Unplanned meals are often Unhealthy!?


You just came back from a hard day at work and you are super hungry . You may be too tired to cook and desperately look for something quick and easy to prepare and eat. Often we settle for some rice and dal or even simpler- the 2 minute noodles or worse- a takeaway meals. Anything to douse the hunger pang!

What if, You had just spared 10 -15 minutes to soak dal/ legumes, kneaded some extra dough  and chopped veggies before leaving for work . We do realize that it may not seem practical everyday but assure you that just this much timely effort is a big investment for health in the long term.

Healthy meals do need some planning :

Let apart working women, even housewives are bored and tired of the same routine of cooking meals. Often, we reach a block with regards to what to make and serve. Everybody likes to eat a variety of food and repetition within the same week is not appreciated.

We believe that the stress related with cooking of varied yet healthy meals can be overcome with some planning !

Soaking of cereals and pulses:  Soaking dal or legumes is one of the most important pre-preparation step for a wholesome meal. Indian diets are lacking in proteins, especially in the vegetarian group where little emphasis is laid on having pulses or a protein rich food at every meal.

The tempting meals we choose to eat outside can be made easily at home with some planning. For example,the pindi chole with Naan , Rajmah chawal, Dal makhani and kulcha, puranpoli, Medu wada, Adai, pesaruttu , etc can be enjoyed at home if the required legumes/pulses are soaked and/or the dough is kneaded in advance and kept.

Germination / sprouting: Once gain, pulses such as whole moong /green gram, moth/matki, kala chana can be sprouted and stored for use in salads, stuffing in sandwiches, or used as it is for a curry or just boiled and eaten with chaat masala. Sprouting requires 6-8 hours soaking and then about 8 hours time for germination in a damp environment.

Fermentation : Fermented foods bring a great deal of variety in texture and flavour on the table. Regular idlis and dosa can be given a tasty twist at home such as idli manchurain, idli chilly, spring dosa, pav bhaji dosa, pizza dosa, etc. A variety of other fermented foods such as dhokla, khaman, handua, etc can be prepared at home if batter is left for fermentation beforehand.

Vegetables and fruits:  It cannot be denied that washing, peeling, cutting vegetables can be quite a project on its own.  We suggest that peeling and chopping can be done while watching television or reading or talking on the phone  in order to save time. Cleaned and chopped vegetables easy to use for any curry or dals .

Sometimes, more than physical preparation, even a mental note on what needs to be prepared for next meal helps to ease both physical and mental stress. You will be surprised to see how advanced meal planning gives you a sense of control on what you are eating . Also, knowing that something nice and interesting is being prepared makes the entire family anticipate and appreciate the meal.

Also, a weekly menu printed and stuck on the refrigerator helps as

  • One can buy groceries accordingly on weekends
  • Ensure that a variety is being cooked everyday
  • Plan for the next day (e.g. soaking, grinding, etc)

Even if we don’t end up following it exactly, weekly menu can be a very helpful guide when you reach that block or boredom with cooking routine.

As they say, ‘A stitch in time, saves nine’…A meal planned well in advance, leaves no room for unhealthy chance

Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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