Fitness and healthy lifestyles are a trend among today’s generation, and this is a trend that is definitely worth falling in line with. However, most people tend to get caught up in the misconception that in order to be fit and follow a healthy diet plan one needs to be in a position to cough up a significant percentage of their paychecks. In their defence, with the way import tax in our country is soaring, resulting in extremely high-priced ingredients, it is often quite difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle while also sustaining a hearty bank balance.

An ideal fitness lifestyle breaks down into 80% diet and 20% exercise but while there is an abundant availability of gyms, jogging tracks, and parks for people in and around Colombo to log in their workouts, there is a scarcity in restaurants that serve up healthier meal options, and the availability of ‘clean’ ingredients at supermarkets. The fitness-friendly meals and ingredients that restaurants and supermarkets do offer, come at a price that can burn a hole in your wallet if you frequent these places on a regular basis. This does not always have to be the case, though. Whilst our traditional Sri Lankan meals may not be at the top of the list for a healthy diet plan with the surplus of carbs, mountains of rice, and mouthwatering arrays of fried ‘shorteats’, one can most definitely abide by a healthy lifestyle while consuming what are known to be typically Sri Lankan meals.

A healthy lifestyle does not have to be a rigid one. Fundamentally, it is the choice that one makes to treat and feed their body better. These choices can be as simple as leaning towards locally grown ingredients and meal options in your daily food intake, which goes to show that the relationship between your income and the choice to stay healthy does not have to be a direct one. The following are just some of the substitutions one can incorporate into their daily routines in the effort to eat clean and healthy.

1. Green Gram Instead Of Rolled Oats

Can’t find rolled oats for breakfast? Opt for good old green gram instead. Images courtesy sattvicfoods.in and youtube.com/SoorajMohan

Rolled oats, also commonly known as old-fashioned oats, is a very popular healthy breakfast dish. While instant oats are readily available in all supermarkets, it is considerably more difficult to get your hands on whole oats without having to shell out a significant number of notes. Look towards the local produce aisle instead, and you’ll find green gram; combine it with coconut shavings and you get yourself a breakfast bowl that is packed with fibre, proteins, and iron. It might not be the most obvious substitution, but it is definitely one that keeps the diet clean while keeping the funds in check.

2. Red Rice Instead of Quinoa

Although quinoa is naturally gluten-free, contains high amounts of fibre, and a number of other health benefits, it isn’t always easy to find (or pay for). Fortunately, red rice works as a great substitute. Images courtesy colorexa.com and food.ndtv.com

Rice is always looked at as the nemesis of clean eating and is replaced with international products like couscous and quinoa. While couscous and quinoa have multiple health benefits and are no doubt a very good addition to your diet, once again the question of affordability comes into play, making people think twice before reaching out for these in the supermarket aisles. People tend to forget that rice does not have to be entirely bad for you. Opt for red or brown rice instead of the polished or white rice, and you can still maintain a Sri Lankan diet while keeping your plate healthy. Red rice is rich in fibre, helps lower cholesterol and the risk of obesity, is fortified with powerful antioxidants, and basically retains all the properties that white rice is stripped off of in the polishing process, thus making it the better choice to add to your daily food intake. The misconception that staying healthy means eating salads makes people reluctant about choosing the healthy lifestyle; this goes out to assure us Sri Lankans who love our rice and curry way too much that this staple meal can still be a part of a healthy diet.

3. Kithul Treacle Instead Of All Pure Maple Syrup

Fancy foreign maple syrup not in your budget? Not to worry, there’s always kithul pani. Images courtesy syrupology and commons.wikimedia.org

The general perception when it comes to weight-loss or fitness journeys is that desserts are an absolute taboo. Just because you are working towards a toned body and fit lifestyle does not mean you cannot allow yourself sweet treats, and these treats do not always have to take the form of the infamous ‘cheat meal’. In fact, you can satisfy your sweet tooth on an almost daily basis without having to nurse the guilt that follows after indulging too much. Most ‘clean’ desserts use maple syrup as the sweetener ingredient, and unless you are willing to spend a whopping LKR 3,300 on a 300 ml bottle of imported maple syrup, we can safely assume the concept of clean desserts is not going to be widely popular. However, this concept can be kept alive by opting for our local kithul pani which is basically palm sugar treacle that retains almost all the properties of maple syrup and is even considered better than the latter for diabetic patients and those fighting obesity.

4. Locally Grown Greens Instead Of Kale

Can’t find kale? Opt for locally-grown greens instead. Images courtesy honestlyhealthyfood.co and varicoseveins.org

Eat your greens. Every child, Sri Lankan or not, has probably heard this growing up and it is no wonder because these leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients that keep your bones strong, prevent cardiovascular diseases, preserve vision health, fuel your body, and help prevent cancer. Everyone who is working towards an active and healthy lifestyle will have seen the word kale pop up on almost every health-related article, and read about it being one of the world’s healthiest foods. While there is no arguing the benefits of kale, the same benefits can also be enjoyed by consuming other more easily available green vegetables, like spinach and gotu kola, that constitute the traditional Sri Lankan meal and are therefore likelier to encourage people to stay healthy while not straying away from a diet that they are comfortable with.

5. Coconut Flour Instead of Imported Healthy Flours

If you can;t go for costly, imported healthy flours, opt instead for local coconut flour. Images courtesy shawacademy.com and comfybelly.com/

Flour is a vital ingredient that cannot be missed in all kitchens. We need it to make breads and cakes, both of which are highly essential in a Sri Lankans food consumption. Flour, in the general sense of the word, is also unfortunately packed with gluten and can be considered an unhealthy inclusion to one’s diet. Thankfully, there are several gluten free alternatives such as wholemeal flour, spelt flour, almond flour, chia seed meal flour, oat flour, and many more. Apart from wholemeal flour, most of the others packed with high nutrients are also packed with high prices and do not fall into the affordability range for the majority of us Lankans. We do however have a surprisingly economical substitution that is coconut flour. Being wheat and grain free, high in fibre, protein, and healthy fats, and low in sugar, calories, and digestive carbs, it is an excellent alternative for white flour in desserts and breads.

The term diet is associated with a lot of negativity and people often tend to think when somebody is going through a weight loss journey or trying to maintain a healthy weight it means they are depriving themselves and leading miserable lifestyles. The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to understand that it is not about short-term dietary changes, but rather about making simple substitutions in your daily food intake that ensure that you are not missing out on life because you are trying to weigh less. It is not a diet, it is a lifestyle and it does not have to a tough one.

Featured image courtesy: lmjil.com