Tips for a Happy and Healthy Diwali | Obesity Medicine Association

October 28, 2021

Monu Khanna, MD

With the holidays just around the corner, Obesity Medicine Association wishes you a Happy Holiday Season! Each community celebrates different festivals and traditions this time of the year. And these celebrations are all about food, friends, and family. The South Asian community has been the fastest-growing Asian American group in the United States in recent years. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. It is based on the lunar calendar and usually falls in late October or early November. It marks the celebration of “good over evil” and is one of the most important festivals celebrated in the Indian sub-continent. A lot of non-Hindu communities join in to celebrate the festival in the spirit of secularism. There are lights lit all around to symbolically represent the end of darkness. It can be a tricky time with all the tasty temptations around, so I’ve provided some simple Diwali diet tips to keep you aligned with your weight management goals as the Diwali season approaches.

COOK AT HOME

No festivity is complete without the traditional foods of each culture and cooking recipes passed down to us. When you cook at home, you have more control over the quality of the ingredients. Moreover, you can always swap ingredients with healthier alternatives, and there are great ideas for healthy Diwali snacks recipes. If you are baking a cake, use half oil and half unsweetened applesauce instead. If you are in the mood for something savory, toast cooked chickpeas in the oven instead of frying. Making your special dishes at home allows you to choose how to make them. Skip refined sugars and be creative with other sweeteners. Ditch refined oils and try out cooking with ghee or coconut oil. By cooking at home, you get to choose what lands on your plate.

EXERCISE BEFOREHAND

If you will be indulging and having company, make time to exercise earlier in the day. It could be cardio, lifting weights, or any other exercise that you enjoy.  You can also go for a walk while talking to your family overseas. You will likely not even notice how easily that half-hour on the phone translates into 5,000 steps. Another way to stay moving during the holiday season is to plan a group yoga session or go for a hike with family and friends. Every step counts and helps towards your overall goals.

MINDFUL GIFTING

Exchanging gifts has always been a part of Diwali. This season be mindful of the types of gifts you are giving. Instead of the usual sweets, which are laden with syrup, let’s think outside the box. Check out alternative and more healthy Indian Diwali sweets as possible gift ideas. We know it’s the thought that counts, so we can indulge in better choices like tea baskets, self-care, or aromatherapy products. Maybe you could even gift an activity tracker! It can also be thoughtful to donate to the local food pantry or homeless shelter. There is so much need in today’s times, and this is a great way to give back to our community.

REPLACE WHAT YOU CANNOT RESTRICT

I know your inner voice is telling you it’s okay to indulge once a year. Sure, it is. But remember moderation doesn’t always work for some of us. It can be hard to stop after that first bite.  Do your best to be mindful, as the festive season is just beginning. It’s not about willpower, it’s about skill power- having the ability to slow down and think through your choices and actions. Think ahead about what strategies to use to make sure you don’t cave into overeating. If you are a carb-aware person, replace your juices and fizzy drinks with fruit-infused waters, spiced buttermilk, masala soda, or tea. If you’re looking for healthy Diwali sweets ideas, instead of eating flour-based fudges, indulge in some high-quality chocolate-covered almonds, dry fruit rolls with added seeds, and unsweetened coconut. Make a ragi dosa (millet-based crepe) and substitute the potato filling with dry peanut chutney.

STRIKE A BALANCE

If you are having company and plan on indulging, eat simpler meals the rest of the day. Try to eat protein earlier in the day, as protein can help you feel satiated. Limit mindless snacking while bored or trying samples from a gift box.  If you practice time-restricted eating, that’s a great tool to help you through the holiday season. Historically, feasting and fasting have been a part of many holidays.  And finally, getting enough sleep can help you feel rested and restored during the holiday season.  You can’t pour out anything from an empty cup, so make sure to take time for yourself. The more sleep you catch, the better choices you will make the next day.

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