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‘My Thali’ A fun way to eat healthy

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By Kumudini Gupta


As a President's Challenge Advocate, I would like to introduce "My Thali," a concept equivalent to "My Plate" program, organized by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as a fun way to eat healthy for the Indian-American community.

"My Plate" was introduced in 2011, as a replacement for USDA's "My Pyramid" program. The "Food Pyramid" was introduced by the USDA in the year 1992, which was updated in 2005 to "My Pyramid." A food guide pyramid is a pyramid shaped guide of healthy foods divided into sections to show the recommended intake for each. Using the new USDA plate icon, basic suggestions of "My Plate" food group are to:

Balance calories (reduce portions), increase certain foods (vegetables, fruits and whole grains), and reduce other foods (sodium and sugary drinks).

Having lived in the US for over 20 years and being health conscious, I have been a follower of "My Pyramid" for some time. In fact, every year, during my physical, I ask my doctor to recommend dietary changes based on "My Pyramid". This ensures that I am getting the right nutrition to lead a long, healthy and happy life. My Plate is easier to follow with its brightly-colored plate visual and much less confusing than the food pyramid.

Thali meaning "plate" is an Indian meal made up of a selection of various dishes. Thali dishes vary from region to region in India and are usually served in small bowls on a round tray. Sometimes a steel tray made with multiple compartments is used.

A traditional Indian Thali

An Indian-American diet is similar to the American diet in that dairy, vegetable and fruits constitute most of what is eaten in the course of the day. But Indian-American way of cooking or preparing food can make for a fun experience in allowing one to enjoy the pleasures of the culture, while adopting to healthy eating habits.

For example, mango, a favorite Indian fruit, can be enjoyed as Mango Lassi, is a popular and traditional yogurt-based drink (can be substituted with low fat yogurt) of the Indian subcontinent. It is made by blending yogurt with water) mango juice or just as is. This would take care of the fruit as well as dairy requirements for the day. Dal (also spelled Dahl or Daal, or Dhal) is a preparation of pulses (dried lentils, peas or beans) and is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. Similarly, Chapati is unleavened flat bread and is made of whole wheat flour and cooked on a tava (flat skillet). This is a low fat to no fat alternative for the grains food group.

This fun and easy way of enjoying an Indian meal also goes for breakfast. With today's “1 Minute Cream of Wheat,” you can alternate Upma (hot breakfast dish) one or two days of the week with toast, eggs, pancakes and fruit for a not so boring seven day plan for a fresh start to your day.

Of course, one should try to eat to fresh vegetables and fruits as much as possible and if you can grow some in your own home or garden there is nothing like it.

Thus My Thali combines healthy and delicious alternatives of Indian-American cuisine in conjunction with the guidelines of “My Plate” and goes a long way in helping you stay fit in your new home away from home.