Calorie conscious?

If you are health conscious the word calorie will mean the world to you! Yes, calorie is a unit of energy that can be measured by many methods. Here, we are focusing on foods that may help you lose weight as they, through the process of eating, chewing, digesting, metabolizing, actually make the body work harder to extract the calories.

This can be explained simply. You consume a generous wedge of Mocca Gateaux at the five star buffet. It is around 400 calories. To digest it your body may require only 150 calories…net gain of 250 calories which is added to your body fat! On the other hand, you munch on a stick of celery which is only 5 calories. Your body may require 150 calories to digest it, resulting in a net loss of 145 calories from the body fat! Here the common person may infer that the more you eat of such foods the more weight you lose! But anything in excess is harmful. Remember this – it is a guiding principle in healthy eating.

Any diet plan will focus not only on the total calorie intake for the day but also the break up in the meals and also the distribution in the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals and fibre. This write up here is not to design any diet for you but to give you a brief dekho into the world of foods that can help you lose weight in a safe and natural way.

Foods that help in fat burning have three essential features: they are high in moisture and fibre and low in carbohydrates and protein. It could be a safe and natural way to lose weight without starving. It is a well-established fact that the extra bulk that fibre contains will help you feel fuller for longer and thus help you stave off hunger pangs and lose weight. These foods should be incorporated in the daily meals because they will provide all essential nutrients. In fact, once you look it over it will strike you that fruits and vegetables in the raw form are the foods that we need to munch on seriously and that they provide the essential fibre, moisture, vitamins and minerals to our daily diet. In fact, vitamins stimulate the tissues to produce enzymes that break down the caloric nutrients of the foods.

Experts tell us that we need to include five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables in our daily diet for it to be termed healthy. Eating this suggested amount is difficult for many people. Fruits and vegetables have maximum benefits when eaten without any junk foods that are empty calorie foods. I suggest when in need of a snack reach out for celery sticks or an apple and forget the chips and cookies. When you make a sandwich ensure some lettuce and thick slices of tomato make the filling. Salads can help to supplement any meal even when you are on a diet that is being monitored for calories. At the dessert display at a buffet or party, look for the bowls of chopped fruits. And serve yourself some!

I should bring to your notice that I have not included any non vegetarian or even eggs in the category of foods that can help you burn calories while digesting them. For ready reference I have a short list of foods that can help you in weight loss:

Asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, capsicums, cucumber, garlic, green beans, gourds, lettuce, onion, radishes, spinach, turnip, zucchini, lemon, grapefruit, apple, papaya, orange, pineapple to name a few. You can also see how much calories some of our favourite foods cost us here. Given here are some easy recipes that can help you along.

Clear Vegetable Soup

Healthy Cornflakes Bhel

Warm Thai Noodle and Papaya Salad

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Indian starters – perfect ice breakers at a party!

Whenever you plan a party or a cocktail dinner, the highlight will be the starters. In fact, the main course will be secondary for two reasons: one, the guests will be semi full on the starters and two, the main course has to be balanced with the variety of starters.

Some tips for a balanced array of starters at your party:

  • Balance out vegetarian and non-vegetarians ones so that the count is not lopsided (maybe equal number of items).
  • When you have a big party and starters are being served with drinks then you can make one task easy for the guests – the task of choosing between vegetarian and non vegetarian items by distinguishing the service people by their jackets. Announce that loud often.
  • Always keep children in mind. Believe me they are not interested in what you like. Make interesting things as per the likes and dislikes of today’s children, and you will definitely have their attention. Indian starters such as Angoori Paneer Tikka is loved by them.
  • Keep a balance in the method of cooking while serving starters with drinks. Shallow fried, stirred, deep fried, baked, grilled/barbecued/tandoori, broiled etc. Let your guests get a choice. Vegetable Nizami Seekh could be one.
  • When food is circulated for picking up directly from the platter, keep it in bite size pieces. Keep toothpicks and paper napkins handy and don’t forget to collect soiled ones from the guests or provide for strategically placed presentable lined garbage bins.
  • Don’t delay much in serving food after serving starters and drinks. People find it uncomfortable to eat after their normal eating time when hunger pangs are no longer there! Specially when kids are around, see to it that food is served at the appropriate time.
  • Have sufficient quantities of dips/chutneys at hand. You should never fall short of these because these add the punch to the starter.

For a cocktail party what kind of starters should you serve?

  • For a cocktail party the starters should be more finger foods and served in bite sized portions.
  • Always prepare a selection of items that can be served at room temperature. That way you do not have to worry that your hot starter will be getting cold. In other words, the items should be such that can be prepared in advance and kept. And even if you wish to serve them hot they could be popped into the microwave oven for a minute or two before serving. One good Indian starter would be Kheema Samosa.
  • Consider the colours of the food that will be served together and make sure there is variety. Colours and textures of the various starters should complement each other.
  • Also do not repeat the main ingredient. For example, do not serve a prawn cocktail and golden fried prawns together.

Diwali recipes – Tips for a savvy party

Parties, whether you are the host or the invitee, are meant to be fun filled times. A good party has only one secret and we are going to let it out: it is the feeling of excitement enhanced by a welcoming drink, deliciously presented food and a happy mood.
If the space or the rooms in the house are cleaned up and crockery and glasses set out then there is no last minute stress to set things up. You can also do some furniture rearranging to create ‘gossip’ corners and leave lots of open space for easy movement and some dancing, you never know! Disposables can be bought provided the numbers expected are large. The kitchen work can happen simultaneously
Make the menu harmonious in taste, texture and colour so that it appeals to the eye and stomach both. Design the menu to take advantage of what’s in season. There is virtue in simplicity. Plan dishes that complement each other in terms of work they require. Be sure not to plan a lot of dishes that need last minute cooking. Garnishings like sprigs of herbs, ginger julienne, onion rings, lemon wedges, etc pique appetites.
Surprise you guests by whipping up a Jal Jeera using club soda and a mint sprig. Crushed ice is an option.Purchase the savouries or starters or put them together using easy ingredients. Small appetizers are a hit anytime.
Play with cracker bases, papdi bases, salted biscuits or even basket Canapés.
One can stamp out small cookie sized rounds from large readymade pizza bases and top them with a variety of toppings.
Serve cheese straws with dips or for the more health conscious Vegetable Crudités.
Pass around bowls of roasted nuts or salads that can be picked up with tooth picks.
Another suggestion is to decide where the focus is: one can serve more of starters and appetizers with mocktails and play down the main course or vice versa.
The best options that can be served up quickly are fragrant pulaos with raita and papads (roll them up or fold into triangles) or stew with garlic bread. If time permits, Chole Bhature is another fantastic offering. Farewell would be with Chocolate Paan Rolls. Yes. Meethe paan (kalkkati or benarasi), dipped half way through in melted chocolate and served chilled. Unforgettable.
One tip: If it is a Diwali party (which could be somehow happening much after Diwali is over!) see to it that light, low fat snacks are served. Go slow on the sweets and desserts as the festival time would have meant indulgence in sweets and savouries for many! More Diwali recipes.