The countdown to Diwali has already begun, which also indicates that it is time for all-day grazing at taash parties, or munching snacks and nibbling on sweets at family or community dinners. Festive season, though a time for merrymaking and conviviality, is also when people fall off the wagon when it comes to diet—blame it on binge eating without keeping a tab on calorie intake. The good news: there is an array of ingredients one can easily procure and use as alternatives in traditional dishes to give it a healthy twist. We speak to three city-based chefs to give us a rundown on ways to reinvent classic Diwali snacks
and sweets into healthier bite-sized options.
Platters of health and taste
“With the growing trend of healthy food, there is a more focused approach to not take away from the grandeur of the festival but instead pay homage and add to it,” mentions Rajesh Singh, Executive Sous Chef, Taj Mahal New Delhi. While this might seem slightly difficult, Singh provides easy ways to try this formula amid the festivities, “Multigrain flours can be substituted for refined flour and the cooking process of frying can be completely removed from the equation by using techniques such as baking and air frying.”
A popular misconception, however, when it comes to healthy eating is that it is devoid of any flavour. Vivek Rana, Executive Chef, The Claridges, New Delhi, debunks this notions as he mentions, “People have now become aware of how important healthy eating is. For healthy snacking without compromising taste, I recommend replacing Pakora with Dal Vati Litti Choka. Even Bhel, when made using healthy grains and sauces, is 100 per cent healthy and tastes amazing.”
Many people are also steering away from traditional desserts and snacking options all by trying fusion food at their Diwali parties. Giving us his take on this, Sandeep Saini, Executive Sous Chef at The Westin Gurgaon, shares, “A must-have Diwali snack to try this year is the Shrimp Pesto Blini Canapés. You may also go ahead and replace your regular chips with healthy zucchini chips. Add an elaborated charcuterie board to your Diwali menu—include flavourful fresh cut fruits, dry fruits, olives, edible flowers, fresh herbs, dark chocolate as well as a variety of spreads such as honey, mustard, and fruit preserves.”
Binge without guilt
Natural sweeteners remain the best alternative to white sugar. All the chefs we spoke to for this story mentioned jaggery as a great substitute to sugar in Diwali sweets. “Stevia, jaggery, palm jaggery, and honey are some of the few things one can use instead of sugar in desserts; these yield unique iterations of the staples. Ayurveda endorses the therapeutic benefits of jaggery, and replacing white sugar with it adds a flavourful aroma to the food as well,” says Chef Saini. Chef Singh concludes with a great idea,“Using naturally sweet produce such as pineapples, figs, and apricots to make halwas negates the need to use sugar. Also, sweets that require flour or grains can be substituted with millets and super grains to reduce the guilt.”