diary and try to take some time out to exercise.
Think before you Drink
Limit alcohol consumption. One to two small drinks for men and one for women, thrice a week is acceptable.
All spirits like whisky, vodka, rum, gin, wine are approximately equal in calorie content (90-120 Kcals.) and can be taken. Beer is best avoided on a regular basis.
For a long evening, space out your drinks with a clear liquid like water or soda. Else, dilute your drinks. A spritzer (wine with soda) can help you go a long way.
Avoid cocktails and mocktails. Tomato juice or virgin mary is a good option but for those who are salt sensitive it may lead to water retention.
Moderate intake is not an average of seven drinks per week, when there are six days of abstinence followed by seven drinks in one night. Binge drinking is asking for trouble.
For those who drink regularly, servings of grains/cereals may need to be further cut-down. Cut one serving of grain/cereal for one drink.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.