Dec 4, 2018

3Rs of healthy eating


You might have heard of the familiar 5Rs related to waste management and sustainability - Reflect, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking of a similar framework that is so relevant to healthy eating habits as well.

Having been reading about food and nutrition for many years now, I have come to believe that both from a quality and a quantity standpoint, our eating habits have become poor.

Because of the poor quality ingredients being used in processed foods, the frequent eating-outs, take-aways, the pesticides and chemical fertilizers being used in our fresh produce, the quality of foods we put in our mouths have deteriorated over time. 

The other important but overlooked aspect is the Quantity. It is shocking to note how we keep munching something or the other throughout the day, mindlessly in front of our screens. There is hardly any gap between meal times. More than the main meals, we tend to snack a LOT. These may not be applicable to the entire population but a general trend among the affluent. 

I have found this 3Rs framework to be very helpful to communicate my perspectives on healthy eating. The 3Rs comprise of 
  1. Remove/Reject
  2. Reduce and
  3. Replace

1.Remove/Reject:
We keep adding more and more super foods and other ingredients to our daily diet, in the hope that green tea will reduce belly fat, quinoa will help in weight loss etc. Our pantries and fridges are filled with so many stuff (jams, preserves, sauces, spreads etc). If an ingredient is promoted as a super food, we immediately add it to our never-ending shopping list. 
Instead of "adding" more to our diet, I would suggest we "Remove" or "Reject" certain foods and ingredients. 
Remove/Reject anything packaged, especially those with a lot of unidentifiable ingredients.
Remove all that is imported and has high carbon footprint.
When it comes to healthy eating, "less is more" is so true. We don't need fancy ingredients. We can lead a healthy life with a minimal pantry.

3.Replace:
Replace is something that we have all been addressing over the past 5-6 years. So I'm not going to dive into the details, as the awareness is high. Replace unhealthy ingredients with healthy, natural ingredients.
White sugar with cane sugar, palm sugar or jaggery
Iodised salt with unprocessed / Himalayan pink salt
Refined oils with cold-pressed oils
White polished rice with handpounded rice and millets

The main intention of this post is to talk about the second R - Reduce.

2.Reduce:
Reduce the quantity we eat, as we age. I read somewhere that as we enter our 40s, the number of meals should be 2 and not 3. If that's not feasible, let's atleast try to reduce the quantity we eat in each of our 3 meals. 

Reduce mindless snacking - when your mind is occupied with a tough problem or you are ruminating about some issue at workplace, no unnecessary munching please. 
When you are relaxing in front of a TV, no snacking, especially late nights.
Reduce the frequency of restaurant trips, take-aways and home deliveries.
Reduce the amount of groceries you buy on a weekly/monthly basis. I had shared a few tips in this post.
Reduce the number of food options when you are hosting a party. Let the focus of the party be about interesting conversations and NOT ONLY about food.
Reduce the number of items you cook on a daily basis. It is better to eat 1-2 freshly made dishes than 4-5 dishes that have been cooked a week back. I don't remember my grandparents eating a feast every other day. They ate simple fresh meals and led healthy lives.
Reduce the number of treats - sweet and deep fried. Brands pitch their chocolates with the tagline "sweet edu, kondaadu" for every teeny tiny event. If you want to treat yourself after achieving a tiny milestone, why not an experience you would enjoy that doesn't involve food? For me, that would be half-an-hour of uninterrupted time to listen to ARR's music, an afternoon nap on a Saturday or relaxed time to cuddle up with a good book.

Food gives us energy, nourishes us and helps us to pursue our life's goals. That doesn't mean we pressure our digestive systems to be constantly working all through our waking hours. The reason why intermittent fasting works for many people is the break our digestive system gets from processing all the food we stuff into our mouths.

I hope that this 3R framework makes sense and helps you to look at healthy eating in a different light. Comments welcome.

P.S. This post is equally applicable to me and my family as much as to my readers. I'll revisit this post whenever I'm deviating from these 3Rs. It is certainly not my intention to advise if it comes across so, but merely sharing my thoughts on this topic.

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