Nutritional Know-How

“Diet is the way you live your life, so it remains with you always.” So says Hemlata Rathi, CEO of Soul Beauty and Wellness Center LLP. In her efforts to help people make their lives healthier, she’s become one of the best-known nutritionists in Hyderabad. This week, You & I caught up with her about understanding nutrition, and the simple dos and don’ts of the average diet.
First things first, what is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician?
A dietician works on an individual’s food and eating patterns, whereas a nutritionist works on the nutritional value of the food and how body tissue uses those nutrients. A clinical nutritionist first consults you about your medical history (diet, digestion, history of weight loss/gain, sleep and exercise patterns), family history and lifestyle.
What types of cases do you handle? What are the most common problems?
I’m a clinical nutritionist offering a complete health, fitness and lifestyle management programme. This can include weight management, diabetes management, joint pain relief, menstrual disease, menopause, PCOD, hair loss, hypo/hyperthyroid, constipation, hormonal imbalance, obesity and weight gain in children, pre- and post-natal care, and pregnancy. The most common problems are with obesity, the thyroid, diabetes, hormonal imbalance and menopause.
When is the right time to seek a nutritionist’s aid?
When you want to improve the way your body looks, feels and performs in everyday life, or under special circumstances.
What aspects of client lifestyles do you oversee?
Nutrition is not about eating less, but about eating the right amount at the right time, all as per your lifestyle, blood group, age and gender. When combined with life management, it helps you strike a balance between lifestyle and health issues. You become fitter and more energetic, and your thought process is enhanced with positive results.

Nutrition is not about eating less, but about eating the right amount at the right time
Do you also advise them on physical activity?
Health involves the physical, mental and spiritual levels of the individual. A physically healthy person can carry on with physical daily activities and respond to emergencies without undue fatigue or pain. Combined with nutrition, physical activity helps you achieve maximum potential. Believe it or not, even your blood group determines which exercise is best suited for you to reach 100% efficiency.
How about some basic tips for weight loss?
The right food at the right time, in the right portions and with the right physical activity. The most important tip is that 100% nutritional discipline is never required for optimal progress. You can allow yourself to eat 10% of foods that break the rules. For example, if you eat six meals per day (42 meals per week), 10% is about four meals. Therefore, you are allowed to break the rules on four meals each week, but with the condition that you not regret it or let it make you feel guilty. That is an emotional state that will definitely hinder your complete nutritional plan.
What are some of the foods to avoid?
Always avoid processed or artificial foods as they are totally absent of nutrients, and are unhealthy and calorie-dense. Things like sugar, hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, fried food, refined grains, processed meats, ready-to-eat breakfasts and fat-free-labelled foods are included in this category.

Raw fruits and vegetables must form an integral part of your diet

What foods do you recommend people to eat more often?
Raw fruits and vegetables must form an integral part of your diet. Not only do they give you the necessary vitamins and minerals, but they also provide roughage to ensure your digestive system functions properly. What’s more, they’re the closest you’ll get to zero calories. Nuts offer you the goodness of omega-3 fatty acids and are complete foods in themselves. Snack on a handful every evening, and you won’t feel like bingeing on that large cheese pizza at dinnertime.

Whole grains are great additions to your daily diet. If you’ve been eating white bread and pasta all this while, it’s time to try alternatives. Multigrain breads, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal are better substitutes that digest more easily than all-purpose flour-based (maida) products, and they pack in far more nutrients. These grains have more fibre and fewer calories, making them healthier choices.

If you’ve always cooked with vegetable oil, groundnut oil or butter, it’s probably why your weight refuses to budge. Next time, pick up a bottle of olive oil instead. It has good fats rather than the trans fats other oils contain, and plenty of antioxidants and fewer calories.

Water is your best friend. It keeps your body hydrated and your stomach full, and flushes out the body’s toxins. Make sure you drink eight to ten glasses per day. If you want to take the flavor up a notch, add a few mint leaves and some drops of lemon juice. Remember, water present in your soup, lentils, green tea and other such foods is also counted toward your daily intake.
What is the best way to detox?
Detoxification is a most misunderstood term. Commonly interpreted as dehydration by taking laxatives, or by starvation through liquid diets that deplete you of major nutrients, detoxification in the real sense is to either add detoxifying food to an everyday diet, or to eat detoxifying foods once a week. This cleanses your body’s systems and, in the bargain, gives it nutrients that increase metabolic efficiency.

And what of the duration of a diet, generally speaking?
A diet should be part of your daily lifestyle; it is not time-bound. Your diet is the way you live your life, and so it remains with you always.    

..... as told to Anahita