Florine Roche
Daijiworld Media Network

Mangalore, Sep 5: Good health is said to be the key to looking beautiful and fit.  It would also mean eating right, getting required amount of sleep and burning the calories through exercise.  With media going hammer and tongs over the craze for looking good the concept of ‘diet’ has taken new manifestations and there is heightened awareness on the role of nutrition and good diet in maintaining good health. 

It is generally accepted that “being healthy and good-looking go hand in hand’.  There is also an increasing emphasis the world over that “kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic” thus reinforcing the role of diet in good health.   

Yet sometimes the craving for food gets the better of us and unfortunately craving proves stronger than the will to go for healthy diet.  Now dieticians have come to play an important role to help people maintain their overall health. Dieticians provide nutritional assessment and counseling in order to prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending modifications in diet and also the lifestyle.       

Sanjana Shenoy (Nayak)  is working as a  dietician for the last 5 years in Mangalore believes that health is much more than the absence of disease. Sanjana is a post graduate diploma holder in Dietetics and a university topper from Manipal University.  She followed it up with Masters of Science in Dietetics and Food Service Management from IGNOU. She has worked as a Dietician for KMC Mangalore and has been a consultant for corporate giants like Infosys and others where she has been giving   presentations. She conducts talks and presentations at various companies such as IOCL, MRPL, MCF and various associations such as Indian Medical Association. She has also been a regular face in local television shows through which she has been trying to promote good cooking and eating habits. 

At present she is a part time consultant at Yenepoya hospital, where she consults patients with weight issues, diabetes, high cholesterol problems and also athletes, childhood obesity and other nutritional problems in all age groups and many more medical conditions.

According to her good health is another name for positive quality that emphasizes on physical, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual well being and a positive change can be brought about by trying to amend our lethargic lifestyle.  

In an interview to daijiworld.com Sanjana talks about the need of lifestyle change, proper nutrition, healthy eating habits and role of physical activity and exercise as the panacea for all the present day ills afflicting people.

Q.    What is the level of awareness among people about diet?

A.   People these days are aware about the fact that diet and health go hand in hand. There is lot of information about diet and related subjects but overall knowledge is still poor.  There are many myths about diet and from the point of view of a dietician I believe a systematic approach is essential.  This approach is individually unique to every person.

Q.  What according to you are the common misconceptions about diet?

A.   Most people consider diet as boring, involves consuming tasteless food or starvation or that diet means living on salads, fruits and juices. There are many who think that as long as you exercise you can eat whatever you want. This is wrong.  A healthy diet can be interesting, food can be tasty and it need not be boring at all.  A healthy diet is all about making healthy choices and cooking smarter.

Q.  Is following a healthy diet key to weight loss?

A.    Yes.  Healthy diet coupled with regular exercise can do wonders for a person   trying to lose weight.  However, it has to be remembered that each weight loss diet is individualized depending on age, lifestyle etc. 

Q.  What are the basic components of healthy lifestyle diet?

A.   Eating healthy and eating right is the first step in this direction.  Ample physical activity and good sleeping habits form the crust of what we can call as the essence of a healthy lifestyle.

Q.  What do you mean by healthy eating habits?

A.  Taking correct calorie intake for your  lifestyle  as well for the body frame, making good food choices such as consuming more of whole grains and more of good carbohydrates  which come from whole grains like wheat, ragi, oats  and all vegetables and fruits, lean protein like egg white, chicken without  skin, skimmed milk, curds and nuts.  A healthy eating habit can be practiced by considering food as nourishment rather than looking at it as something to gulp down in a hurry like any other routine. 

Q. What about consumption of oils and other fatty acids?

A.  Fats are essential for our healthy as they support a number of our body functions.   But the dark side of fats is that some types of fats lead to cholesterol which herald heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity.  It is advisable to use oil sparingly and the best oil to use is Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) such as rice bran oil, mustard oil, olive oil which is good for the health of the heart.

Q.  Is it advisable to completely avoid oil from diet?

A. Exclusion of oil from diet completely is not a good idea at all.  If followed, it leads to deficiency of fat soluble vitamins in the body.  About 2 liters of oil per month for a family of 4 can be considered as safer.

Q.  What are the common problems arising out of a flawed diet?

A.  A flawed diet is the precursor to diseases like obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, high cholesterol   and many other diseases which are linked to unhealthy eating habits. In women unhealthy eating habits can lead to menstrual problems, underweight, cystic ovarian syndrome.  Lifestyle diseases are the result of inappropriate relationship people have with their environment.  These lifestyle diseases take years to develop and are quite insidious, thus disturbing the quality of human life.    Once encountered these diseases become an inseparable part of human life as they don’t lend themselves easily to cure.  

Q.  The eating habits of most Indians were the one practiced by our forefathers and they were quite healthy unlike today’s generation….

A.  We should know to differentiate between good carbs and bad carbs.  30 years back our parents and grandparents were healthy because they were doing lot of physical activity.  These days we have replaced good carbs with refined carbs like maida, refined sugar, white rice etc., and we also indulge in less physical activity. So we end up accumulating more calories and burn less leading to accumulation of fats. Consuming healthy carbs like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables is important as they are digested slowly and help people feel full longer.  They also help stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels.  

Q.   So what is the role of physical activity in preventing lifestyle & diet-related health problems?

A.  A healthy diet should go along with physical activities which help people burn calories they consume.  Exercise and other forms of physical activity help reduce body weight and it also improves the sleep pattern of people. 

Q.  What type of physical activity do you recommend for people, which is less cumbersome and also convenient?

A.  When we talk about exercise it does not mean one has to go to the gym or run or jog in playgrounds or streets.   Even a simple change in our day to day activities like walking to the nearby market, avoiding lifts wherever possible, short bouts of exercises, short walks or even pacing inside the four walls of the house can be treated as a physical activity.  Climbing stairs is a very good cardio exercise for any age group.    Over exercise is also detrimental to health as it may lead to heart attack due to the stress. 

Q.  Is it ok for a person to consume excess calories if he/she has the capacity to burn those calories?

A.  It all boils down to many other aspects like the weight of the person, the amount of physical activity, the type of food intake etc.  What we dieticians focus is on healthy eating where emphasize is on moderate eating which is the key foundation for any healthy eating habit.  The goal is to inculcate a healthy diet that can be sustained for life rather than short term results.  

Q. Does diet play an important role in maintaining health at all stages of life of a person?

A.  Yes.  At every stage of life diet changes as nutritional requirements also keep changing.  For eg for boys during the growth spurt, for women during pregnancy, after childbirth, lactating mothers, during pre and post menopausal stages etc. 

Q.   What about the fad diets which are in vogue? 

A.  Though it is a common knowledge that eating right and exercise is the best way to stay fit and healthy many people succumb to the temptation of fad diets or what we call as crash diets. These crash diets lead to many side effects and can be dangerous. 

Q.  Is it possible to prevent major diseases by following a disciplined diet?

A.  Yes. It can be achieved through both lifestyle change as well as proper stress management.

Q.  What about the role of diet in mental health?

A.  Mental health depends on our lifestyle such as being physically active and having a positive outlook towards life.  To be physically active you have be mentally strong and active too.  

Q.  Is there a strong relationship between dietary habits and genetics?

A. Genetics play an important role in deciding our body types.  But it remains in our hands how we maintain our physic. 

Q.   What is your message to diet and health conscious people as well as the general public?

A.  Many of us go through what is called as diet abuse when we are in our 20’s and 30’s. However, health problems manifest in the 40’s and early 50’s which cannot be prevented.  So taking good care of the body should start as early as possible to prevent them.  People also must remember that there is no short cut to losing weight and to good health.

Sanjana  has her own personal website www.nutrihealth.in and also has an active online consultation forum.

Her motto is to “Eat Healthy and Stay Fit”.

Contact Details: Mobile: 9880268082