Nepal’s main festive season is here, with two lining up in a row. The biggest of all festival, Dashain, has already started. After the government’s vaccination campaign saw some portion of the population getting inoculated against COVID-19, people this year have felt relief and are excited to celebrate this Dashain than they were during the previous year.
However, the government has advised people not to let their guards down amid celebrations and maintain full public health safety protocols.
Favourite Dishes The frolic of the festival is incomplete without a good palate with a variety of foods. When it comes to food during festivals, Dashain is the most preferable time for a foodie, who can enjoy their favourite dishes of non-vegetarian and vegetarian items.
Given the ongoing pandemic, consuming healthy and balanced food at the festival is very essential to boost up the immunity and the ability to fight infection of deadly COVID-19. Consuming large amounts of food during the festive season is a common sight. People happen to consume more food visiting relatives and loved ones. Many people find it difficult to stick to their health and fitness routines, and this negligence creates unnecessary health problems. Health experts asked everyone to follow a strict habit while visiting family and friends; they should state their food preferences at all times to remain healthy.
Seeking ways of merrymaking and resorting to a feast of delicacies, including the ubiquitous 'masu bhat', that is, the mutton and rice for non-vegetarians and daily products and sweets is common among vegetarians. The preference for taste buds leads to unhealthy eating, which must be curbed through individual efforts.
The yummy tongue-tickling cuisines during Dashain time make it hard for people to resist the temptation of devouring tasty food items. This leads to obvious overeating and, as the fun fades, some people suffer from sheer indigestion and others find their existing health problems worsening.
Health experts suggest taking care while feasting during Dashain. If people do not care about healthy eating behaviour, unnecessary problems may spoil their health and festive celebration. Health experts suggested eating meat in moderation and supplementing the diet with green vegetables and fruits as part of the Dashain platter.
"Meat takes time to digest and if meat is consumed three to four times a day, it will create health issues, said Dr Aruna Upreti, a nutritionist. Most revellers have been found missing their diets during the festive season. People have more choices in front of them, from regular meat to extra sweets, cold drinks, processed foods and other food items. Nevertheless, every family consumes more meat or dairy products during the festival.
One should not forget 'health is wealth', so people must be conscious about their health especially when enjoying the festivities. Though many people prefer red meat, white meat is considered more beneficial and has less fat, said Dr Uprety.
Cook Thoroughly "Cooking vegetables and meat items thoroughly are very important to avoid harmful microorganisms," said Dr Rabindra Pandey, a public health expert. Raw food, especially meat, poultry, seafood and even vegetables, fruits may contain dangerous microorganisms which may be transferred onto other foods during food preparation. As harmful germs are widely found in soil, water and animals, the slightest contact can cause foodborne diseases. Thus, we need to take extra precautions, added Dr Pandey.
During the festival, people opt for lots of meat and vegetables, which need to be stored in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods, said Dr Pandey. If food is cooked properly, it kills almost all dangerous microorganisms. Various studies have shown that cooking food to a temperature of 70-degree Celsius can help ensure safety for consumption. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), foods that require special attention include minced meats, rolled roasts, large joints of meat and whole poultry. Raw food items, including water and ice, may be contaminated with dangerous chemicals and microorganisms. Toxic chemicals may be formed in damaged and mouldy foods. Thus, WHO suggests taking care in the selection of raw foods and thoroughly washing and peeling which may reduce the risk.
Follow traditional Recipes Besides meat and dairy products, people can choose traditional dishes like bitten rice, aalu tama, gundruk bhatmans, maseura, and other food items that are rich in vitamin C and A, antioxidants, essential minerals and other micronutrients.
Eating junk food has always created several health problems among people. One needs to avoid junk food or deep-fried and spicy items. For healthy eating during the festival, people should follow traditional recipes, which people need to re-learn and spread among new generations, suggested Dr Uprety. "Rice can be replaced with Kodo (millet), buckwheat, jau (barley), til (sesame), aalas (flaxseed), buttermilk, lemon-mint with sugary drinks for being healthy and enjoying the festival."
Follow Dietary Habits
To keep one fit during the Dashain festival, doctors suggest that people should not overlook their dietary habits. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes and obesity problems are more vulnerable because of unhealthy eating choices during the festival, said Dr Chandra Mani Adhikari, a consultant cardiologist. "Never cheat yourself on a meal, especially if you are following a dietary habit," said Dr Adhikari. Unhealthy eating habits lead to more serious health issues, added Dr Adhikari. Most people depend on processed food to enjoy their festival. The cornerstone of a healthy diet should be to replace processed food with a portion of real food. Eating food that is as close to nature made can make a huge difference in people's health.
Eat Fruits, Vegetables
According to health experts, fruit and vegetables are low in calories and enriched with nutrients, they are filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, which are very essential for nourishing metabolism. They suggest focusing on eating fruit and vegetables in each serving which naturally helps cut back on unhealthy food. Preferring meat, sugary items and salty junk food deteriorates our health slowly, Dr. Adhikari said, adding green leafy vegetables and salad would be the best supplements.
Avoid Alcohol, Sugary Drinks
In the meeting and gathering of family, relatives and friends, if alcohol and sugary drinks are used, it may further jeopardise the health of individuals who already have health problems. Earlier, doctors used to say it was okay to have a few pegs of alcohol and wine a day. However, lately, various studies have shown that the risk of various non-communicable diseases is high among alcoholics. Avoiding plenty of alcohol and fizzy drinks is very essential during the festival. The calories in alcohol and fizzy drinks can quickly affect people’s wellbeing. Health experts suggest drinking fresh fruit juices and homemade drinks instead of fizzy drinks. "Cold drinks and preserved juices filled with lots of sugar is a slow poison, it will eventually harm your health," warned Dr Upreti. "Instead of sugary drinks we should drink homemade drinks including lemonade, lassi, buttermilk, hot lemon and lemon-mint," she added.