Author: Renu Puri
This blog aims to educate you on the importance of nutrition while staying in a PG accommodation or a hostel. With the limited resources available to a hosteller/ paying guest, we have set some guidelines that will gradually contribute to improving the overall health of the person.
Along with some insightful information on how to navigate better eating, we have included great examples, tips, suggestions, and advice that will help you make mindful choices.
Moving away from home is never easy, no matter how big of an opportunity comes your way. Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family belong together, and laughter never ends. Change is inevitable and sometimes, in hopes for a better future, one has to move out of their hometown to leverage lucrative opportunities.
A lot of times, people who move away to live in hostels or PGs are faced with a huge culture shock. Culture shock refers to feelings of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people may experience when moving to a new country or experiencing a new culture or surroundings. Oftentimes, food can also cause culture shock. This happens because our taste buds are accustomed to the types of food we eat in our region, like the spice level, raw ingredients, and even the combination of spices used to prepare dishes. Every now and then, people do like to experiment but “ghar ka khana” is always associated with the taste and flavor of the dishes in that particular region.
Let’s face the truth – No matter how many times you type “hostels near me” on a search engine and think of moving to 10 different ones in the time span of a year, the food everywhere will more or less be the same. PGs and hostels are not necessarily known for healthy and nutritious food, in fact, food is one of the things people usually end up compromising on when they move out of their hometown. As much as you may love the amenities in your hostel/PG, a lot of times you end up adjusting your diet in compliance with whatever is being served. And with a compromise on food, comes a compromise on health.
We have heard a lot of people who live in PG/ hostels say that whenever they visit their hometown, their mothers complain that they look weak and frail. In fact, some have noticed that when they return to their hostels/PG after vacationing in their hometown, they exude a healthy glow on their face and body.
When you’ve lived away from home, you very quickly realize the value of getting home-cooked healthy nutritious food right in front of you which gives you the privilege of complaining that you're having the same tasteless, watery dal for the third time this week in the hostel mess.
In fact, 2 of our clients prompted us to write this blog as they felt that their story could help a lot of folks who have moved away from home and are struggling with health and nutrition.
Saundarya, an embodiment of her own name, is a beautiful 24-year-old graphic designer who recently moved from Jabalpur to Delhi for work. She is someone who from the get-go has been very health-conscious, has a very active lifestyle, and considers her long luscious locks to be her greatest asset. When she came to us, her primary concern was hair thinning due to improper nutrition. In fact, she currently shares a room with 2 roommates who have all moved out of their hometown for the first time. She told us that the biggest issue they face in their otherwise happy life is that they miss tasty and nutritious food. Upon further conversing with the young lady, she revealed that they have also tried dabba services, ordered from healthy restaurants, and when nothing worked, they even tried to compliment the PG’s cooking lady in hopes that she would cook better-tasting food. Phew, talk about an embarrassing last resort! 🙂
Gagan, on the other hand, is another one of our dear clients who has been staying in a hostel for about 2 years now. He has the persona of the stereotypical “youngest child in the family”, creative, rebellious, outgoing, and indeed very pampered. In his leisure time, he likes to flex his biceps and pose for a mirror selfie. His main goal right now is to preserve the muscles he built by doing various types of exercise at home. He also spends 2 hours a day in the hostel gym trying to achieve his fitness goals but despite his greatest efforts, his nutrition is taking a massive hit. Hostel mess food is really quite ‘messy’, to say the least. In most cases, mess meals are prepared in huge batches with a lot of budget restrictions, without any proper regard to nutrition for a growing child. Gagan often shares his hostel experiences with us, one of the experiences that led him to come to us was during dinner time at the hostel when he got super excited that his favorite dish matar paneer was made in the mess. He was elated and had even thought of taking two extra rotis that night. However, when he grabbed a plate, he saw that in a 10L vessel, there were only 3 paneer pieces and the rest was a mixture of crushed peas and watered-down gravy. That for him was the last nail in the coffin.
Interestingly, a lot of our clients like Saundarya and Gagan had a habit of ordering food online since they did not have great experiences with the food they were consuming in their PG/Hostels. And let us tell you, ordering food is not a bad thing! In fact, when we told them our opinion on online ordering, they were baffled and told us how they had a preconceived notion about registered dietitians being against takeouts and online ordering.
Online ordering is fine - just as long as you know what to order and when to order. If you are craving chicken, ordering tandoori chicken as opposed to a chicken burger would be a better choice. Also, the timing of consumption is important - Avoid consuming tandoori chicken late at night and try incorporating it into your lunch.
Some people get so surprised when they hear that despite ordering food online, our clients are able to reach their optimum weight, feel much better about their health, and understand much more about nutrition since they moved away from their hometowns. In fact, Saundarya very proudly boasts how she does not leave any stone unturned to educate people in her hometown about nutrition.
We are sure this is a situation faced by many Indians today and the reason for all these scenarios results from the lack of understanding of healthy eating habits and optimum nutrition. No matter where you are and what the situation is, eating healthy is always a possibility. Nutritional deficiencies and bad health aren't conditions that happen overnight, it takes months or in some cases, even years to slowly creep in on you.
Similarly, regulating one's health and fixing daily routines in a healthy way is also bound to take some time. It would be unfair for you to expect miracles to happen overnight, your body is not a machine and you should not treat it like one. With all the shocks and damages your body has gone through, it needs time to heal. You owe it to yourself to not only look good in the new pair of jeans you bought but also to feel great about yourself, sleep better and have stronger immunity.
There's no doctor in the world who can undermine the value of better eating. What you put in your body has a lot to do with your overall health. In this day and age, people thoroughly clean and beautify their homes, put only premium fuel in their cars, and keep sustainability a priority while shopping for clothes, then why is it that they don’t pay the same attention to what they eat? Isn’t food the fuel to your body as well?
While we believe that you should not restrict yourself from having a cheat meal once in a while, you should also not overindulge in unhealthy food just due to convenience. A lot of young girls who live in hostels/PGs have made “skipping meals” a trend, but they fail to understand that skipping meals could be as harmful to your body as overeating.
We completely understand that sometimes, you may not have control over the meal prepared, quality of food, or even quantity. That is why we have curated a list of things you can do to ensure that you eat better.
There's an old saying by a well-known American author and nutritionist Adelle Davis that says “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” Everything you consume in the morning has direct implications on your activeness throughout the day. Breakfast should be filling, nutritious, and healthy.
A lot of students skip breakfast, which contributes to the #1 reason for bad health in the long haul. Ideally eating breakfast within an hour of waking up is encouraged because the glucose index in your body at that time is lower and you can boost it by eating a nutritional meal. A wholesome breakfast also keeps your insulin in check and prevents diabetes.
Lunch for professionals and students is usually on the go, except on holidays and weekends. If you have a heavy breakfast, lunch should be considered as a top-up for replenishing the energy spent by that time. Ensuring that you eat enough to satiate your hunger and keep your stomach from being empty is the key. A proper lunch also ensures that you don’t run low on glucose.
Your day should end with a light dinner. Since your body’s requirements after dinner may not be as rigorous as after breakfast, you may not require those extra calories or energy. You could also experience acid reflux if you overeat at night.
Instead of munching on those huge bags of chips, stock some healthier alternatives in your dorm room. Snacks can be very beneficial for your body in terms of nutrient intake, great energy levels, recouping from exhaustion, and much more.
We suggest opting for snacks that have minimum sugar and high fiber. Fiber helps in keeping you full and minimum sugar will ensure that you don’t pile on unnecessary calories.
Some healthy snacks that you can consume are:
If you wish to buy healthy “ready-to-eat” snacks from a nearby grocery store, make it a habit to read the nutritional information at the back of the pack that you pick out.
“Ready-to-eat” healthy snacks are being bought by many people without knowing the nutritional benefits. Not condemning all the healthy snack brands, but a majority of those brands mislead people into thinking that these snacks are an ideal alternative to fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
This can be deceptive as only a few are aware that these products are filled with sugar and trans fat.
Apart from that, you need to know the portion size along with the micro and macro information. Many brands follow marketing schemes to empower sales of their products but to fall prey to those schemes is totally dependent upon your outlook. Let’s say you want to buy a healthy snacking bar of granola. You would notice that at the back of the pack, the company has mentioned a serving size that equates to minuscule calories, elucidating that if you have a serving of that particular granola bar, you would consume very less calories. What they do not mention is that the serving size mentioned on the bar is 1/4th of the whole pack.
If the consumer is not informed about the difference between serving sizes, he will end up consuming more calories than he anticipated.
Plan out your meals. We know it can get difficult living in a PG/hostel accommodation but with the right will and discipline, everything is possible. A routine is very important, especially when you’re trying to eat healthy.
A lot of times, people cave into the pressure of their work or studies and indulge in unhealthy food as they feel access to healthy food is very hard to navigate. This problem can be eradicated from the root by planning your meals in advance.
Keep a weekly schedule, follow meal planning, and stick to it. Eat your meals timely, avoid indulging in fast food and see how quickly your health will get back on track.
Those sudden sugar cravings can really take a toll on some people but instead of conveniently whipping out your phone and ordering a red velvet pastry, you can curb your sweet cravings by having fruit or some dates.
Processed sugar is not at all good for your health. Consuming a lot of it can give rise to ailments like high blood pressure, fatty liver, diabetes, etc. We don’t suggest you cut out sugar immediately from your diet, rather do it step by step. If you take 2 teaspoons of sugar in your tea or coffee, swap it out by taking one and then gradually quit. Believe us, your baseline for sweetness will be adjusted within two weeks.
Limiting non-nutritive sweetness is key. Consuming empty calories (cocktails, candy, doughnuts, soft drinks) will do nothing other than add unnecessary sugar to your system. Try to look for natural alternatives to your cravings.
Living in a PG or Hostel is hard, the guilt and sadness associated with being away from home, family, friends, and pets can take a toll on you. One tries to fit in and find a sense of familiarity in their daily routine, especially when it comes to food.
Food decisions taken in haste can be very detrimental to your health in the long run. It’s easy to speculate that health will come back to its original form once you’re out of the hostel or PG but take it from our years of experience with clients, but it rarely works this way! This becomes a routine, a pattern that becomes very hard to break by the time you’re around thirty years of age. And the decade after that, how you look after your health, dictates the quality and duration of your life. So, follow the easy way out and practice mindful eating now for a great time later.
Our customized diet programs can help you navigate health, nutrition, and mindfulness with ease. Whether you are in a hostel or a PG, our registered dietitians curate personalized balanced diet plans that match up with your schedule, requirements, and resources. Get in touch to know more.
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At niwi.ai, we have helped thousands of clients transform their lives and feel stronger, more energetic, and definitely more confident in how they look and feel, by improving their relationship with food!
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