The Sugar Free life

Many of us grew up using refined white sugar. Consuming too much of the nutritive sweeteners or sugar grains can result in numerous health issues, which includes diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Nutritive sweeteners provide calories or energy to the diet at about 4 calories per gram. Non-nutritive sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners do not provide calories and will not influence blood sugar levels.

Some of the excellent sugar substitutes are Table Sugar, Sugar Free Gold and Sugar Free Natura. Table Sugar is a natural source of sweetness. It is composed of glucose and fructose. Sugar Free Gold is made from a protein derivative ‘Aspartame’ and is ideal for your tea, coffee and lemon juice as they are 200 times sweeter than sugar. Sugar Free Natura is sucralose, a non-caloric sweetener made from sugar. It is derived from sugar (or sucrose) through a multi-step patented manufacturing process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydroxyl groups on the sugar molecule. This change produces a sweetener that has no calories, yet is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. It tastes like sugar and does not leave an unpleasant aftertaste.

Since sucralose is non-caloric, it adds no calories to any of your foods and beverages. It is not broken down like sucrose and therefore not utilized for energy in the body. It passes rapidly through the body virtually unchanged. Food items made with sucralose. However, may contain calories from the other ingredients that are used to make them.

It has been proved through research and clinical studies that sucralose can be safely consumed by diabetics. It is not recognized by the body as sugar or even as a carbohydrate and is not metabolized by the body for energy. It does not affect blood glucose levels and does not have any effect on blood glucose utilization, carbohydrate metabolism or insulin production. Over 110 safety studies have been done on sucralose. It is absolutely safe to use them and has been approved by WHO,USFDA and FSSAI.

Scientific studies have also shown that sucralose does not promote tooth decay since it does not support the growth of oral bacteria. It is freely soluble in water at both high and low temperatures and therefore, can be used in most food products. It is also heat stable and ideal for cooking and baking without any loss in sweetness. It can be used for making a wide range of desserts and mithais besides being used as a tabletop sweetener like in tea, coffee, lassi and yes can also be used in the making of ice creams.

But yes it does not perform certain actions that sugar does. It lacks the browning, tenderizing and moisture retaining properties provided by table sugar. Moreover, it cannot be caramelized or used to make candies. Certain modifications need to be incorporated while using sucralose. When the recipe calls for beating ingredients like butter, sugar and eggs together you will need to beat the ingredients a bit longer to incorporate enough air into the mixture. With sucralose, you won’t be able to bake as good as done with sugar. Therefore, addition of cocoa or other dark ingredients may be necessary to get the browning effect. Also, ingredients like buttermilk may be needed for moisture retention. Baked goods will get done faster so one will need to check for doneness a bit earlier than the time that a recipe with sugar calls for. Furthermore, these foods will last longer if stored in a refrigerator.

Substitute Sugar Free in your everyday diet and see the difference.

Live healthy, live Sugar Free. I live a Sugar Free life, do you?

Gajar halwa – The dessert of winter

Gajar halwa or, as we fondly call it in northern India, gajrela, is a famous sweet made in all Punjabi homes during winter. Some like it hot, some like it cold, some even like it nine days old! It does take to refrigeration well and some families always have a large tin of gajar halwa so that they can enjoy it for as long as it lasts.
It is a must as a winter dessert. However, this dessert is high in calories and carbohydrates, so those who are conscious about their sugar intake can take a tip or two from my variations in Gajar and Khajur Halwa as well as Sugarfree Gajar Halwa. If you diabetic, or borderline diabetic, be careful about what you eat during the rest of the day, and save it for special occasions. The challenge in making a tasty gajar halwa with some compromise lies in retaining the full-bodied sweetness of the carrots and not to mask it with added sweeteners. My addition of dates is an attempt to reduce the amount of sugar and make the dessert healthier.
To make Gajar and Khajur ka Halwa, first heat a kadai. Add 8-10 medium grated carrots and ½ cup sugar and cook for about five minutes. Add 2 cups skimmed milk and continue to cook. Add ¾ cup seeded and chopped dates, 8-10 roughly chopped cashewnuts, ½ teaspoon green cardamom powder and mix. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes. When dry and cooked, add 2 tablespoons pure ghee. Mix well and this is best served hot. To use a sugar substitute, heat 3 tablespoons pure ghee in a kadai. Add 8-10 medium grated carrots and sauté for about five minutes. Add 2 cups skimmed milk and cook. Blanch 10-12 pistachios, peel and slice. Add ¼ teaspoon green cardamom powder, 10-15 sultanas, 18 measures sugarfree and mix. Cook for about ten to fifteen minutes. Add ¼ cup grated khoya and mix. Cook till the mixture is almost dry. Garnish with pistachios. Serve hot or cold.
When carrots are in season you could look at various savory options like Gajar Tamatar Pulao or Methi Gajar Muthia too. For different ideas during Diwali you could also make a Gajar Halwa Burfi or Gajar Kheer. But ask any Indian, settled in the east or the west, they will claim that gajar halwa is the best!

Fun filled festivities with fewer calories!

Everyone is looking out for Indian festive recipes now that the festive season is here well and good! It means those who have a sweet tooth and are health conscious will be literally looking at tightening their belts! It is so easy to go overboard in these days because there is so much food visible – fancy foods are made not only at home but there is so much variety available in the market too. You will find a flood of sugarless sweets and low calorie savouries on the shelves now. It is easy to get tempted and buy a lot of them with the thought that consuming them may not mean a lot of calories. But beware, drop by drop does an ocean fill! Too much of ‘low-calorie’ can also add up to too many extra calories! Secondly, there is always a trace of doubt as to what the commericalised ‘low calorie’ can mean!
Indian festive recipes are needed as festivities in our homes can mean a round of lunches, dinners and parties with a lot of snacky food and desserts. It is not always possible for the hostess or host to provide an absolutely ‘healthy’ menu to the guests: some people expect traditional fried foods too! But here we can suggest that you avoid whatever you think does not fit into your daily meal plan. Go for those dishes that look low in fat.
It is not so difficult to provide low calorie foods during festivals. Switch to baking instead of frying. One can bake samosas, namakparas and karanjis. For a sample try Baked Namakpara. You can also rustle up a variety of mini idlis and dhoklas. In sweets, sugar substitutes are the answer. Take a look at Sugar Free Mathura ka Pedha and Gajar Halwa Sugarfree. Otherwise use natural sources like dates and anjeer to add sweetness. For example, Date and Anjeer Baked Karanji and Date and Walnut Laddoo are good recipes.
It is the trend now to gift fresh fruit baskets instead of dry fruit boxes as the former are lower in calories! The trick to remain fit during the festive season is to eat in moderation. You will not be bogged down with any guilt pangs then! And then you always this little spot where you can read up on low calorie Indian festive recipes!

Eating healthy the Indian way

Healthy Indian food diet can be made still more healthier. Traditional Indian meals are surely well balanced in all aspects especially when the meal has roti- sabzi- dal- chawal, yogurt with salad. But when we switch over to healthier cooking options, the oil content in all the preparations can be controlled.

The cooking techniques that can help to make daily Indian food diet healthier are steaming and pressure cooking. These are ideal ways to preserve most of the nutrients present naturally in food. For cooking of vegetables, use minimum oil for tempering and cook covered on medium heat so that they get cooked in their own juices.

Look at making the Indian snacking healthier. A lot of snacks can be baked instead of deep-fried. Like for example namakparas, shakkerparas, gujias (karanjis), etc., can be baked. Date and Anjeer Baked Karanji is a good snack recipe. Similarly choose steamed snacks instead of deep fried ones – like dhoklas and idlis. Both these items can be made in various combinations and therefore add variety. Also the popular Gujarati snack muthia can be steamed instead of deep-fried. Vegetables like fenugreek, carrot, etc., can add nutrient value. Check the recipe of Methi Gajar Muthia.

Other tips to make Indian food diet healthier are

  • Always eat fresh food. Cook just as much as needed so that there are no leftovers. Use fresh vegetables or meats or fish.

  • Ideally vegetables should not be chopped or cut too much in advance as certain vitamins and minerals are lost. Also do not cook vegetables in too much water and then drain away the cooking liquour as this way too a lot of minerals and vitamins are lost because they get leeched in the water.

  • When you think you should have paranthas switch to phulkas instead. And when you make paranthas roast them on non-stick tawa so that a bare minimum of oil need be used. Spinach and Cabbage Parantha is an interesting version.

  • Talking about food combinations starch and acids should never be eaten in one meal. For instance, white bread and citrus juices cannot be digested together. Fats and sugars too should not be eaten in one meal. Simply put, do not combine cereals, bread, potatoes or other such foods with oranges, grapefruit, pineapple or other acidic foods.

  • There should be only one kind of protein in one meal. The protein based foods will excite acids in the stomach while the starch or carbohydrates will get the alkalis flowing and therefore they will neutralize each other, forming a watery solution, digesting neither. The food then rots inside though we get the feeling of fullness. And this rotting food causes all kinds of digestive problems like gas, heartburn, cramps, bloating, constipation, etc., and eventually the blood stream will absorb the toxins produced by this rotting and result in allergies, hives, headaches, nausea, etc.

Easy Indian Recipes – a treasure trove

Those who wish to cook Indian food will be pleased to know that there are thousands of easy Indian recipes that are a breeze to cook. In fact, the only dexterity required is to read the recipe and get hold of all the ingredients. It is not difficult putting the dish together once your preparation is complete. For the novice cook, the simplest of the Indian bread called the roti would be masterful thing to make. But for a novice cook, kneading the dough just right is a new frontier to cross. So let us look at some rice recipes that come together in the pot with vegetables and spices to make soft khichdis. Moong Dal Khichdi, Bajra Khichdi, Gujarati Khichdi, Hari Bhari Khichdi are some of the ideas that you could use. If you prefer to use the microwave for cooking, ensure that the bowl is large enough to take the bubbling of the water used for cooking the rice and dals.
One more suggestion for your collection of easy Indian recipes is raita. To get the raita perfect, first let us set the curd to the correct firmness and sweetness at home. To make this heat 5 cups of full cream whole milk, bring it to boil and reduce to around four cups. Remove from heat and cool it till it comes to a temperature of 45° C. Add one tablespoon of thick yogurt as starter and mix evenly with a spoon or churner/whisker. Transfer the mixture into an earthenware pot and allow to set in a warm place (at 43°C) for four hours (in summer, otherwise may take longer). In winter or in places at higher altitudes one can always wrap the pot in which you are setting the yogurt in a blanket or a similar warm wrapping. Always remove a small quantity aside for setting the yogurt for the following day before you consume the rest. Refrigerate once set. So when you have such lovely yogurt in your refrigerator lets get going with the relishes. Try out Lauki ka Raita, Beetroot Raita, Phalon Ka Raita, Boondi ka Raita.
Next time round we will look at cooling traditional beverages such as lassi, tangy chutneys that do not require any cooking and halwas. The last is the quickest way to present a genuine Indian dessert that is comfort food for many. Then we will progress to breads and dals, other desserts, rice dishes called biryanis and pulaos and then the simplest of the snacks. So who wants to file a collection of easy Indian recipes is at the right place!

Healthy diet for youngsters

We have to emphasis the importance of healthy diet and eating right from childhood. Somewhere the nutritional gap starts and becomes so big that it is difficult to fill up –hence the increasing amount of children having heath problems like obesity, anemia, constipation or high cholesterol problems. Simply put, if we begin today (in fact, right now!) to take preventive measures kids can be energetic, happy and feeling great which is the way they are meant to be.
There are so many distractions for the young ones today: fast foods, processed foods and all those where taste matters more than the goodness factor. Let us face it; we are surrounded by fast-food outlets, peer pressure, bad catering in school-canteens, advertising campaigns and birthday parties to lead children astray in their choices around food, so it is imperative that we take the reigns early on to introduce good eating habits to young children. Would you not like to have your children safeguarded against common ailments, allergies, concentration problems and learning difficulties as the result of poor diets dominated by massive amounts of refined sugars, colourants, flavourants, preservatives and excess amount of fats?
The primary education for following a healthy diet begins in the primary years. It is best to allow the young ones at home to help with the meal preparation and “test” the taste before adding extra flavours. Children will most probably not eat fruit and vegetables simply because “they are good for them”. They must have good flavour and texture. I have also observed that many kids will not eat cooked vegetables but may eat them raw. Salad vegetables like cherry tomatoes, slices of cucumber, grated carrot or carrot sticks and celery are a good option and can be served with a tasty dip.
There is one meal that is important for kids and adults alike and that is breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day and should be eaten every day. Some examples are a nutritious drink, fresh or stewed fruit, custard, yogurt, leftovers on toast or milk drinks as well as the usual breakfast foods such as cereals, toast, eggs and baked beans.
Quick Fried Egg with Brown Bread is a good presentation. Lunch is probably packed in school or college. The evening meal is the single most family meal where the mother must find time to cook up something very tasty and wholesome. You can look at hearty soups or casseroles, stir-fries using chicken, lots of vegetables and some noodles. Try pasta dishes like meatballs with pasta, tuna and tomato fettuccine or macaroni cheese. Even egg dishes such as frittata, quiche and omelettes will be enjoyed. Once in a while give a treat of homemade hamburgers and pizzas! Healthy Pizza is sure to please the kids. Desserts should make a positive contribution to a meal so serve lots of fresh sweet fruits and yogurt sundaes. For special occasions Hot Chocolate Nut Sundae is wonderful.
We as adults need to give children firm yet gentle guidelines to support them in making good choices later in choosing a healthy diet for themselves.

Juicy tales about lemons – healthy citrus for summers

Lemons are real thirst quenchers and it is important to always have a few at home in summers. Lemons are important in lemonade (either sweet or salted) that is one of the most popular home made refreshing beverages! It not only rejuvenates but also provides the essential nutrients that are required to fight the dehydrating heat. So when one wants to benefit the healthy aspects of a lemon try a Lemon Banana Lassi that will pep you up.
Lemon juice also revives in conditions of fever, diarrhoea etc. Lemons are also used as appetisers other than all its uses in cookery. It is also used in the cosmetics industry. Lemons are rich in vitamin C. They are low in calories and high in potassium content. Every part of the lemon is used in sweet or cooking delicious dishes. From the rind to the juice it is used. Traditionally a drink of lemon juice, hot water and a teaspoon of honey have been used as a remedy for colds, obesity, and constipation.
In the kitchen a lemon can do some sparkling things. Make this starter at the next party you have: Grilled Prawns with Spicy Lemon Dressing and sit back for the accolades. Lemon juice freshly squeezed over grilled fish is a traditional way to serve it. Or then some serve the fish with cut lemon wedges. Lemon slices are a popular addition to tea and cold drinks.
Lemons give a wonderful flavour to sweet dishes. Miniature Tarts with Lemon Curd are always pleasantly received. Not only lemon curd, lemons can be used for jellies, jam, or cheeses, mousses, ice cream, soufflés etc. Lemon peels contain pectin, which helps to set jams and jellies. Strips of peel can be added to candied fruits to add to cakes and puddings. Try the Lemon and Pistachio Cookies in your kids’ mid-morning snack box!
Lemons are widely used in pickles and sherbets. Lemon juice is also used as a stain remover due to its bleaching property. Due to the high vitamin C content, lemon juice prevents oxidation, so it is often brushed over cut fruit or white vegetables to stop them from turning brown.
Tips for best use of lemons
1. A lemon at room temperature will yield more juice.
2. Before juicing, press down firmly and roll the lemon on the kitchen counter to break up the pulp before juicing.
3. If the lemon is very cold, you can microwave it for a few seconds before squeezing.
4. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays, when frozen save in a plastic bag.
5. Grate lemon zest; seal tightly in a plastic bag and freeze.
6. Put lemon wedges inside the cavity of a whole chicken.
7. Tenderize meat by marinating it in lemon juice.
8. Squeeze lemon on vegetables while steaming, to keep the colours bright.
9. A few drops of lemon juice improves the taste of other fruits.
10. Add it to rice while cooking to make it fluffier.
Talking about healthy lemons and rice, a simple presentation of Volcanic Lemon Vegetable Rice tonight can turn your dinner table into a lively place.