Ready for the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge?

After a nationwide lockdown, we’re all cocooned in our homes wondering how to kill time. It’s too easy to let the days pass by without doing something productive. Why not use this time to be a little proactive and develop some healthy habits? It doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Does it?

With that in mind, I’ll be sharing some health challenges today. However, you will need to follow these guidelines cumulatively. This means that:

day 2 = day 1 + day 2

day 3 = day 1+ day 2 + day 3

and so on…

Building new healthy habits and moreover trying something new every day will not only help us feel good but also stay positive during these critical times. Now, more than ever I think it is really important to prioritize overall well-being for a health & immunity to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.


Start your #Lockdown Nutrition Challenge: Stay away from high-fat foods

Let’s get started! Your day 1 challenge is to avoid consumption of high-fat foods like bhujia, chips, burger, pizza, fries, namkeen or any kind of processed and packaged foods.

These foods are loaded with trans fats which increase our risk of developing lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. They also cause an increase in the blood triglyceride levels and also low-density lipoprotein levels, also known as bad cholesterol. Excess consumption of processed and packaged foods may also deplete good bacteria in the gut resulting in a decrease in the overall immunity.

We can’t help but reach out for unhealthy snacks when hunger strikes in the evening. Some healthy snacks to go along with your evening tea can be:

  1. Home-made mathri or khakhra
  2. Roasted chivda with chana & peanuts
  3. Roasted puffed rice
  4. Mixed nuts & seeds
  5. Roasted makhana
  6. Boiled corn or chana
  7. Sprouts
  8. Dhokla

Stay healthy. Eat Right, not less :)


Next #Lockdown Nutrition Challenge: Eliminate sugary foods & beverages from your diet

We’re all guilty of munching on chocolates or gulping down a bottle of cola or packaged fruit juice when we feel thirsty. Sugar does no good to the body. Keeping a tab on our sugar intake is extremely important for overall health, especially when you’re trying to make small changes in your lifestyle.

This is why, eliminating sugary snacks & beverages like chocolates, pastries, donuts, cold-drinks, packaged fruit juices, etc is the 2nd challenge of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge! Remember to follow these challenges cumulatively.

Excessive sugar intake has also been linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer & tooth decay. It also weakens the immune system cells that attack the disease-causing microbes entering our body. Reducing the amount of sugary foods and beverages can help a person reduce their risk of developing such medical conditions & build a strong immune system.

Replacing sugary foods & beverages with healthier options helps a person get all the vitamins and minerals without added calories! Some healthy alternatives for when you’re craving something sweet include:

  1. Fruits
  2. Trail mix with dried berries
  3. Dates
  4. Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  5. Lemon/Mint water
  6. Infused water
  7. Salted jaljeera
  8. Herbal tea

Banana & dates can serve as an excellent substitute for sugar for your desserts. At home, freeze some grapes for times when you’re craving for a candy!

Keep Safe! And away from sugar :)


Day 3 #Lockdown Challenge: Say yes to natural sugars!

How are you keeping up with the 1st & 2nd challenges? Here we are with the 3rd one — that is — say yes to Natural Sugars in your diet.

Fruits, milk & milk products, whole foods, etc contain natural sugars that are different from those found in processed and packaged foods. The ‘added sugar’ present in processed and packaged food products undergoes a lot of processing and is also metabolized quickly by our body causing a sudden spike and dip in the blood sugar levels.

Health risks come from the excess added sugar and not from sugar present in fruits, milk or whole foods. You probably will never hear of someone gaining excess weight or developing a risk for heart disease because of eating too many fruits.

Fruits contain a variety of other beneficial components that are stripped from processed foods making them nutritionally insignificant. How many of us just grab an apple or a banana if we miss our breakfast? Fruits can be incredibly filling as they are loaded with fiber and water. It helps reduce snacking on unhealthy foods throughout your day.

Fiber acts as a substrate for the growth of good bacteria which helps in building a strong immune system. Additionally, they also contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Including two fruits every day in our diet will not only help us get the required nutrition but also help boost the immune system.

Fruits are really nice, so make sure you have a slice :)


Day 4 #Lockdown Challenge: Avoid sauces & salad dressings in your diet.

Let’s move on to the task for day 4 of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge -- that is -- avoiding sauces & salad dressings in your diet.

Sauces & salad dressings are used to enhance the flavour of food and are often combined with fruits and vegetables that are a part of a healthy diet. Addition of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet helps to boost your immune system and overall health by supplying it with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

No one wants to eat bland food but these condiments that we add so carelessly are often loaded with unhealthy trans fats, added sugar, sodium and preservatives. You’d be surprised to know the number of extra calories these dressings add to your otherwise healthy meal. This can lead to undesired weight gain and also puts us at the developing lifestyle disorders like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure etc.

Dried herbs, onion, pepper, coriander leaves, chilli, lemon juice or fresh fruits like orange or pomegranate can be added to make the salad healthier. One can add sprouts, chana, rajma, chole, hard-boiled eggs, nuts & seeds, grilled paneer, chicken or fish to add the protein factor to it. 

Home-made chutneys like tomato chutney, coconut chutney, coriander or pudina chutney, hung curd dip, peanut chutney, amla chutney, mango or pineapple chutney and home-made salsa can be served as healthy alternatives to calorie dense condiments.


Day 5 #Lockdown Challenge: Replace sugar with jaggery in your diet

Let’s have a look at the 5th task of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge— that is — replacing sugar with jaggery in your diet.

The food we eat is broken down into glucose & utilized by the body as fuel. A more natural form of sugar is probably considered as a better option. For a fact, there is hardly any difference in the amount of calories provided by white/brown sugar, honey or jaggery at ‘per teaspoon level’. So adding that extra bit of honey and thinking that you’re making a healthier choice does no good :)

It might sound even more alarming but the only difference between white sugar & brown sugar is the colour & taste. White sugar is made after removing the molasses during its processing. Remove this step & your brown sugar is ready.

Jaggery is an unrefined form of sugar which is made after boiling sugarcane extract & the molasses remains unseparated. The key difference here is that jaggery is more nutrient-dense. According to Ayurveda, jaggery or honey helps fight cough & cold when taken along with ginger/pepper.

There is no shortcut to stay fit & healthy and we must work upon reducing our sugar cravings. However, jaggery powder is what you should go for incase you’re going to have some form of sugar. Dates or ripe bananas can also serve as great alternatives to unrefined sugar for making desserts too!


Day 6 #Lockdown Challenge: Be mindful of your added sugar intake!

You already know by now that excess sugar consumption in your diet does no good to the body and keeping a track of our sugar intake is extremely crucial. This brings us to the task for the 6th day of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge — that is — being mindful of the added sugar intake in your diet.

Added sugar refers to any type of sugar or sweetener that is added to packaged food products & beverages like breakfast cereals, biscuits, fruit juices, salad dressings, flavoured yogurt etc. You can easily spot and figure out how much extra sugar has been added to the product by reading it’s nutrition label.

Added sugar is not just an extra load of unnecessary calories in your diet but excess consumption also puts us at the risk of developing lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, kidney disorders etc.

They can be disguised under names such as high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, brown sugar, malt sugar, glucose etc which is why it is advised to always check the ingredients list before buying the product.

Addition of processed food replaces truly nourishing foods in the diet. Natural sugars coming from whole foods does no harm to the body as whole foods provide us with essential nutrients to boost our health.


Day 7 #Lockdown Challenge: Stay clear of Artificial Sweeteners!

The task for day 7 of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge is — Staying clear of artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes are chemicals added to food products to make them taste sweeter. Long-term use of artificial sweeteners not only disrupts gut health but also increases our risk of developing diabetes or heart related diseases. Weren’t artificial sweeteners going to prevent these diseases in the first place?

Some commonly added artificial sweeteners include Saccharin, Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Neotame & Sucralose. They are commonly found in products labelled as ‘low fat’, ‘zero calorie’, ‘gluten free’, ‘diet’ or ‘light’.

You can easily spot them in the ingredients list on the back of a product! Some examples include sugar-free biscuits, diet coke or coke zero, zero calorie protein or granola bars and low fat fruit yogurt or ice-cream


Day 8 #Lockdown Challenge: Include healthy fats in your diet!

Just like carbohydrates and proteins, fat is a nutrient that we shouldn’t be afraid to consume. What is more important is that we switch from unhealthy to healthy fat sources in our diet.

The challenge for day 8 of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge is — Including Healthy Fats in your Diet!

Healthy fats are rich in MUFA (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids) & PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) and help to reduce the risk of heart related disease and keeps a check on the cholesterol levels.

Some healthy fat sources include nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds etc), avocados,eggs, fish, olive oil, safflower oil, mustard oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds etc, soybean or soybean oil.

4 interesting & healthy ways to help you incorporate healthy fats in your diet:

  1. Add nuts & seeds to your salad, cereal, smoothies or have them as a snack.
  2. Add chia seeds to curd/ buttermilk/ smoothies
  3. Flaxseeds can be powdered and added to chapati dough, chilla or mixed with nuts to make ladoos
  4. Switch to a different cooking oil every month to add variety to your diet.

Remember, you have to follow these challenges cumulatively!


Day 9 #Lockdown Challenge: Eat more protein-rich foods in your diet!

Let’s have a look at your task for day 9 of the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge — that is — Eating more protein-rich foods in your diet!

Proteins are made of amino acids and are also known as the Body-building foods. They are required for the body’s repair & recovery mechanism and play an important role in the metabolic processes & providing structural framework to the body.

Consumption of an adequate amount of protein in the diet (0.8-1g/kg body weight) is crucial. It helps reduce hunger pangs or midnight cravings and maintains blood sugar levels. It also helps boost the metabolism and supports weight loss. Sufficient intake of protein in your daily diet also prevents loss of muscle mass as you age.

Some sources of protein-rich foods include eggs, fish, chicken, pulses and legumes (chana, moong, masoor, chole, urad dal, rajma, soyabean), tofu, milk, buttermilk, paneer, curd and nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds etc).


Day 10 #Lockdown Challenge: Start your day with a healthy breakfast!

The challenge for day 10 of the #21dayslockdown Nutrition Challenge is: Start your day with a healthy breakfast everyday!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as your body breaks the overnight fast in the morning. A healthy & wholesome breakfast helps boost metabolism and is essential for optimal weight management. It also helps reduce food cravings throughout the day and maintains your energy levels.

Some healthy breakfast options include: sattu/paneer/mix vegetable/aloo paratha with curd, poha, vermicelli, upma, bread omelette, oats with milk/vegetables, idli/dosa with sambar/ daliya with milk/vegetables, besan/moong dal cheela. You can add nuts & seeds or a glass of buttermilk to your breakfast too.


Day 11 #Lockdown Challenge: Consume small frequent meals throughout the day!

The challenge for day 11 of the #21dayslockdown Nutrition Challenge is: Consume small frequent meals throughout the day!

Most of us are used to eating 3 big meals a day, that is, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Consuming small frequent meals means that you consume 3 small snacks between your 3 main meals. This helps reduce hunger panda by stabilizing the blood sugar levels and maintains your energy levels throughout the day.

Some healthy options for mid-morning or evening snacks include: fruits, nuts & seeds, yogurt, buttermilk, sandwiches, granola bar, smoothies, boiled eggs, popcorn, makhana (fox nuts), puffed rice etc.


Day 12 #Lockdown Challenge: Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day!

The task for day 12 of the #21dayslockdown Nutrition Challenge is: Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day!

Drinking water throughout the day and staying hydrated has a lot of benefits like increased metabolism, better digestion & nutrient absorption, reduced hunger pangs throughout the day and detoxification of the body.

Our food contains water too and in case we find it difficult to reach for plain water every time, we can try some of the tips below to maintain our hydration levels.

  1. Drink coconut water or buttermilk between your meals
  2. Pop in some ice cubes
  3. Smoothies & milkshakes (home made)
  4. Soups or vegetable juice
  5. Flavor it with fruit, lemon, basil, mint leaves or herbs & spices like cardamom /cinnamon
  6. Include high water content fruits & vegetables like watermelon, muskmelon, tomatoes, cucumbers etc in your diet.


Day 13 #Lockdown Challenge: Include healthy carbohydrates in your diet!

Let’s get started with the task for day 13 of the #21dayslockdown Nutrition Challenge, that is: Include healthy carbohydrate sources in your diet!

Carbohydrates essentially provide fuel to the body. They help to balance sugar levels and maintain triglyceride levels, add fibre to the diet and keeps us fuller for long which helps in weight management.

Healthy carbohydrates sources to be included in the diet are: whole wheat, ragi, bajra, jowar, oats, fruits, legumes, starchy vegetables like potato, beetroot, carrots etc.


Day 14 #Lockdown Challenge: Start your day with a glass of vegetable juice!

Let’s get on with the task for #day14 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge

Day 14 Challenge: Start your day with a glass of vegetable juice!

A glass of vegetable juice every morning can be a smart way to meet your everyday requirements of vegetables in your diet. It's packed with nutrients, supplies a boost of energy for your day ahead and helps prevent risk of lifestyle disorders.

Apart from increasing your fluid intake, it balances the body’s pH, thereby reducing acidity and inflammation in the body. Juicing helps to add fibre to your diet to keep you fuller and reduce food cravings throughout the day.

Here’s one such recipe for you to get started,


Day 15 #Lockdown Challenge: Keep your gut healthy with probiotic foods!

The task for #day15 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Keep your gut healthy with probiotic foods!

Fermentation process in foods helps breakdown food components and growth of healthy gut-bacteria or probiotics in the food. Probiotics help in improving the digestive system and boost the immune system. Fermentation also destroys anti-nutritional factors present in foods and makes them easier to digest.

Some examples of fermented foods that you can include in your diet include: idli/appam, dosa, dhokla, curd, buttermilk/lassi, achaar or pickle, kimchi, kombucha, kanji, sauerkraut & fermented soy products like tempeh and miso.


Day 16 #Lockdown Challenge: Spend quality time with your family!

Your next task for #day16 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Spend quality time with your family.

We are often pressed for time in our daily schedule but the quarantine period can actually help us reconnect with our family and friends. Spending time with loved ones helps reduce our stress levels and gives a sense of reassurance that we are not alone in this. Whether it's talking on the phone or video calling a friend who stays all by themselves, it is our responsibility to check up on the people we care about.

Children, especially younger kids need more stability in these uncertain times. They consider us as role models and learn from how we respond to the pandemic situation. A daily fun activity like painting, storytime, games, cooking or learning new vocabulary with your child can be a great way to spend time with them & keep their mind off any negativity around. 


Day 17 #Lockdown Challenge: Turn off your gadgets at least 1 hour before sleep.

The task for #day17 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Turn off your gadgets at least 1 hour before sleep.

Using gadgets before going to bed affects the sleep cycle of the body. The blue light from gadgets suppresses the secretion of melatonin making it harder to sleep. It might be tempting to clear off all the tasks on your checklist for the day but technology can trick your brain into thinking that it is still daytime and it needs to be awake.

Silencing your app notifications, putting your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode or switching it off, blocking notifications on Alexa or Google echo and switching off your laptop or desktop well in advance can help you keep away from being on your gadgets until morning comes.


Day 18 #Lockdown Challenge: Involve all family members in meal preparation.

Let’s get on with the task for #day18 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge: Involve all family members in meal preparation.

Who doesn’t want a little help in the kitchen? Involving your family members and kids in meal preparation will help them appreciate and build a positive connection with food. It can be a great time to bond with our family and inform them about what foods are good or bad for them.

Children learn many essential skills such as reading, following instructions, hand-eye coordination and also develop their fine motor skills. Cooking helps us to become more self-reliant when no one is around. We develop an approach to try new foods in our diet & are also able to inculcate healthy eating habits in our children.

Here’s one such recipe for you to enjoy with your family. I’m sure the kids will have fun making it too :) 


Day 19 #Lockdown Challenge: Focus more on eating a home-cooked meal.

Your next task for #day19 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Focus more on eating a home-cooked meal.

A takeout meal is not a big deal once a while over a weekend or when we are just too tired to cook. Restaurant foods are often calorie dense and loaded with unhealthy fats which contribute to our expanding waistlines. A home cooked meal keeps you away from ordering food over and over again since you have something ready at home. None of us would want to waste food, right?

However, planning your meals well in advance or making a weekly menu with simple, quick and easy recipes is a great way to speed up your cooking process. Buying pre-chopped veggies and using leftovers of the last night comes in really handy when you are in a hurry but still want your meal to be healthy and nutritious!


Day 20 #Lockdown Challenge: Make the best use of available resources.

Today’s task for #day20 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Make the best use of available resources.

With the current situation, it might be difficult for you to find foods that you typically eat. So why not try and make the most of what is available? Here are 6 tips that will help you increase the self-lives of your foods, help them stay fresh and last longer:
  1. Wash your leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, lettuce, kale, arugula just before you cook them to keep them fresh. Store them in a box with a paper towel or tissue on top.
  2. For herbs like coriander & curry leaves, freeze them with gravy or oil in ice cube trays. Just use a cube or two at the time of cooking.
  3. You can use the above method for freezing milk as well in case there are not a lot of people using it. Defrost it under running water before using it.
  4. For lentils & legumes, cook and freeze them. Add them to gravies, curries, soups, savory pancakes, stews, cutlets, hummus etc. You can also freeze peas, corn and fruits like bananas, berries, grapes etc.
  5. Cover and keep away onions and garlic from your other fruits and vegetables.
  6. Lastly, always check that the temperature of your fridge is adjusted to keep your food fresher for long.


Day 21 #Lockdown Challenge: Don’t let stress-eating get in your way.

The last and final task for #day21 of the #21dayslockdown #NutritionChallenge is: Don’t let stress-eating get in your way. I sincerely hope that you have tried to make these healthy challenges a part of your life and reaped it’s benefits as well.

With so much time at our hands, erratic eating patterns & peeping into our fridge every other hour can sabotage our efforts towards a healthier lifestyle. Here are 5 tips how you can stay on track with your eating habits during this lockdown and avoid stress eating:

  1. Set up a weekly menu or make a list before you go grocery shopping so that you do not reach out for unhealthy foods.
  2. Remind yourself that you will be eating again after 2-3 hours and that there is no need for you to eat everything in one go.
  3. Uninstall food delivery apps and focus more on eating a home-cooked meal. Let’s keep the apps only for emergencies. :)
  4. Eating small frequent meals and including protein rich foods like eggs, chicken, paneer, legumes & pulses and milk & milk products will help reduce food cravings throughout the day.
  5. Set your vision clear as to why it is important for you to eat healthier. It is okay to have an occasional treat but figuring out where we went wrong is more important.


Remember to follow these challenges cumulatively! This means that: 

day 2 = day 1 + day 2

day 3 = day 1+ day 2 + day 3

and so on…

Take up the #21daylockdown Nutrition Challenge for a healthier body & calmer mind. Share with your family & friends and let them be a part of this too!