Posted on June 05 2021
"Gujarati Thali Na Khadi, Toh Su Khadu?"
The Gujarati cuisine is a fusion of multiple cultures inspired from numerous civilizations over the centuries. Gujaratis are known for their love for food and rightly so with the vibrant and distinct yet equally colourful explosion of flavours.
When we think about Gujarati food, the dishes that immediately come to our minds are dhokla, khakhra, thepla, khichdi, jalebi, and fafda. However, apart from these dishes mentioned, various other items form an integral part of the Gujarati food culture. Let's explore!
What does a typical Gujarati diet look like?
It is important to note that the geography, history, and culture of a region heavily influence cuisine. Being a predominantly vegetarian state, the people of Gujarat have perfected the art of vegetarian cooking.
Geographically Gujarat can be divided into four regions North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kutch, and South Gujarat. There are slight variations in eating habits and modes of preparation because of the climatic and cultural differences.
Certain ingredients like yogurt, buttermilk, millets, groundnut, sesame seeds, lemon juice, and jaggery are ubiquitous in Gujarati food. Besides vegetarian dishes, the Muslim and catholic population, the Parsis, the tribal groups like Bohras and Khojas, and the coastal Kharwa, Koli, and Macchiayara communities offer non-vegetarian dishes too.
A typical Gujarati thali consists of
- Bhat (rice) or khichdi,
- One or two steamed or fried snacks called farsans,
- A green vegetable,
- Shaak (they are main courses with vegetables and spices mixed into a sweet or spicy curry or dry dish),
- A type of kathol (braised pulses like beans, chickpea, or dry peas),
- One or more yogurt dishes, like Dahi,
- Kadhi (yogurt and pulses soup),
- Raita or sweet shrikhand,
- Daal usually toor dal,
- and a sweets like halwa, basundi, or shrikhand.
The loaves of bread eaten with a thali would include thick and coarse bajra rotla, thin unleavened wheat rotlis, thick and crisp whole wheat flour rotis called bakhris, parathas, savory griddle bread called the thepla, deep-fried puris, among others.
Accompaniments include sweet, sour, and spicy chutneys, pickles, ghee, and a salad of chopped vegetables served raw or steamed in spices.
History of Gujarati Cuisine.
Gujarat is a profoundly historic region located on the west coast of India and opens up to the Arabian Sea. Its roots trace back to the Indus Valley Civilization.
Over the many centuries of its history, Gujarat has had a host of different rulers, including the Marathas, Rajputs, Mughals, other invading Islamic dynasties, and the Mauryans. With the eventual rise of Jain culture and philosophy, Gujarati cuisine developed into this myriad of dishes and flavors with vegetarianism as the significant way of life.
Another factor contributing to the unique cuisine of Gujarat is the weather conditions, with the majority of the state being a dry state along with relatively high temperatures. Its hot and dry weather has a significant role to play in its cuisine as well.
How can Gujrati food be Unhealthy?
While everyone knows how flamboyant Gujaratis are in celebrating the festivals and their food habits, Gujju food is often most seen as unhealthy.
Gujarati food has plenty of oil. While it is mainly vegetarian, it certainly lacks enough vegetables.
Compared to other states, Gujrat also takes the lead when it comes to consumption of oil's and fats. Check this out:
Gujarat has always been low on fruit's and fiber consumption with its principal vegetarian population and high on sugar and fat. What's worse, Gujarat saw an 89% rice in the cases of diabetes only between 1990 and 2016. If you are looking for a diabetes reversal diet, here is a fantastic blog to read:
According to the latest National Family Survey (NFHS), there has been a drastic rise in obesity among children in Gujarat where obesity among children under five years of age has almost doubled between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
Such figures clearly indicate a high fat diet which needs to be addressed for a healthy future among the children of the state. Working with a nutritionist from a young age is crucial to prevent lifestyle related diseases.
Unhealthy Gujarati Dishes.
A favourite among Gujarati snacks, everyone has probably heard about the best combination of Fafda and Jalebi. Although a common snack, especially on Sundays, fafda is quite an unhealthy dish in itself.
It is a deep fried snack that obviously consumes a lot of oil. Deep frying in oil adds a lot of calories and food additionally lose water and absorb fat, which further increases their calorie content.
Such foods are also high in trans fats which can further lead to several health issues such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity in the future. Pair it with fried and sugar soaked jalebi's and it is a recipe for a heart- attack.
If you have visited Vadodara ever, you know what im talking about. Another Gujarati dish where grated potatoes are deep-fried. A chai- time favourite!
Despite being a vegetarian population, Gujarati cuisine lacks a variety in its vegetable consumption. Potatoes are instead consumed at a huge rate which cannot provide all the nutritional requirements needed for a healthy lifestyle.
Choose among healthier snack options like:
This is another dish that highly demonstrates Gujarat’s love for deep fried foods. Gathiya is also a type of Gujarati Crackers. It is served with hot Masala tea.
Gathiya is made up of besan and there is special sancha to make the gathiya which is again deep fried in oil. This snack is highly favored among the kids because of its strip nature just like chips and the fact that it is deep fired. As such, it can be quite unhealthy if eaten on a regular basis as a part of a staple diet.
Ghughra, also known as Ghujiya, is the type of sweet dish served in all festivals like Holi, Diwali, and Rakshbandhan. This sweet dish is made up of maida and the stuffing is made up of khoya, mawa, coconut and various dry fruits.
After the filling and the batter is ready that is deep fried in the homemade ghee and then hot dipped into the sugar syrup known as chasni. With such high-fat containing and harmful ingredients like flour, milk byproducts, ghee and sugar syrup, it is another unhealthy Gujarati dish that should be avoided as much as possible. But wait, is'nt Ghee healthy? Watch this:
But what about Ghee on my Khichdi! You can substitute the same with plant- based Ghee, a much healthier option. Click here for a few options. I personally love Live Yum Dairy alternative Ghee.
Milk and other dairy products also cause more harm than good for the body. Basundi is another not- such- healthy dish as it is completely made with milk and sugar.
This sweet dish or the desert of Gujarat is somewhat like Rabri. In the process of making basundi, milk is boiled to a point that it reduces to its half and the texture becomes very thick. The cream is on the top and the thickness is clearly visible after which the sugar is added. A dish like this, if consumed frequently, can become a leading cause for diseases such as type 1 diabetes in children and also rheumatoid arthritis and PCOS among adults.
Ghari or Surati Ghari is a sweet Gujarati dish from Surat, Gujarat. Ghari is made of puri batter or all-purpose flour, milk 'mawa' or thickened milk, ghee and sugar, made into round shapes with sweet filling, to be consumed on Chandani Padva festival. This is again another dish that is high in unhealthy ingredients like refined flour, milk and sugar.
Tweaks one can make to help make Gujarati food healthy.
If you look at the heart of Gujarati cuisine, the staple food is actually very healthy. The use of pulses, vegetables, grains and nuts in authentic gujarati food is commendable. All of the above food groups are essential to the body and contain micronutrients. There is a good balance of proteins and carbs in Gujarati food.
It is the overuse of oil's, ghee, butter and sugar that is the root cause of the problem. Explore how you can minimise the use of dairy products and switch to oil- free cooking techniques instead. Especially when you are cooking at home.
A healthy Gujarati meal is balanced and nutritious and does not necessarily mean bland and tasteless food. One can eat their regular dishes and still be healthy at the same time.
The first and foremost priority in this regard is that one should be conscious of what one eats and try to look for healthy alternatives. Try to consciously reduce the amount of oil, ghee, sugar, and flour in your body.
Avoid eating sabzis that float in oil, oily puris, and sweets with too much ghee. Also, avoid fried food as much as possible.
Gujarati staples like khakhras, khandvi, undhiyo, khichdi can be made such that they are low in calories, so there is no need to stop eating them altogether.
General Lifestyle Tweaks to Help With Weight Loss.
Losing weight does not always have to be about a total recall of all the foods you love or a workout routine that you hate. Instead of getting on a temporary 'diet plan', only to bounce back soon after, why not make permanent lifestyle changes to lose weight. Watch this to understand:
It is possible to accomplish few healthy habits with some general lifestyle tweaks that may help you lose weight while still enjoying some of your favourite foods:
- Drink water before every meal and snack. Get into a routine of drinking water, preferably 250 ml before you eat a meal or snack to keep your appetite in check. This practice has been shown to help you eat less during your meal.
- Vegetables are high in fibre, low in calories, and filled with vitamins and minerals that help fight belly bloat. Make sure to start at least one meal with a cup of raw vegetables with a handful of seeds.
- Switch to herbal tea's and infused water instead of chai and coffee. Not only is the milk bad for you, but we tend to add sugar's in the tea which is highly addictive and inflammatory.
- Make sure to include atleast 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This could be playing your favourite sport like cricket or joining a local yoga class.
- Start your dinner with a soup. Research shows that starting your meal with a bowl of oil- free soup ensures that you eat upto 200 calories less for your main meal. Besides, soups made with herbs and spices is healing to the body.
- Eating smaller portions with the help of smaller plates.
- Switch to a plant based diet. It is the fastest way to lose weight without calorie counting and portion control.
Gujarati Diet Chart For Weight Loss
Few important pointers:
- Eating healthy is not a substitute for exercise, but rather an add- on. Make sure to at least walk 7700 steps per day.
- Eat as per your circadian cycle. Avoid eating anything post 7 pm and start your first meal at 9 am.
- Avoid sugars, honey, jaggery and stevia.
- Completely avoid dairy products, especially milk. Try plant- based milk options instead.
So what did we learn?
Following a healthy Gujarati meal plan is essential to maintain a good lifestyle and keeping fit and healthy always. The meal plan should include the right proportions of nutrients required for hectic everyday schedules.
Customising tour current meal plan to avoid excessive use of oil's, sugar's and dairy is the best approach to fat loss. You do not have to change your eating pattern completely, just make simple lifestyle tweeks and add in physical activity.
If you are looking to loose weight on Gujarati Diet, fill this form below to get in touch with me.
Let's Just Talk. No Obligations.
I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.