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An outpour of guests, hearty conversations and some guilty binges- This is what our Diwali celebrations are looking like this year too. Diwali is a grand affair in India, while the festival is being celebrated today on 27th October this year, but we know very well that the festive vibe is here to stay until Bhai Dooj (29th October 2019); which means, a lot a bingeing and risk of calorie overload. Well, not necessarily. Now don't get us wrong, we are not asking you to tuck into salads while the world the world's busy indulging. But no one ever said that festive indulgence cannot be healthy, right?
We have put together some healthy versions of your favourite Diwali treats. You can munch into them when cravings kick, you can even serve these snacks to your guests and add a tinge of health to their Diwali as well.

1. Baked Ragi Chakli

Chakli or murukku is one Diwali staple that we cannot get enough of. Crispy and coiled, this savoury snack is usually deep-fried and made with besan. But this chakli is made with protein-rich goodness of Ragi. It is gluten-free too.

2. Baked Namak Para

Who does not like munching into these ribbon-like savories while engaged in a conversation. Namak para is one of the most loved Indian snacks, it is traditionally made by frying a special maida dough seasoned by ajwain seeds. In this recipe, instead of frying, you need to bake the snack. Baking helps save you many calories that are often associated with frying.

3. Ragi Coconut Ladoo

Your regular coconut ladoos got a protein-rich spin. Packed with the goodness of Ragi, peanuts and coconut, these ladoos are sweetened by jaggery. Jaggery is rich with antioxidants, and a much healthier alternative of refined sugar.

4. Almond Pearls

Dry fruits and Diwali go hand in hand. This dry fruit snack would only require a few minutes to prepare and is sure to impress each time. If you want to make this healthier, we advise you rule out sugar from the recipe. Almonds are a rich source of protein and heart-friendly omega 3 fatty -acids.

Try making these snacks at home and let us know how you liked them in the comments section below. We would also like to know how you are making your Diwali healthy this year!

Come winter and Gujarat bursts with delicious delicacies, from Papdi to Sonth Gol, Saalam Pak to Adadiyu and so much more. But what makes winters more special for Gujaratis is devouring on a winter special millet called Ponk or Paunk, which is a specialty of Surat. These green delights are used to make amazing warm winter snacks, especially their favourite limbu-mari ni sev (lemon and sev). Paunk is made from tender roasted sorghum grains mixed with other ingredients to make a delectable snack. Interestingly, paunk is available only during cold winter months, from November through February.According to Ms. Pinky Dixt from Soam Restaurant, Mumbai, "Paunk is a jowar millet that is freshly harvested; it is green and dry and is generally roasted to make snacks popular in Surat. You can also find the same in Maharashtra, which is known as Hurda. Hurda is made with onion, garlic chutney, and spices along with these millets and served with Chhaach. Paunk is very tender and is lightly roasted to make yummy snacks in order to welcome winters." Paunk is ideally not allowed to grow fully and as a result it remains soft. It is roasted under ashes, husked and eaten raw.

Apart from being served with chutney and sev, vadas are made using paunk that are gorged on along with hot cup of tea for breakfast. Paunk can not only be added to salads, pulao and samosas, but also makes for a great ingredient for kheer, bhel puri, patties and other snacks.

The process of cleaning paunk after harvesting

After harvesting the paunk, the farmers ensure that the grains are clean after removing husk and residue on the millet. Once these are clean, they are beaten in pillow covers to separate the paunk seeds, which are again cleaned properly and given the final polish and sold off.

How to store paunk?

Paunk is available during winters, but you can definitely enjoy it for longer if it is stored well. So, all you need to do is to buy paunk in large quantities and store the fresh stock in zip pouches or vegetable bags and keep them in the freezer. This can be stored for about two to three months.

The simplest snack recipe made with paunk is Gujarat's favourite limbu mari ni sev. It is very easy to make. Take a bowlful of paunk and add two teaspoons of lemon juice, now add half a teaspoon of red chilli powder (optional) and salt to taste and top it with sev. You can easily create your own renditions and enjoy it with a cup of tea in the evening. If you wish to make the Maharashtrian specialty Hurda, you can add chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic chutney or imli (tamarind) chutney, with lemon juice and chaat masala topped with sev and fresh coriander leaves. Don't forget to roast the paunk!

If you haven't tried paunk, it is the perfect time to get your hands on it and enjoy it as a winter snack.

"Take the bitter with the sweet" need not necessarily be a metaphoric piece of advice. Bitter foods are not just healthy but can be delicious too and it is just as well that they seem to be now trending the world over with the hipsters. In India, Ayurveda-based food traditions have always recognised bitter foods as part of a complete meal. Of the six tastes that this "science of food and medicine" ostensibly recognises, bitter is an important one - said to be "airy and light", especially benefitting people with dominant pitta and kapha, and lowering these "doshas". Bitter, however, is different from pungent foods, which are a class in themselves in Ayurveda and include the likes of chillies and mustard, both of which also have elements of bitterness.Since bitter foods are thought of as cleansing and important to boosting metabolism in many regional food traditions, they are mandatorily included in traditional meals. A fine example is Bengali food, perhaps the only cuisine in India eaten in courses. It is always the bitter - shukto - made up of ingredients such as bitter gourd or neem leaves that is served first as a palate cleanser of sorts and as a course to boost appetite.

In different parts of India similar preparations and traditions using bitter flavours abound. In fact, neem leaves with a little honey and black pepper mixed into them to cut the bitter and have a juxtaposition of different flavours are supposed to be the first thing you eat on new year day in many regional cultures. The symbolism is obvious-imbibing all the different flavours of life in the year to come. But it's also true that neem bitters are supposed to have a therapeutic effect in folk medicine and are hence eaten to ward off disease.

Bitter Gourd or Karela

One of my favourite vegetables is the bitter gourd - karela. One of the oldest "Indian" vegetables around (it is thought to have originated in the subcontinent), the bitter gourd belongs to the melon/cucumber family and is a typical summer vegetable in many parts of the country. In Kerala, it can be stir fried with the sweetish coconut to cut through the bitter, and be included as a side dish. But in UP and other parts of northern India, it is a delicacy in its own right.

Karela, with its skin scraped off and salt rubbed into it to leech out the bitterness, is stuffed with mince in many Mughalai-based traditions. The vegetarian equivalent of the Bharwan Karela, stuffed bitter gourd, in my Kayasth home has always been the gourd stuffed with browned onions. This is carefully spiced with fennel and amchoor, spices and flavours that tone down the bitterness (the sourness of the amchoordoes that and fennel has a faintly sweet aroma) but don't drown it. This is exactly the way so many Indian dishes are artfully constructed - with contrasting flavours that highlight one particular one in a delicate balance.

Bitter gourd, of course, is also thought to be medicinal. It is low in calories and good for weight loss, it has antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins like C and A. Folk medicines ascribe almost miraculous benefits to it - from anti-ageing to cure for cancer though none of this has been conclusively proven. Finally, there are also the anti-diabetic properties of Karela. A hypoglycemic agent called Charantin present in it is supposed to be able to regulate blood sugar levels and act as a substitute for insulin.

A host of other bitter foods like chocolate, leafy greens like nettle, turmeric and so on are all equally thought to be superfoods boosting our metabolism, preventing ageing, fighting infections and improving moods and vitality. Nettle soup, now being rediscovered as a lost recipe in many parts of the world, in fact is common in the Himalayan belt. Cuisine from Garhwal has it as a nutritious part of its repertoire.

Then there is fenugreek, used both as leaves and as dried seeds in many cooking traditions. As the name suggests, it came from Greece to the Subcontinent, where we found good and varied uses for it. Not only are methi greens a cheap and common source of nutrition in northern India in the winter months but the dried seeds - methi dana - is a favoured spice in many curries.

Sour and bitter as a flavour combination works in many Indian dishes. The typical old Delhi potato curry is an example, tangy with a hint of bitter that is imparted through the use of methi seeds. The use of this spice distinguishes the curry-scooped up with hot bedmi of old Delhi from its cousins in other parts of India, where the dominant spice may be different.

Many bitter foods such as these greens, cacao, and bitter melon contain sulfur, along with fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). All these are thought to benefit the liver and help in the production of bile, the enzyme that helps us digest food. It's just as well that modern food trends too are no longer shying away from the bitter.

Butter can make anything taste better. From sandwiches and pizzas to cakes, brownies and even chapatis and parathas, butter can liven up the taste of any food. A lot of people use this creamy dairy product as their favoured grease for cooking, grilling, basting or frying various foods. Butter is also used in making sauces and cake frosting, as well as pan-frying and roasting food and snacks. It seems to be all-pervasive in cooking and baking and is one of the most important and widely available milk products out there. Whether you like to spread it on breads and sandwiches, or like to use it instead of oil for cooking, butter is an essential ingredient that all functional kitchens have a stock of.

But there are plenty of reasons that one may want to move away from the use of butter in cooking and baking. A lot of people are allergic to dairy and dairy products and may not be able to use butter in cooking and baking. Too much butter in food is a cause for concern for a lot of people suffering from or are susceptible to cardiovascular diseases or high blood pressure. Butter is extremely high in saturated fat, which may clog up arteries and lead to plaque build-up when consumed daily and in excess. Moreover, a lot of commercially available butter brands contain too much salt and artificial flavour.

Here are three alternatives or healthier substitutes to butter that you may use while cooking and baking:
1. Ghee
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is heated to 120 degrees C after the water is evaporated, turning the milk solids brown. This process enhances the rich flavour of ghee and is also said to increase the level of antioxidants in it. Ghee can be used exactly like butter for grilling and roasting, but may have more moisture than butter when used in baking, so you may need to alter the ratio of liquid to flour in cookies and cakes. However, even ghee is rich in saturated fats and must be used judiciously while cooking on a daily basis.

2. Coconut Oil
Recently hailed as a superfood, coconut oil has been used for cooking in Asian cuisines for centuries now. Coconut oil is said to have a number of health benefits, including suppression of appetite and an improvement in level of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. Coconut oil is also said to improve immunity by killing harmful micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses, due to the presence of lauric acid in it. The only downside to coconut oil is the strong 'coconutty' flavour and taste that it comes with and that takes time to get used to. However, due to the high viscosity of coconut oil, it can used in a 1:1 ratio in the place of butter.

3. Olive Oil
For the longest time, olive oil has been considered as one of the healthiest cooking oils out there and it can be used to replace butter as grease as well. It contains high amounts of antioxidants, due to which it has anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil is a rich source of healthy fats, which is also said to offer protective benefits for the heart. For every cup of butter that you may use in a recipe, you may replace it with three-fourth cup of olive oil. Since olive oil is liquid, your baking recipes may require some adjustments in order to accommodate olive oil in the place of butter. But wherever you need to use butter as grease to cook foods, olive oil may function exactly like butter.

Monsoons are here in full swing! The joy of bingeing on a spicy, freshly roasted corn cob in this amazing weather is above all. More brownie points if the corn cob is generously smothered with lemon juice and masala! Roasted corn cob, or bhutta, not only tastes amazing but is also a healthy snack option. However, this healthy delight might turn out to be problematic for some, especially if you follow it up with a glass of water. According to Ayurveda Expert, Dr. Ashutosh Gautam, "One should avoid drinking water immediately after having bhutta as it can lead to a variety of stomach woes. It may lead to gastric issues and stomach pain."

Here's why you should avoid drinking water after having bhutta:
Many people complain of flatulence and severe stomach ache when they consume water and bhutta together. This happens due to a specific reason. "Drinking water after having bhutta can interrupt the digestion process to a great extent. Doing so slows down the digestion process. Corn contains complex carbs and starch and consumption of water over it can lead to a release of gases in the stomach, which may cause flatulence, acidity, and severe stomach pain," shares Dr. Ashutosh. If all this while you were clueless as to why such a thing was happening to you, you can now blame the combination of bhutta and water for the same.

In order to avoid such a condition, it is advised to maintain a considerable time gap between eating bhutta and drinking water. "The ideal time gap should be at least of 45 minutes," suggests Dr. Ashutosh. Other than this, you should opt for bhuttas that are smothered with lemon juice, as lemon facilitates digestion and makes the overall digestion process smoother and effective. During the monsoon season our body is quite vulnerable to diseases as the overall immunity takes a dip. Considering roasted corn cob is a street food delicacy, it must be consumed fresh and hot. In order to reap maximum nutritional benefits of bhutta, consume it immediately. Storing it for long hours may give rise to harmful bacteria, which can ultimately lead to stomach-related issues.

So, the next time you end up going to that bhutta wala stall to savour this monsoon delight, keep the above-mentioned things in mind and save yourself from stomach discomfort.

Dr. Sandip  Jagtap
Dr. Sandip Jagtap
MBBS, Addiction Psychiatrist Adolescent And Child Psychiatrist, 14 yrs, Pune
Dr. Sonal Shendkar
Dr. Sonal Shendkar
MBBS, Dermatologist Medical Cosmetologist, 7 yrs, Pune
Dr. Abhinandan J
Dr. Abhinandan J
BAMS, Ayurveda Family Physician, 1 yrs, Pune
Dr. Sagar Chavan
Dr. Sagar Chavan
MD - Allopathy, Abdominal Radiologist Pediatric Radiologist, 8 yrs, Pune
Dr. Shilpa Jungare Tayade
Dr. Shilpa Jungare Tayade
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Ayurveda Dermatologist, 8 yrs, Pune