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19 - 25 Oct, 2013
ENGLISH MAGAZINE,FASHION MAGAZINE

MAG FASHION
INTERVIEW
Healthy Eating

Fariha Zeeshan is a reputed clinical dietitian at The Aga Khan University Hospital. She has done her M.Sc in Nutrition and her specialty includes General Nutrition, Gastroenterology, General Medicine, Fariha Zeeshanand Endocrinology. Fariha is also a member of Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS). Previously, she worked at OMI Hospital and since then she has been working at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) for four years now. She is also amongst one of the very few registered dieticians of Pakistan. Recently, MAG talked to Fariha about the benefits of healthy eating, mistakes people usually commit while dieting and her all-time favourite healthy snacks. Excerpts:

Why did you choose studying nutrition?
I was always interested in this field, but it was after my matriculation that I decided to opt for this. So, my personal interest and passion led me into this field.

How has nutrition awareness changed since you started working in the field?
I actually started my career because I felt that this field was particularly ignored. There is not that much awareness to be honest and most of the people think that we have to eat less and reduce weight at any cost. It’s not just about that it’s more than just dieting.

What is the mistake people mostly commit when on diet?
People give in to these dieting myths. They think if they do something or eat less then they will lose weight, it will help if they don’t take carbs at night. Everything that is part of a balanced diet, we need to have it. We should focus more on the important things rather than those myths. Balanced diet is really important.

What are those foods that you would instantly eliminate from anyone’s diet? The ones that are absolutely non-essential for a healthy diet?
Fast food first of all, refined carbs, preserved processed foods and inorganic foods – the ones that are being grown via fake means, should be eliminated. These inorganic foods can easily be differentiated from the size and colour of it. Apple or potato never came in this huge size nor capsicum that we get nowadays. Anyone can clearly differentiate it from the real thing.

There has been a lot of advancements in science in general and in nutrition in particular. But we also see obesity not slowing down. What’s the problem? How do people get so fat?
It’s because of their bad eating habits, skipping meals, eating habits, dining out, less awareness about food, fast paced lives, and ready-to-eat meals. So, basically the approach is wrong towards eating.

To what extent do you think fast food contributes to the obesity epidemic?
It does because all the fast foods are deep fried, refined flours, French fries etc all these products increase the amount of fat in our body. And it doesn’t affect our health overnight. Plus sedentary lifestyle – there is no activity in our lives, we go home, sit on our laptops and do no activity whatsoever. So, this is an extremely wrong approach.

How important is keeping a balance between healthy eating and exercising?
It is very important. Moreover, there is another myth that we should go for a walk after the meal. No, you should walk before the meal. Walk to lose weight and walk to remain fit is different.

What would be your number one tip for people who want to lose weight?
I can’t stress enough on physical activity, it’s really very important. Even if you don’t eat anything, starve yourself completely, you won’t be able to lose weight until you increase your physical activity. Oxygen is very important, usually what people do is that they exercise or do treadmill at home, which is not right because your body doesn’t get enough oxygen this way. So, with balanced diet your body also needs fresh air.

Coming back to you, what is your favourite healthy snack?
Fruits, I really love to have them because they are really good for our skin. So, two fruits per day and specially the seasonal fruits. We should not have any fruit that is out of season.

What is your philosophy of life and what inspires you?
Since I am a working woman, so what inspires me is obviously my passion. Moreover, I follow all the rules of a balanced diet, activity, eating good, I dine out also but I also make sure to burn the extra calories.

What are your career goals as a dietician?
To make people aware about the possible threats to their health irrespective of which social circle they belong to.

Do you have any advice for students interested in studying nutrition?
People are becoming more and more concerned about their health which is a good thing so there is a huge scope of nutritionists in the future. If you are passionate about it, then do join it.

On festive occasions like Eid-ul-Azha, people tend to indulge in a lot of binge eating. Is it harmful, if yes, how can it be avoided?
According to our tradition there has been a lot of eating, cooking and get togethers within family during Eid holidays. Binge or irregular eating patterns end up with indigestion, vomiting, bloating (due to over consumption of food). Red meat is tough to digest. To avoid this problem, have meat in grilled, baked or steamed form and use canola oil in less amount to cook meat. Secondly, you must use raw vegetable salad along with the meat recipes or cook meat with vege combination. It is better to cook meat once a day during Eid holidays to avoid overconsumption. Recommended amount of meat is 3oz in each meal to keep cholesterol in balance.

On Bari Eid, the menu is based on a lot of meat-based dishes. What can be a healthier alternative?
Raw vegetable salads and lemon juice for better absorption of iron through vitamin C. Meat is very good to maintain your iron and hemoglobin levels and consists of other important vitamins like E,A,K. It is also rich in minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium etc. which helps in a good immune system as well. Healthier alternatives can be a combination of cooked meat with vegetables but use of only red meat all three days is not recommended.

People often freeze the meat for months. Are there any harmful effects of doing that?
Temporarily you can freeze it but do not freeze sacrificed meat for more than 2 months. Properly handled food stored in a freezer at 0°F (-18 °C) will always be safe as long as it hasn’t thawed. The food is safe because the bacteria has entered a dormant stage. For best quality, store frozen raw ground meat for not more than 3 to 4 months; cooked meats, 2 to 3 months. Storage for a long time is not dangerous, but flavours and textures can deteriorate. For this reason, date packages before you put them in the freezer.

The consumption of meat-based dishes and fizzy drinks increases on Eid-ul-Azha. Is this a healthy activity?
The combination of rich oily food and intake of frizzy drink is the most unhealthy option people practice specifically on Eid-ul-Azha. Frizzy drinks contain large amount of sugars and this will end up with weight gain as well as rise in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Don’t drink it with heavy oily foods as this will also cause bloating and indigestion even diarrhea in some people.

In most Pakistani households, food is prepared with lots of spices. What do you have to say about that?
Spices are not harmful unless you use them excessively. Most people have issues like acidity, acidic Fariha Zeeshanburps and issues of indigestion with high spices specially with these packet ready-to-cook masalas that consist of large amount of added food colour and artificial flavours as well. Better to marinate meat in garlic, lemon, vinegar, yogurt to get natural taste of meat.

How much quantity of meat should we consume? And which variety is healthier (grilled, baked or boiled).
Take meat of about 3oz in each serving of meal and do consider having raw vegetables and even cooked ones also for better combination. Grilling, baking, steaming are the safest and nutritionally healthier options to retain the protein value of meat.

Which form of meats should we avoid and how much calories should we consume per day?
Calories depend upon individual's weight and lifestyle – approx for men they should consume about 1700-1800 kcal/day and for women 1500-1600 kcal/day but again it varies individually. It is better to ask your butcher to remove all excess fat from meat and remove all offals as they carry large amount of cholesterol content which is not good.


 
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