Easy healthy food substitutions to make in your diet | Condé Nast Traveller India
As the year gets going, the easiest resolutions are the ones that will end up being kept. When it comes to getting healthier and fitter, its often the simpliest resolutions that will have the most impact. While working out and staying active are the ways that most people achieve their fitness goals, eating healthy, and making changes to your diet is an easy way to implement something new and the only investment needed is the changing of shopping habits.
As raw food diets become more common in India, and Indians look to nature’s bounty—its fruits, nuts, vegetables and more as their primary source of nutrition, we make it easier to stick to that fitness goal by offering some helpful substitutions to make, so that you’re eating healthy, without drastically changing your eating habits. The trend of raw and ingredient-led cuisine is gaining a cult status across the world. Sophisticated diners are taking to this new trend of superior quality and fine ingredients. Raw foods allow your body to extract the finer nutrients from each natural ingredient being consumed.
Chefs too, are catering to growing guest demand for different diets, with raw joining the gluten-free and vegan diets that are more well-known. When Pooja Dhingra, chef and owner of Le 15 Cafe was devising her dessert menu for the Mumbai-based cafe, she made sure to include a raw dessert that included some fine ingredients. The Audrey—made with dates, walnuts, coconut milk, honey and Belgian dark chocolate is a favourite that is frequently sold out.
Increasingly, we are finding that ingredients with a unique and natural source play a central role in providing a superior experience, much like the Himalayan Natural Mineral Water itself. Himalayan, the pristine mineral water directly from its source – the mighty Himalayan range, has each drop filtered for 20 years through the layers of Himalayan rock which give it its natural minerals and unique taste. Untouched and unprocessed, every drop of Himalayan is ‘Raw and Fine’. Thus, by the time this water reaches you it has transformed from a raw element of nature into a truly exquisite product.
Now not everyone can make raw desserts from scratch, but there are easy substitutions to make, that go beyond just eating fruits and vegetables for every meal. Some substitutes, like using a spiralizer to make zucchini ‘pasta’ have trickled down from restaurants to home chefs, while others are the result of concerted efforts to mimic the flavour and properties of the more commonly used ingredients.
When it comes to making things like sandwiches or anything that requires bread, you’ll find that the a crunchy green cabbage or lettuce leaf is the perfect substitute, holding together any mix of vegetables in between, and adding a dash of colour to your boxed lunch.
Easier substitutions, that require just some smarter shopping, include dropping sugar and honey in favour of agave nectar or dates or then, substituting cocoa for carob powder.
When it comes to the heavyweights, there are two ingredients that can be used in multiple ways. Nuts—which are great sources of unsaturated fats—are very versatile and often used to substitute where baked crusts and doughs are needed. While cashew is often favoured for its mild and creamy properties, other nuts like walnuts and macadamia can also be used, for a change in flavour and colour of the final dish.
Nut milks are a popular replacement for milk and the leftover finely-ground nuts can be used to make nut flour. While nut milks can now be purchased commercially in stores, flour is tougher to get, and is better made at home. Both nut milk and flour can be made at home, with the flour a natural extension of your nut milk recipe. Soak almonds (or your nut of choice) for 8-12 hours in water. Make sure the water is over 2 inches above the nuts. Then take the almonds and fresh water and process in a blender for one to two minutes. Add boiling hot water to the blended solution and push through a sieve. What goes through is the almond milk. Take the remaining nut meal, spread it out on a baking tray and leave it in your oven on the lowest temperature for as long as the nuts need to dry out. Once that done (it usually takes between 2-3 hour) return it to blender to get the grains down to size you want, and use it on your next baking adventure.
Other useful foods that have multiple uses are coconuts, which boost the thyroid and endocrine system, and aren’t stored in the body as fats, but instead breakdown into energy. Coconut milk has multiple uses, though if you’re just starting out, why not begin with a morning smoothie, before you progress onto cooking with and baking with the creamy milk. One thing to keep in mind is that the proportions of each to be used in baking are very different, when using nut milks and coconut milks. So, don’t be dissuaded if there’s some trial and error.
Ultimately, adopting a raw and fine way of living will benefit your mind and body, and it’s upto you if you want to make gradual substitutions in your diet, for a healthier lifestyle.