Finding a balanced approach to your chronic disease management means finding healthy alternatives for your favourite indulgences. If you’re sad about having to give up on your favourite sweets, fried food and all the delectable items that come with the festive times, look no further.
We’ve curated a list of the best healthy alternatives you’ll need to have a good time this Diwali. With a little preparation and planning, you can munch on these, instead of high-calorie dishes that could wreck your health. You could even make large batches of these and share with your loved ones and show that you care for their well-being in addition to their festive spirit.
1. Dry Fruit Laddu
Little round globes of sweet richness – this is how you’d describe laddus in its varying forms. While the traditional laddus are made with boondis fried in hot oil, dipped in sugar syrup and laden with ghee, there are a number of healthy alternatives that you can try. Our favourite is this dry fruit variant.
It’s as simple as picking a variant of dry fruits and nuts, coarsely grinding them, frying them in a little bit of ghee and rolling them into balls. Just make sure to use dates, which is the delectable glue that brings the laddu together.
2. Quinoa Phirni
Phirni, a traditional milk and rice pudding is high in carbohydrates and empty sugar. Replacing the rice with quinoa and switching out the sugar for dates, or even jaggery is an easy way to make it healthier. Since quinoa is filled with healthy micronutrients, these can even be enjoyed as an occasional indulgence, even without any festive reasons.
Making this dish is as easy as roasting the quinoa off in a pan, adding water, then milk and cooking it all down. To this thickened mixture, powdered nuts and dates can be added for flavour and sweetness. This can be finished off with slivered pistachios and almonds as a final touch.
3. Low Calorie Gajar Halwa
The crunchy, sweet, and earthy taste of carrot halwa without all the high calories? It might sound fictitious to you, but we’re here to tell you otherwise! A low-calorie version of this traditional favourite can be made by steaming the carrots and replacing the usual milk fat (khoya) in the recipe with milk powder. The process of steaming drastically reduces the amount of ghee required for the dish, making it super low in fat and calories.
4. Almond Barfi
Sometimes, simple is better. Take the case of the barfi – made with minimal ingredients, this festive favourite has become a year-round favourite for many. While there are many options of these available, the store-bought ones are high in sugar and ghee. The same indulgent experience can be made healthier at home, by simply blanching some almonds, blending them into a paste with saffron-infused milk, and cooking this mixture in some ghee with sugar and cardamom.
5. Baked Chakli
Chaklis are one of the most popular dry jar snacks that families love to stock up on for Diwali. While it is usually deep-fried and features a lot of empty calories, it can easily be made healthier by baking. The chakli or murukku can be made even healthier by adding vegetable puree, or healthy grains to the batter, or even by using a healthier flour to make the batter.
The most basic batter calls for rice flour, low-fat curd, some sesame seeds, a pinch of chilli powder, hing and salt to taste. This batter can be piped on to a baking sheet, brushed with oil and baked to perfection.
6. Ragi Halwa
Ragi is a part of the traditional cuisine in India and is rich in fibres and nutrients. This gluten-free grain is especially great for diabetes patients or even those who are generally trying to be healthier. Over the years, ragi lovers have come up with a multitude of ways to enjoy this healthy grain – from ragi roti and idli to porridge and even halwa. Ragi halwa is a fairly simple yet tasty dish that can be made as a dessert for Diwali.
All you’ll need is some ragi flour, ghee, hot milk, cardamom powder, assorted nuts and some jaggery for sweetness. All you have to do to make the halwa is to cook the ragi and jaggery, little at a time in the ghee until it thickens and starts to bubble. To this mixture, add hot milk and simmer it down. Finally, when the mixture reaches the halwa consistency, the nuts, and cardamom powder can be added.
7. Baked Guijiya
Gujiyas are traditionally a labour intensive dish, which calls for earlier preparation and involves the tedious process of wrapping and frying. But a baked version of this dish can be made with commercially available fillo sheets. All you have to do to make this recipe is to make the stuffing by heating nuts, coconut shavings, semolina and sugar in a pan with ghee. This mixture can be stuffed inside folded fillo pastry sheets and baked to perfection!
8. Pineapple Sandesh
Imagine biting into a sweet and tangy pineapple slice, topped with a rich layer of cheese and dried nuts. While it is on the healthier side, it doesn’t compromise on taste and can quickly become a crowd-pleasing dessert.
What you’ll need to make this dessert is whole milk, lemon, pineapple slices, rose water and slivered nuts. You can start off this dish by making the chena or cheese that you’ll need. All this requires you to do, is to make the cheese by bringing it to a boil, and adding lemon juice to it, for purposes of curdling. Once this is fully curdled, the excess water can be strained out and the cheese can be thoroughly pressed out. This layer of cheese can be spread on a slice of pineapple and topped with the slivered nuts to be enjoyed right away!
9. Kaju Katli
Traditionally Kaju Katli is made by adding cashew powder to the sugar syrup and cooking it down to thicken it. But the same taste and consistency of the dessert can be achieved by adding grinding the cashew to paste and mixing this with raw honey. Mixing this further will make the mixture into a mouldable consistency, which can be pressed into a plate brushed with ghee. This recipe calls for minimal cooking but provides the same taste and texture of the commercially available kaju katli. If you’d like a firmer bite for the dessert or would want to store it for longer, you can store it away in the fridge.
10. Baked Shakkarpare
Eating shakkapare with hot tea is a part of the Diwali ritual for most families across India. But this deep-fried dish can pack a high-calorie punch as it is a deep-fried dish made from wheat flour, ghee, milk, salt, and sugar. By changing the cooking method, this dish can be made much more healthy and suitable for those watching their weight or has lifestyle diseases to manage.
While the main dough of the recipe remains the same, you can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, or even replace it with jaggery. The dough is made by heating sugar/jaggery, ghee, milk and a pinch of salt, into which the whole wheat flour will be sieved in. This is then kneaded out and cut into small pieces, which can then be transferred to a baking tray and baked to perfection.
Making these dishes at home, rather than buying it from stores might be a little more time consuming, but they are a great family activity that everyone can participate in. When living with lifestyle diseases, it is important to involve your whole family in your disease management, so that they can also understand the importance of staying healthy, and taking preventive measures regarding complications.
During this time of festive cheer and family celebrations, encouraging such healthy practices is definitely a worthwhile endeavour that the elders in the family can pass on to their children and grandchildren.
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