Are you worried about some of the unhealthy ingredients that you use in the kitchen daily? Now you have the choice to shun them. Here are some substitutes that have a better nutritional value.
By Amrita Gracias
Today, with several lifestyle diseases on the rise, many parents are aware of the dangers of using unhealthy ingredients to cook food for their children. They all want to follow a wholesome diet. However, they often dread all the extra work and big changes that are associated with adopting one. Surprisingly, it’s not as difficult as it seems. A closer look at some of the common ingredients in your kitchen that you use almost every day, will tell you that they are not healthy options. All you need to do is replace these with some wholesome alternatives, which make for a more nutritious diet.
So, let’s look at some of the easily available, but healthier, substitutes that we can include in our daily diet:
1. Foxtail millet instead of white rice: A traditional staple food, the seeds of this grass-like plant have become a popular replacement for rice. Foxtail millet is highly nutritious, gluten-free and is known for its low glycaemic index. High in dietary fibre and protein, it is also low in fat content. It is also a rich source of phosphorous, which helps the body in producing energy.
2. Whole wheat flour (atta) instead of refined flour (maida): Whole wheat flour or atta is made of ground wheat grains that include the bran, endosperm and germ of the grain. Although it has a similar calorie count to maida, the natural fibre content is retained in atta, making it more nutritious. It contains iron, calcium and proteins, and is rich in vitamins B-1, B-3 and B-5.
3. Jaggery instead of sugar: Jaggery is the unrefined form of sugar made by evaporating the water from sugarcane or palm sap. Although it is high in calories, it contains more nutrients than sugar because of its molasses content. Jaggery is a source of sucrose and contains small amounts of Vitamin B, traces of iron and some minerals like calcium, zinc, phosphorous and copper. It also has various antioxidants that are good for the body’s immune system.
4. Herbs or spices instead of salt: While herbs are the leafy parts of certain plants, spices are the fruit, root or bark. Both have savoury tastes. Unlike salt, herbs are low in sodium and contain powerful antioxidants. When it comes to spices, as they are used in small quantities, they add only a few calories to food even though they may contain higher portions of fat and carbohydrates. They also contain a significant number of micronutrients and minerals that include iron, calcium and magnesium.
If you need to go in for salt, avoid processed and iodised varieties. They contain high amounts of chemicals like sodium bicarbonate, potassium iodide and aluminium derivatives. Rock salt, sea salt or pink salt are healthier alternatives. They are natural sources of minerals and electrolytes, and help maintain the right balance of sodium-potassium ratio in the body.
5. Gingelly (sesame) oil instead of hydrogenated vegetable oil: Gingelly oil, which is the oil extracted from the sesame seed, is considered healthy for cooking. It has significant amounts of Vitamin B6, manganese, copper, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. The oil also contains sesamol (an antioxidant), which is anti-inflammatory and thus prevents clogging of the arteries. It is also known to reduce bad cholesterol and increase the levels of good cholesterol in the body.
6. Paneer (cottage cheese) instead of cheese:Paneer is made from curdling hot milk with an edible acidic ingredient (such as vinegar or lemon juice). It is a fresh and mildly-flavoured ingredient used in a variety of sweet or savoury dishes. A good source of protein and calcium, it also contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a fatty acid that helps increase the fat burning process in the body. Its high protein levels help keep hunger levels satiated long after it is consumed.
7. Unsalted nuts instead of deep-fried foods: Nuts are basically fruit but aren’t as sweet. Despite being high in fat content, they are excellent antioxidants and a good source of various nutrients like Vitamin E, magnesium and selenium. They are high in fibre and low in carbs. They help reduce caloric absorption. They also reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, and boost levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
8. Yoghurt instead of heavy cream: Yoghurt or curd is prepared by bacterial fermentation of milk. It is an excellent source of protein and is rich in essential amino acids. Easy to digest, yoghurt is one of the best probiotic foods and even contains live microorganisms that are essential for our body. Curd can also be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant.
9. Unsweetened fruit juice instead of aerated drinks: Juice made from fresh fruits or vegetables is packed with soluble fibre. While bottled and aerated drinks are packed with high amounts of sugar and calories, fruit juice, on the other hand, is high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. It also reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Drinking unsweetened fruit juice is also an excellent way to consume more fruits or vegetables, which is beneficial for health.
10. Ragi (finger millet) instead of ready-made cereals: A super cereal, ragi is a gluten-free whole grain known for its high nutritional value. It is rich in protein and mineral content and even has anti-microbial properties. Ragi is also one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium, and its low glycaemic index helps keep blood sugar levels in control. It is also a natural source of iron and keeps disorders like anaemia at bay.
There are many ‘villains’ in the kitchen that you may use daily and which pose a threat your children’s health. Replacing them with these ‘heroes’ will ensure that you are setting a precedent for healthy living in your family.
Validated by Smitha Suresh, nutritionist
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