Tips for a Healthier Raya
It’s that time of the year again where we forge closer ties with family and friends with get-togethers and plenty of food. In fact, for many, the food is the highlight of the festivities and many of us are already in the ‘eat-til-I-drop’ mindset before we even get to our first open house. Although you are, of course, still allowed to enjoy yourselves, just keeping to a few ground rules will help to minimise the ‘damage’ from a slight lapse during the holidays.
1. Don’t skip breakfast!
The adage ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ is a good one to remember. Don’t leave your house without eating some breakfast, thinking you have an open house at 11 so you will save the calories for that! Skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain as it lowers metabolism for the rest of the day. Also people who eat breakfast, often consume fewer calories throughout the day. When we skip breakfast, our blood sugar level becomes low and that’s when we start craving food, especially the sweet food. This is the last thing we want when we are going to open houses filled with all sorts of tempting foods. When we eat (after skipping breakfast), there is a sudden increase in blood sugar levels and our body reacts to this by converting the sugar to fat to bring our blood sugar level back to normal. This leads to weight gain. So remember to eat your breakfast.
2. Stay hydrated
It gets very hot when we are going from one open house to another and we can often mistake dehydration for hunger. So to avoid overeating, make sure you bring a bottle of water with you and drink in the car in between open houses to stay hydrated. It’s important that your bottle is made from glass or stainless steel as a plastic bottle can leach toxins into your water if left in the hot sun. If possible, carry your water bottle with you as many open houses would be serving sugary drinks that are not only empty calories but also bad for your health.
3. Choose healthier options
Raw foods are always the better option so look for dishes that contain raw fruits and vegetables as they would still have all their nutrients and avoid dishes that are fried (especially because caterers often use rancid refried oil which is the worst kind of oil to use). Desserts is another one we should try to refrain from eating as they are loaded with refined sugar and flour.
- Some healthy food options to look out for: thosai with dhall or coconut chutney, lontong, rojak buah (go easy on the sauce though), asam laksa, laksa johor, roast lamb, chicken mandy rice, yong tau foo.
- Some dishes to (try) avoid: roti canai (uses the transfat, margarine), fried kuey teow, any noodle dish made using the yellow egg noodles as these often contain yellow colouring and a lot of additives, any coloured food that seem suspiciously too bright to have natural origins and hence are likely to contain food colouring (food colouring can cause cancer and behavioural problems, just to name a few), fried chicken, pisang goreng, ice kacang, cakes and cookies.
4. Follow the 80/20 rule
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to have some of those delicious Raya food that you have been craving and looking forward to eating all year. Follow the 80/20 rule – eat healthily 80% of the time and allow yourself to eat whatever you desire 20% of the time. If you are too rigid with keeping your diet healthy, you are more likely to give up on being healthy. Also, you may end up getting stressed from having to restrain yourself from having your favourite Raya food and that defeats the whole purpose of being healthy. Health is not just about diet; the mind is important too. Stress has a negative impact on our health and can lead to many diseases.
5. Have a bit of protein with every meal
This will keep you more satiated and help to keep your blood sugar levels stable so you are less likely to get hungry and overeat. It will also reduce your craving for unhealthy and sugary foods. You should add some form of protein as this will stabilise the glucose that is released into the blood from the carbohydrates so you won’t get spikes in blood sugar levels.
6. Go for the fresh fruits first if there are any
The fibre in fresh fruits can keep you feeling fuller so you will eat less of the other foods. It can also satisfy your sweet cravings and make you less tempted to reach for the cakes and cookies. On top of that, you will get the nutrients from these fruits such as vitamins and minerals that are important for your health.
7. Exercise or stay active
This is the time you need to exercise or be active in order to burn the calories from the Raya food. You can start your morning with a 15-30 minute brisk walk or if you’d prefer something more fun, arrange squash games or tennis games with friends that you meet at open houses - great way to bond and catch up. There is a tendency to sleep after open houses because all that food and heat often makes us tired and sleepy. This is not a wise thing to do and you will most likely put on weight by the end of the Raya month if you keep doing this. So stay active. Strength training is especially helpful as muscles help you to burn calories even while you are resting; strength training increases resting metabolic rate. So aim to do a mix of cardio and weights to get the most benefit from a work out.
So keep the above points in mind, go easy on yourself and let yourself enjoy your Raya without stressing too much over the details – in other words, do the best you can and enjoy yourselves.
Selamat hari raya!