What is your food pyramid? (article as it appeared in the Afternoon DC, Mumbai)


What is your food pyramid?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tilt the balance of your fat loss story by identifying the foods that your body finds difficult to digest, says Anupama Menon

It’s an age-old battle. The weight won’t come off. There is a reason why we are struck by people who look like they have lost a whole person off themselves; it’s so rare. It’s a miracle we all want for ourselves—to lose weight, get fit and be the envy of another’s eye.

You lose the weight to gain it back and a second attempt is unbelievably difficult. The resolve melts like it was never there and then we tag it with a name, the ‘Yo-Yo’ effect. Acceptance follows.

There has to be an easier way, because no problem was ever born without a solution.

The Food Pyramid

Over time, every individual develops intolerances to certain foods. It could be towards wheat or towards rice, milk products or nuts (generally touted as healthy fat) Surprisingly, sometimes this could even be towards fruits, which are advocated as signboards to health!  The intolerances may not necessarily precipitate as allergies becoming apparent in external signs. It purely means the inability of the body to digest and burn a particular food/food group most efficiently, leading to a slowdown in the metabolism.

The reason for this compromise in efficient burning of certain foods could be because of the insufficiency of certain enzymes responsible for digestion of specific food groups. For example, you may not be able to tolerate proteins too well because of low secretion of the protease enzyme that digests protein. While the world goes serenading high-protein diets, you wonder why it doesn’t work for you in any way other than giving you a headache at the end of the day.

On the other hand, grains may be your driver or accelerant. Hot phulkas at night and a simple khichadi in the afternoon works not just in your kitchen but also on your preening waistline! It could simply be because you have a wealth of amylase (carb-digesting enzyme) in your system desperate to mash all that carb down. So while the health elitists and modern-day research undermine high carbs and steer warning signals even if you go as much as close to a grain, you wonder why things work differently for you.

Hence, it’s important to identify your ‘Focused Food Pyramid’ or your customised food pyramid. The food pyramid should guide you towards eliminating those food groups you cannot efficiently burn 80% of the time and including larger portions of the foods you know will help you run the long race, will burn most effectively in your body.

The consequence: When you apply the rule of the Focused Food Pyramid, automatically your body’s absorption of nutrients is more proficient. You are less likely to overeat; a smaller portion of food keeps you satiated. All of this sets your body’s ecology right, restoring the balance that was long overdue.

The hypothalamic part of your brain that signals hunger and thirst is largely responsible for sending out fat-burning signals. It also controls significant hormones that can alter your state of fat loss and storage. The hypothalamus switches on that fat-burning button, allowing you to lose and maintain weight naturally, as a consequence of your food and habits—not because you are forcing your body to lose weight through heavy calorie restrictions and nothing less than a two- hour daily workout!

The advantage

Cheat two or three times a week, vacation, party and don’t worry about it. There is no guilt, because the excess weight won’t come back in a day. It will stay away because you have learnt the rules of your Food Pyramid. You have tilted the balance of your fat loss story.

No one size fits all, nor is one rule made for everybody. Each individual is unique. And so should be your diet. Our eating practices should be defined not only by what we read and what is ‘supposed’ to be but largely by what our body needs.

Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach

How to follow a high protein Indian meal plan (article as it appeared in Vogue, India)


  • By Hasina Khatib

Diets usually bring bland, steamed food, boring salads and soups to mind. However, there is a reason why the high protein diet quickly carried favour with the health-conscious; we’ll give you a minute to quickly chase away that mental image of endless rounds of chicken tikka. While carbohydrates regularly become the enemy when it comes to weight loss, an easy solution comes in the form of a protein-rich diet, which has the potential of burning stored fats within the body and limiting the damage done by consumption of processed foods. Those looking to give this diet plan a spin can take heart in the fact that it doesn’t require a major pantry overhaul. We spoke to Anupama Menon, nutritionist and food coach, to help you adapt to this diet by using the staple ingredients found in an average Indian kitchen.

What is the high protein diet?

This specialised diet plan lives up to the spoiler in its nomenclature by asking you to do just that: flood your system with friendly proteins and shave off all unhealthy carbs from your food plate. “A diet that supplies anywhere above 50 per cent protein on a vegetarian diet and above 60 per cent on a non-vegetarian diet, is classified as a high protein diet. A single gram of protein supplies four calories, or units of energy, which means that on a 2,000-calorie diet, 1,200 calories hail from protein—derived from a whopping 300 grams of it. Protein sources constitute a wide array of everyday foods, including meats, chicken, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cheese, legumes, dals, sprouts and pulses,” explains Menon.

Given the sheer number of diet plans available currently, your confusion about which one to opt for is justified. Menon makes a simple case for the high protein option: “Certain foods have the ability to spike your sugar levels, making you more susceptible to weight gain. The common catalyst for this is all the carbohydrates that you are consuming on a daily basis, especially processed and refined ones like sugar and flour. This is where proteins come into the picture, as they hardly allow any increase in sugar levels and have a super low glycemic index. With a tight leash on the internal supply of carbs, the body begins burning the stores of fat, which aids the process of weight loss. Proteins also have a high satiety value, meaning that you can expect lesser untimely hunger pangs during the day,” she explains.

Why should you be consuming a high protein diet?

This diet goes miles towards monitoring your blood sugar levels by swapping carbs with proteins, and it enjoys a huge popularity among athletes and bodybuilders. You may not have a marathon to prepare for, but if you’ve been looking to curb those unhealthy cravings, this diet could be the answer. “People who are on the obesity or overweight spectrum, or are affected by hormonal imbalances, can expect respite with this diet. It is also recommended for people who have diabetes or insulin resistance. However, those suffering from kidney concerns, or are underweight, should avoid it and consult a dietician to find the best option available to them,” explains the Bengaluru-based nutritionist.

Are there any precautions you need to take when increasing your protein intake?

“It is important to consider how your body is reacting to the sudden influx of protein and reduced carbs. If you feel bloated or constipated, remember to substitute the current form of protein with another alternative. Also, another misconception that you need to be wary of is that the high protein diet doesn’t completely shun carbs, as that may be difficult for your body to adapt to. If you are having only proteins during the day, work in one portion of carbs into your diet at night to keep things running smoothly,” advises Menon.

You should add the following to your running checklist while starting with this diet plan too. “Don’t forget to hydrate yourself well, keep a check on your uric acid and creatinine levels and add some complex carbs like fruit and green veggies to this diet, as well as a serving of our good old wholesome grains in the day. Soya is considered a high source of protein but must be used judiciously due to its oestrogen raising properties,” she recommends.

Here’s what an ideal high protein meal should look like

The key ingredient to making this diet work has been hiding in your kitchen all along. “Make sure that you eliminate trans fats from your daily diet and use ingredients like ghee and olive oil instead, while preparing your meals,” recommends Menon. Want to get started? Allow these meal options to get you off the starting mark.


  1. One helping of dal dosa or chila, or
  2. A bowl of yoghurt, or
  3. One glass of almond smoothie

Mid-morning snack

  1. Egg whites, or
  2. One glass of buttermilk, or
  3. One helping of fresh cheese


  1. Cooked lean meat like chicken or fish, or
  2. A cheese mushroom omelette made of one/two eggs, or
  3. One helping of egg pakodas, or
  4. One helping of vegetable khichdi

Evening snack

  1. One bowl of sprouts and yoghurt, or
  2. Handful of almonds and walnuts, or
  3. Kala channa chaat


  1. Paneer tikka, or
  2. Three-four chicken or seekh kebabs, or
  3. Mutton curry with rice

Localising the protein-heavy diet

The good news is that the various nuances of your regional diets mean that most of us are already consuming a healthy share of proteins. “For instance, Bengalis love their fish, which is a great source of protein. The key step here is ensuring that you consume it in the right form. Take care to eliminate trans fats and refined vegetable oils from your daily diet, and instead use ingredients like desi ghee and olive oil while preparing your fish. Likewise, you’ll find that the North Indians are really fond of their lassi and chaas, and it can be used as a light dinner option at night along with some chila, while relegating the heavy-duty meals to the afternoon,” she explains.

At first glance, vegetarians might not find much joy in the roster of meats that the high protein diet demands, but Menon promises that your options are not as limited as you think.

“Simply find your favourite ingredient and make it the star of your diet. If you’re fond of potatoes, throw together some chole pattice, or if you like your wholesome grains, treat yourself to some rajma falafel. At risk of quoting the cliché, maybe paneer is your go-to food, and it can be used in multiple interesting ways, from paneer tikki for lunch to a stir-fry with veggies to keep things light at dinner,” she says.

What results can be expected from following the high protein diet plan?

As with all diets, you can’t realistically expect to hit the jackpot in the first week itself, but consistency will get you to where you want to be. “The results depend entirely on how well your body is adapting to this diet plan, but beginners can expect an average weight loss of two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half kilos in the first month,” says Menon. Since one form of protein may not work for everybody, if you feel yourself getting constipated or bloated, feel free to change the form of protein rather than giving up on the diet altogether.

Everything there is to know about Intermittent Fasting (article as it appeared in Men’s Health, India)


Here’s how intermittent fasting can trigger weight-loss and keep you healthy at the same time.

time.Anupama Menon


Fasting. It’s age-old, it’s tradition, it’s inheritance, it’s global. Almost every known culture has its veins wrapped around this symbolic abstinence. It was meant to cleanse the system, to be proof of discipline, to influence political thought and today fasting is being proven, by research, to sport medical and health advantages.

Nutritional fasting is of several kinds and one of them is Intermittent Fasting (IF). It demands an 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16 hour fast for a man and a 9-10 hour feeding period followed for a 14-15 hour fast for a woman. And that calls for a bias! Anyway, we shall get to gender specifics later. Let’s start at the top.

What You Should Keep In Mind While Attempting This

1. The 16-hour fasting window begins after your last meal of the day, any time after 4 pm. From then on, there is no eating for 16 hours. So, if one finishes dinner at 6 pm, the next meal would be at 10 am. Or if one finishes eating at 8:30 am, the next meal would be at 12:30 pm. You can use the fasting window which is most comfortable to your lifestyle, routine, hunger peak and eating pattern.

2. When you break the fast, ironically a small measure of food fills you up faster than you would think. And it’s clever to listen to your tummy at this point. More than the quantity of food, it will be the quality of food that will satiate your nutritional requirement. The body is under a state of starvation and will absorb what you give it most efficiently. So, give it protein, a spool of vegetables and a modest portion of carbohydrates.

3. The meal before you end the fast must have a good share of wholesome fibre-rich carbs equal to the protein. Keep yourself well hydrated through the eating period and don’t miss the supplements charted for you. A moderate number of nuts, some good fats and some homemade yoghurt will tether advantage.

4. Through the fasting period, any liquid below of 50kcals once or twice during the 14-16 hours is said to maintain the fasting state. Black tea or coffee, salted unsweetened lemon juice, green tea can keep you going. But remember not to overdo the caffeine.

5. To stay safe, one could fast 3 days a week or resort to the 5:2 formula where you eat well 5 days a week and under 600kcals two days a week.

6. Remember this must not be done by pregnant women, growing children, anyone with a medical condition, people on any long term/short term medication and anyone with a liver or kidney issue.

The Advantages

The advantages according to medical research are plenty; anti-ageing benefits, positive effect on neurogenerative disorders, protective benefits on the brain and the heart. Intermittent fasting also reduces inflammation, helps one lose weight, regulates insulin and blood sugar and curbs appetite. If the list isn’t long enough there is even some evidence that it could reduce the size of cancerous tumours.

The Disadvantages

1. You could get specific about the fasting window and exhibit some anti-social properties. Besides, one may feel acidic and lightheaded. You will experience hunger pangs and it may affect your metabolism. There could be chances of nutritional deficiencies if the 8-hour eating window isn’t well planned.

2. There are high chances of a hormonal disadvantage too. It could spike the stress hormone cortisol or the hunger hormone ghrelin that could throw the 8-hour eating pattern out of the window. The dependency on caffeine to curb the appetite maybe high but can be controlled with conscious effort.

3. The disadvantages for women are far greater than for men. It could inspire hormonal disharmony, cause period irregularity, anxiety, depression, metabolic stress, sleeping difficulty, shrinking of ovaries, irregular periods and amenorrhea. And hence, women on IF must maintain shorter fasts of anywhere between 12-14 hours.

Just like there is no diet that works wonders for everybody, there is no fast that works alike for everyone. Fasting may or may not be for you. Listen to the signals your body sends out to you. And then decide whether you are comfortable with the idea. Fasting doesn’t have to be long ended, it could be practiced once a month or twice every couple of months a year. Moderation is the key to this as well. Just like everything else in life, do not overdo fasting.

About The Author: With a Bachelors in Food Science & Nutrition and a PG in Food technology & Nutrition, Anupama successfully runs ‘Right Living’ (established in 2012), a nutritional counseling and education entity that offers some of the most ingenious food & lifestyle plans.