FeaturesIn the Spotlight 18.05.2020

Health Requires Healthy Food

BY Asif

Eating right is one of the best preventive medicines there is, and Aymen Subhani helps to do just that. As a consultant dietitian, she plans food and nutrition programs, supervises meal preparation and oversees the serving of meals in her clients. She talks with us and shares insights about keeping proper nutrition and having a balanced diet.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you decide for a career as a dietitian?
My name is Aymen Subhani, I am a Dietitian and a Nutritionist based in Lahore and I work online via my Instagram page. I’ve dealt with many clients and provided them the diet charts tailored to their needs. My IG handle is @livingwellwithaymen.

About me choosing this career, I always knew I wanted to do something in the Medical field. Being on a weight loss journey myself, I knew the struggles and how overwhelming the plethora of bogus information out there can be. Hence I decided to go in the field of Nutrition so I can help others like me. Also I was sick of society’s portrait of “a healthy person” and how everyone thinks body shaming is okay. Wanted to do my part and fix this.

What are good and bad foods?
No food is good or bad, and to label it like that could raise eating disorders among people, especially the youth. All food is fuel for your body and every food provides nutrients. Moderation and mindful eating is the key when it comes to food. Allow yourself your favorite foods like a cookie or two between meals so you don’t end up eating the whole packet later anyway. Have a balanced diet.

What is the best thing one can eat to remain healthy but also keep a balanced diet?
Include protein in your diet. You can easily get it from chicken, beef, fish, lentils, beans, quinoa et cetera. Along with protein, include fruits and vegetables to ensure that you get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Both protein and fiber will help you feel full for longer. A balanced diet in which you include all food groups will also ensure that your immune system is strong.

Example of a healthy balanced meal:
3 ounces chicken steak with lemon juice squeezed, cooked spinach and boiled mashed potato served with yogurt mint chutney.
Nutrition guide: 358 calories, 34g carb, 28g pro, 11g fat

What about sugar free or diet foods?
It’s different for everyone. I don’t usually recommend people to go sugar free or follow “diet foods” because that would mean demonizing certain foods. Food is not the problem, eating mindlessly and binging is the problem. Unless a person is diabetic and has high blood sugar levels, I let my clients have sugar every now and then. Or I provide them alternatives like honey, agave nectar, brown sugar or dates. Obviously excess of anything is bad, hence portion your food. Restricting a certain food group only results in wanting it more.

Usually fruits and vegetables are labeled as “diet foods” when they’re not diet foods. People can easily gain fat if they’re consuming too many calories. The only thing important for weight loss is eating less calories than what your body burns, eat mindfully, have fruits and vegetables in your diet along with protein and fiber and have less servings of processed foods per week.

What are the most common mistakes people make that cause them to fail at their diet?
• Too restricted calories: I’ve seen people do 800 calorie diet chart and fail at it which is obvious. As it’s too restricted and their body is not satisfied leaving them feeling weak, lethargic and dizzy which results them rushing back to their old sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.
• Following the same dietary plan for a long time results in your body getting used to the calories you’re putting in and your weight hits plateau which can be very disappointing. So instead of doing it yourself or buying baseless fat burners, hire a professional.
• Not doing breakfast or starving yourself till 8pm only to binge eat on a meal that has around 1800 calories will not let you lose weight.
• Not exercising, not eating enough protein or fiber rich foods.
• Consumption of more liquid calories e.g. juices.
• Not drinking enough water.
• Setting crazy goals like losing 20 pounds in one month. Getting disappointed and then overeating later.

What is the best way to make sure that you are eating healthy?
Including all food groups in your diet to ensure that you load up on nutrient dense calories, antioxidants, and micronutrients that will build up your immune system and help with other important functioning of the body.

Are genetics important in factoring in one’s weight or diet goals?
Yes, behavior, habits, environment and sometimes genes factor up in weight gain or weight loss. So you change your eating pattern, eat mindfully and exercise you can achieve ypur goals. It will be a little hard for some as compared to the other person, but it’s achievable.

How should one improve their overall nutrition?
Simply by including whole foods in their diet, stop snacking mindlessly, not eating when you’re bored, including protein, fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet daily.

What would you say about taking supplements; do you recommend people take multivitamins? If yes, what vitamins are the most important to have?
I personally don’t recommend supplements unless it’s absolutely necessary (e.g. a person who recently went through surgery, pregnant or lactating women, serve malnourished people et cetera). If the deficiency is minute and can be fixed by diet that’s the priority then. Consuming extra amounts of vitamins and minerals will lead to toxicity and have adverse health effects. So a blood test report, and a physician’s prescription for the supplement is the way to go. Otherwise, food is your best medicine.

How is one supposed to deal with unintentional weight loss and not feeling hungry at mealtimes?
First, it’s important to understand the cause of the unintentional weight loss and until that’s fixed; you’ll keep on losing more weight. Diagnosis is very important and then dietary recommendations are given. For example there’s drastic weight loss in anemic patients. They keep on losing muscle mass, body weight and their blood unless it’s identified and treated. But until diagnosis, make sure to eat something every 30 minutes in little quantities so you don’t faint.

Can you tell us some alternatives to junk foods?
Bake or air fry your food to minimize calories. Make a lentils burger, baked pakoras, baked potato, baked chicken steak or air fry your chips or wedges.
Make carrot chips if you’re trying to lose weight. Simply cut your carrots in the finger fries style, bake them and enjoy. You can use sweet potato instead of potato, and use homemade yogurt, mayo or chutney instead of ketchup.

Considering Ramadan, how can one maintain or lose weight while fasting?
Ramadan is a golden opportunity for all those who are trying to lose weight. So in your next sehri, instead of eating parathas eat lentils soup, oatmeal, chicken, kitchri, have banana shake with dates, have spinach and lemon electrolyte smoothie, a sunny side up egg with bran bread and ginger lassi.
Consume 2 glasses of water.
In iftari, less fried foods, and more whole foods. Start with a date and then drink your favorite homemade fruit slush. e.g. peach slush, have watermelon and strawberry smoothie with mint to get a bolt of energy and refreshment. Have baked pakoras, steak, kabab, channa chat or fruit chaat in your iftari. It’s difficult to gain weight in ramadan, so the main focus should be on maintaining your weight this month. Include more protein in your diet and stay hydrated.

Can you recommend a good Sehri to have?
Oatmeal. It’s very easy to make, is light on your stomach, has both fiber and protein which will help you stay satiated for longer and is loaded with micronutrients and antioxidants. You can add chia seeds, coconut flakes, dates, dash of cinnamon, nuts and fruits as toppings on it before eating.
Can have a boiled egg with it if you still feel hungry.

Lastly, what do you know as a dietitian that you wish everybody knew?
• Not every new trending diet is “finally” the answer to your weight problems. Stop crash dieting, say no to fat burners (medicines or teas), and don’t follow a diet chart that worked for your friend. It may not work for you.
• Every body’s needs are different and it’s important to identify and fulfill them in order to achieve your weight goals, be that weight gain or weight loss.
• Do not demonize food.
• Exercise regularly every 4 to 5 days a week.
• Fat is actually good for your body.
• Lastly, do not body shame people. It’s not okay. Sometimes it is physically very hard for some people to lose or gain weight.