In a few days it will be Navratri season again, and many people will begin observing the traditional fast. The festival of Navratri is traditionally celebrated twice a year – during spring (vasant) and during fall (sharadiya). It was an effective way of preparing the body for the change in seasons by boosting one’s immunity.
Unlike the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, Navratri fasts are partially restrictive as selected foods such as sabudana, rajgira, wari (upavasache tandul), singhada flour, arrowroot flour, buckwheat (kootu), sanwa millet, makhana, raw banana, potato, sweet potato, yam, bottle gourd (doodhi or lauki), pumpkin (kaddu or bhopla), cucumber, carrot, all fruits, dry fruits, milk and milk products, sugar, jaggery, honey, ghee, groundnut oil and rock salt are permitted. These foods are considered as sattvic ingredients and are believed to help detoxify the body.
Nutritionally many of these traditional Navratri foods are high in calories due to carbohydrate and fat and low in protein. Deep frying increases the calorie content further and so one needs to be conscious of what one eats. Those who plan to fast this Navratri should ensure to eat healthy so they reap spiritual and physical benefits. Here are some tips:
Traditional Navratri foods include grains like rajgira flour, buckwheat, barnyard millet, foxtail millet, warior singhara flour. These foods are not only rich in starch, but also contain adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and mineral and are naturally gluten free. Prepare roti instead of puris, idlis or dosas or pancakes using these grains, cook wari or foxtail millet or buckwheat like rice.
Avoid combining root vegetables along with sabudana like in the case of sabudana khichdi and sabudanavada. Sabudana khichdi and sabudanavadas are high calorie foods that are eaten on days of fasting and during Navratri. Skip the potato and prepare the khichdi only with sabudana and groundnuts along with seasoning of jeera and green chillies. Instead of vada, make sabudana cutlets and shallow fry them on a non-stick pan.
Use potato, sweet potato, yams or raw banana as a substitute for grains rather than along with grains since both contain starch and calories.
Prepare kheers using skim or low-fat milk along with vegetables such as lauki and carrot or fruits such as apples. These kheers are much lower in calories as compared to those prepared from grains.
Use less oil and ghee while seasoning foods.
Use cooking methods such as steaming, grilling or baking instead of deep frying.
Snack on roasted unsalted nuts, dates or puffed makhanas seeds. Nuts are low in carbohydrates and rich in protein and unsaturated fatty acids. Due to their high fat content nuts are concentrated sources of energy. They are also rich sources of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium, selenium, iron, potassium and contain polyphenol antioxidant compounds and plant sterols. Makhanas or lotus seeds, also known as fox nuts and come from a plant called Euryale ferox which grows in wetlands or ponds. These seeds are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zincbut are low in sodium. They contain phytonutrients such as flavonoids, alkaloids, gallic acid and saponins. Makhanas can be eaten raw, boiled, roasted or ground into a paste. The seeds are also puffed and used in curries, kheer and dry roasted snacks.
One could also have mixed fruit chaat or fruit raitas as snacks in between meals.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids like coconut water, lime juice and buttermilk. Drinking adequate amount of fluids helps keep one healthy by flushing out toxins. It also helps moisturise the skin cells and improves blood circulation thereby making the skin clear.
Rock salt or sendha namak is the only salt that one can use during Navratri.It is an unrefined salt and contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and fluorine in addition to sodium chloride. Rock salt has many health benefits, it is said to be cooling and has carminative, antacid, anti-bilious, and anti-phlegmatic properties.
Eat small meals and do not starve or over eat. Eating meals at regular intervals helps maintain blood glucose levels thereby keeping one energetic.
Maintain portion control to prevent weight gain.
Last but not the least, continue exercising and be active.
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 18 years of experience, practising at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)