Eat right, stay fit: nutritionist Shona Prabhu tells you how this combination works wonders

The Community Chat on HerStory’s Women on a Mission Facebook page with NutrifyMyDiet Founder Shona Prabhu saw some ‘healthy’ conversations around food.
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Shona Prabhu - Founder of NutrifyMyDiet

In the first of Community Chats on HerStory Women on A Mission Facebook page, we invited Shona Prabhu, a nutritionist and Founder of NutrifyMyDiet to help out our members with some health and diet queries.

Shona believes that when we talk of diets, we mean eating healthy – when you start to become aware and enjoy the foods you eat.

She has worked with junior, national, and Olympic level athletes, provided them with customised nutrition programmes, supplement strategies, and support during their travel and competition. These include the Phogat sisters, Inspire Institute of Sports (of JSW), the national men’s and women’s hockey teams, Netkalappa Aquatics Center, Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy, and Bengaluru Football Club, among others.

During  the chat titled, “Putting the ‘me’ in health: Eat right and stay fit”, Shona Prabhu answered several questions on diets, supplements, healthy foods, and exercise. Here are some of the Q&A that can help us all.

Q. Is there a simple diet plan to lose belly fat? I don’t get enough time to exercise due to a busy schedule?

Shona: You've got to "make" time to exercise, especially focussing on cardio. 

  • Areas to work on with food: avoid simple sugars (including jaggery, honey) and fruit juices. 
  • Early dinners by 7:30 pm. Avoid white rice, and keep a 12-hour gap before your next meal (breakfast). 
  • Half your plate should be vegetables and lean protein.
  • Green tea, cinnamon powder can aid with the fat burning process.

Q. What are some of the easily available and affordable superfoods that should be a part of our diet?

Shona: My top picks are:

1. Sprouts - made from any pulses (mung, horse gram, cowpea). 

2 Curd - good source of B12 and calcium, and a natural probiotic, which is great for a healthy digestive system.

3. Green leafy vegetables (drumstick leaves, amaranth, methi) - good iron and vitamins.

4. Pomegranate and guava - rich in vitamin C, which is anti-inflammatory and great for the skin. 

5. Chia seeds/almonds/walnuts - Omega 3 rich

Q. What are some of the multivitamins women between the ages of 20-30 and 30-40 should take?

Shona: For those between 20-30 years – focus on eating balanced and healthy meals. 

For those between 30-40 years – multivitamins that provide approximately 30-40 percent of DRI (daily recommended index). 

Multivitamin brands (for women): Revital Women, Apollo Multivitamin for Women and Healthkart Multivitamin for women. It's important to do a blood test and then make the right choice.

Q. When the body's metabolism slows down as we age, how should we take care of our diet?

Shona: Focus on

1. Quantity - Check portions sizes and avoid high-calorie foods. Food intake should be lesser. 

2. Protein - Helps retain muscle mass, which boosts metabolism. This also keeps one fuller. 

3. Easily digestible foods - Avoid any foods that cause bloating. Ginger and cumin seeds support digestive health. 

4. Hydration - Water and green tea. Green tea contains antioxidants that help boost metabolism.

Q. How beneficial is the Keto diet? Are there any side effects?

Shona: Keto diet can help with quick weight loss, and can be followed for short periods of time. It is very restrictive so the body doesn’t get the adequate supply of nutrients. Initial side effects include poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, acidity, and constipation. 

But in the long run, a Ketogenic diet is not sustainable and you can regain the weight lost once you are off the diet.

Q. As you approach your 30s, what should your diet and exercise regime be like?

Shona: Have a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits, cereals and pulses, dairy products, and include nuts in moderate quantities. Follow an exercise routine that includes both cardio and strength training exercises 4-5 times a week.

Q. What's a suitable diet for someone with PCOD?

Shona: Stay away from the 3 P's - processed, preservatives, packaged foods. Include protein-rich foods with every meal. Reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates like white rice and maida.

Engage in physical activity 4-5 times a week - a very important aspect of managing PCOD.

Q. Intermittent fasting seems to be a fad these days. What are your thoughts?

Shona: Intermittent fasting is an effective way to bring down your body fat percentage. People with hormonal issues like thyroid disease and PCOS should be cautious as fasting can cause stress, which can further upset the hormonal balance.

Q. I have been advised to add supplements and vitamins (omega 3, B12 etc) to my diet. Can you suggest what foods I can eat instead?

Shona: For Omega 3, eat  walnuts, flax seeds, olives, avocado, fatty fish like sardine, mackerel and salmon. For vitamin B-12, you should eat chicken, milk, and curd. If your levels are below 180 pg/ml, supplementation will be required.

Q. Granola and muesli versus homemade poha/upma and chai. What would you advise?

Shona: Granola and muesli have the advantage of added vitamins and minerals (especially iron). Choose from whole grain and low sugar options. Having it with milk/curd makes the meal healthier. Upma made with millets/dalia and poha with veggies are healthier options. But, chai prevents the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Q. What are some healthy snacks we can always carry with us especially while travelling?

Shona: Dry fruit and nuts, protein bars, makhana, and roasted gram are my top picks.

Q. I have a vitamin B12, D3 deficiency, PCOD and early diabetes. What will be a good diet plan to be followed in such a case?

Shona: Include low-glycemic index (GI) foods  like whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables. Avoid refined foods like white rice and maida. Add more anti-inflammatory foods like pomegranates, fish, leafy greens, turmeric. Include lots of antioxidant-rich colourful vegetables and fruits in your diet. For vitamin D, eat eggs, low fat milk, and mushrooms.For vitamin B-12,  chicken, milk, and curd. If your levels are below 180 pg/ml, supplementation will be required.Eat your meals on time.

For more conversations, follow HerStory Women On A Mission page on Facebook.

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