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Making Traditional Diwali Food Healthier

Nandita Iyer

Nandita Iyer
22 October 2020

This article is authored by Nandita Iyer. Nandita is the author of the book The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian and blogs at The Saffron Trail. She has studied medicine and nutrition.

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Diwali is one of the most indulgent times of the year in India. Be it shopping, gifting, cooking or eating, most of us are in ‘live life kingsize’ frame of mind during this period. Anyone counting calories or worse still, dieting, is considered a total wet blanket.

However, what we can do is make some of the Diwali treats – Diwali sweets and Diwali snacks - a little more nutritious by using wholesome ingredients and healthier alternatives to white sugar and processed flour.

Here are 10 few tips on making some popular Diwali specials more nourishing.

1. Kaaranji, also called Gujiya is a popular sweet made in the North during the festive season. Prepare the pastry using a mix of whole wheat flour and some millet flour. Keep the fillings naturally sweet with chopped dates and raisins to reduce the usage of added sugar.

2. Samosas are an all-time favourite snack to serve along with tea to both family and visiting guests. Given that this is a carb-loaded snack, try and include some more protein in the filling by way of peas, mashed chickpeas, grated paneer and nuts to balance out the carbohydrates.

3. All popular milk-based sweets can be prepared using khoya or milk powder, using jaggery, raw cane sugar or fruit purees for natural sweetening. Garnish with finely chopped nuts or toasted seeds.

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4. Using vegetables like carrots, beets, yellow pumpkins in Indian sweet (Diwali sweets) recipes reduces the quantity of sugar used, while increasing the fibre content and nutrient value of the dish prepared. Carrot and pumpkin can be used along with almonds to make kheers and halwa. Beetroot and bottle gourd can be used to make halwa along the lines of gaajar halwa.

5. Nowadays, Diwali is not restricted to Indian sweets. Try some fusion bakes with the use of Indian spices like saffron and cardamom. In baked goodies like cupcakes, cakes, brownies etc. add natural sweeteners to replace some of the sugar such as applesauce, sweet potato mash, carrot purée or pumpkin purée, date purée, etc.

6. Try some dishes from other regions in India which are highly nutritious. Okkarai in Tamil cuisine, made using just two ingredients, chana dal and jaggery is one such steamed dish. Patholi in Mangalorean cuisine makes use of a rice flour casing stuffed with cardamom flavoured coconut-jaggery filling, wrapped in turmeric leaves and steamed. Our diverse Indian cuisine is full of such minimalistic and wholesome recipes waiting to be discovered and tried.

7. Instead of gifting the usual sweet boxes, give a gift card to a health foods store or a seasonal fruit subscription.

8. In savouries, try making a roasted mixture, by toasting poha along with peanuts, coconut slices along with a tempering of red chillies and curry leaves.

9. Usually, the savouries are made using rice flour and besan. Try the Maharashtrian style ‘bhaazni’ mix - that is used to make chaklis. It is easily available online and can also be made at home. It is a nutritious multigrain mix which has rice, moong dal, chana dal, urad dal and cumin seeds.

10. Savouries like namakpare, chakli, papdi, can easily be baked in the oven or air fryer by tweaking the recipes.

Indulgence doesn’t always have to mean more calories, sugar or fat. It can be a traditional Indian dish designed to be inherently healthy or a modern twist on a classic to make it more delicious and satisfying. Try these tips for a healthier, happier Diwali.


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