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A nutritional evaluation of your lunch dabba!
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January 16, 2008

Last Tuesday, we invited readers to tell us what they were having for lunch, so that Get Ahead nutritionist Samreedhi Goel could evaluate their afternoon meals and provide advice on how to improve their food intake.

We received an overwhelming response, but Samreedhi managed to pick out ten to evaluate -- here they are!

Plain rice, dal, apple

-- Hemangi

Samreedhi says: Hi Hemangi! Plain rice and dal is not a complete meal nutritionally. Moreover, rice does not contain much fibre, so it does not have satiety value; after such a lunch you will find that you tire easily and feel hungry within an hour or two. Your temporary blood sugar level spike will be followed by an equally abrupt drop, which will affect your attention span as well.

Switch from rice to 2 plain rotis/ phulkas without oil/ ghee and add a seasonal vegetable to your meal. You can even carry a couple of carrots or cucumbers -- a small salad will keep you more energetic through the rest of the day.

However if you do like to eat rice a few times in the week brown/ unpolished rice is a good option.You can make a pulao with this rice, add plenty of vegetables and masalas and complete the meal with a vegetable raita ie curds with tomato and cucumber, or a dudhi raita.

Hyderabadi chicken briyani

-- Kiran

Samreedhi says: Hello! Indulging in a biryani once in a while is okay. However, if this is what you eat regularly, make sure that you use unpolished or brown rice and breast pieces of chicken, which are lower in fat content than other parts. Also, the chicken should be skinned. Accompany the biryani with a vegetable raita or a large serving of a salad.

I had masoor dal, 2 rotis and an apple

-- Mukta Khandelwal

Samreedhi says: Hey Mukta! Masoor dal and two rotis is fine, but not good enough -- you need to up your fibre intake by adding a large serving of one cooked vegetable (preferably not potato).You can have that apple as an evening snack and have a carrot or cucumber with lunch instead. Combining fruit with your meal is not a great idea, especially if your meal is a heavy one loaded with oil -- it increases your blood sugar level.




-- Shyama M H Prasad

Samreedhi says: Hi! Is this really your lunch intake on one day or is it your lunch on three separate days? If it is all on one day, your calorie intake is just too much!

An ideal lunch for you would be two-three plain chappatis without ghee/ oil with a bowl of dal or rasam or sambar or chicken/ fish if you are non-vegetarian. Accompany this with a big bowl of seasonal vegetables and a large serving of salad, which will make you feel full and help control your appetite.

Bhurji and 5 chappatis

-- Mahesh Patil

Samreedhi says: Hi Mahesh -- this meal might be a cholesterol loaded one, depending upon how many eggs go into that bhurji! Usually, bhurji made for one person contains a minimum of two eggs with the yolks, which doubles your day's cholesterol supply in one meal itself.

Moreover, five chappatis at one time is a very large serving. If the bhurji is made at home it can be modified using two-three egg whites and just one yolk -- you can add a little extra helping of onion and tomato to increase the vegetable serving. Reduce five chappatis to three and if you want to make them more filling, you can add one teaspoon of bran flour to each  roti's dough. You should also add a large serving of a salad (tomato + cucumber + carrot) to make this a complete, healthy meal.

One chappati, dal, vegetables, rice and a glass of thin chaas. I am still putting on weight and don't seem to lose it in spite of all the exercise and walking that I do. Pl advise.

-- Menaka Nair

Samreedhi says: Hello! Your meal is quite appropriate -- are you sure you are not snacking on high calorie snacks after this meal? If your meal is home-cooked, keep a watch on the fat content -- make sure that your rotis are prepared without oil/ ghee and your dal and vegetables are cooked in less oil as well. If you still put on weight after these changes get your thyroid levels tested.

I had maggi noodles and a cup of Horlicks

-- Maya Rajeev

Samreedhi says: Hi! Even a teenager cannot have a meal like that and they are so much more active compared to adults! If it is pasta that you like, you cam make whole wheat pasta (available in the market) in a tomato-based sauce with a few vegetables of your choice thrown in. Follow it up with a salad (lettuce, tomato and mix in a little thick curd, which has been beaten and to which salt and pepper has been added -- it makes a nice dressing) with some low-fat homemade cottage cheese (paneer) in it. This is a complete meal that is low in calories and filling!

Palak ki sabji and 5 small chappatis.

-- Hema Suvarna

Samreedhi says: Hi! You could add low-fat homemade paneer or soya nuggets to your palak, reduce the chappatis to two-three and add a salad in the form of lettuce with tomato and cucumber, or just a carrot, tomato and cucumber mix to feel fuller and consume less calories. An adult woman's cereal intake should be no more than six servings a day and you are eating five of those servings just at lunch!

Breakfast: Cornflakes/ muesli with one tea-cup milk

Lunch: 4 small phulkas, 1 bowl of salad, 1 glass of soup, 1 bowl of dal, 1 bowl of vegetables (non-gravy), 1 fruit (orange/ whatever is in season, except cheeku and banana)

Evening: 1 glass of juice/ 2 slices of papaya

Dinner: 2 phulkas, 1 small bowl of dal, 1 small serving of vegetables (non-gravy)

-- Diptee Deshpande

Samreedhi says: Hey Diptee! You can reduce your phulkas to two-three and omit the fruit at lunchtime, as you are already eating a salad.Have your fruit later in the evening as a mid-evening snack.

One bowl of veg salads, one bowl of fruits (banana, papaya, watermelon, chikku and apple). I am 34 with a height of 5' 7" weighing 75 kgs.

-- Anonymous

Samreedhi says: Hi! You seem to be on a diet of just fruit and salads. If it is for weight loss, then this is the wrong way to go about it. According to your height, you need to drop only about 5 kgs. If you wish to keep your lunch light, you can start with the salad and follow it up with two-three plain idlis and sambar or a large uttapa and sambar.You can even have pulao or biryani (two servings) made with brown rice, accompanied by a vegetable raita or just a simple meal of two-three rotis with vegetables and a bowl of dal. Remember, you cannot starve your way to fitness!

Tell us what you're carrying in your lunch dabba today and we'll tell you whether it's healthy or not!

Simply post what your meal consists of on the message board below (be sure to include your name, of course) and our nutritionist Samreedhi Goel will evaluate it for you!

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