10 hacks to eating right, while still living your life!

After reading the blog on my health nirvana, one of my neighbors, Amitabh Saxena, got inquisitive, 

“You write about eating right, but I travel for work for most part of the month. I’m in a different country every few days. This is my life. Now, how do I eat right while living it?”

Well, eating healthy shouldn’t mean you have to stop living your life. You just have to find some hacks around it.  So here are 10 hacks for you, Amitabh! I think they will be equally useful to everyone else.

Eat breakfast like a king…

Always book hotels that offer a good breakfast buffet spread. And by good, I mean the ones where you can see lots of colors and a live egg station. Load up on your macro-nutrients during breakfast and you can be less guilty of those less balanced lunches or dinners. 

This is my typical “travel” breakfast:

  • breakfast2 servings of fruits
  • 1-2 eggs (I would replace eggs with plain yogurt, If I feel like going vegetarian)
  • 1 piece of multigrain bread
  • 1 serving of oatmeal with some nuts, dates or seeds (if traveling in India, I would probably replace it with a idli or poha or upma)
  • And lastly, some warm tea (with a tinge of milk)

I’ve found this breakfast doable in India as well as while traveling abroad.

As they say, well begun is half done.

Drink (right) before you eat (right or wrong)!

My friend, Kaushal Dalal, MD of FireEye India, a frequent work and leisure traveller himself, can be seen sipping water every half hour.  His mantra is to drink water before meals, esp. when he is traveling. (If you cannot eat a healthy meal, well, just eat less of it!) Water does make you feel full, so you automatically eat lesser.

My personal hack to that is to drink hot water. (It seems to be China’s go-to beverage and I have yet to come across an out-of-shape Chinese! :)) Hot water stimulates digestion and flushes out toxins, amongst myriad other health benefits.

So, next time before you ask for the menu, ask the waiter for hot water. Don’t worry…the waiter will not look at you weird, unless you are in the US of A! 

“Healthy Snacks” does not have to be an Oxymoron

Deepak weights
Deepak, doing 400 pounds of deadlifts!

Another friend, Deepak Balakrishna, Founder/CEO of Adya and a bodybuilder by passion, swears by yoga bars as an anytime snack. He carries them to office, to his business trips, to family outings..basically everywhere. These pocket-sized packs offer a nutritionally balanced snack option.

But what if bars don’t tantalize your desi taste buds?! carry chikkis instead. Try these individually wrapped PaperBoat chikkis!

Or try roasted peanuts, chana or makhanas (lotus seeds)!  Thanks to the nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, these old-time classics are back in vogue. And rightfully so!  Hmm..but what if you are allergic to nuts? Well, nothing like a cup of yogurt with local fruits or dried fruits.  Btw, some dark chocolate now and then, never hurt anyone.

Plan your food (like your itinerary)

Abhishek Goyal and Neha Singh, co-founders of Tracxn Technologies, tell me that they shamelessly carry a 12X12 dabba(lunchbox) to office everyday. It caters to every whim and fancy of their taste buds and nutritional needs throughout the day. Yes, this does need planning and flawless management. (Given how successfully they manage their start-up, I’m guessing it is in their DNA!)

But what about the rest of us, the not-so-meticulous planners?! Deepak recently started ordering his office lunches from a food service called cure.fit. He prefers their athletic lunches which has the right quantity of proteins, carbs and fats, suited for his needs. So even if he misses lunch from home, he doesnt have to miss out on the right lunch! 

restaurant guideWhile you can’t carry your dabba when traveling overseas, you can always follow the Fafat! By that, I mean my cousin, Priya Fafat, who makes digital notes of nearby grocery stores and restaurants (based on type of cuisines, food options(organic, veg-friendly),menu choices) as part of her travel itinerary. The point is…you cannot go hungry or not eat according to your needs, if you travel like her.

When in doubt, fine-dine!

Not just because you want to spend your per-diem in style! 🙂

There are health benefits to eating your dinners at fine-dining restaurants.

  • For starters, they are more open to custom orders and special requests. You can ask them to go easy on the oil/cream, replace white rice with brown or even create a new dish per your dietary needs.
  • A fine-dining experience inherently involves eating slower and having gaps between your courses. A great way to digest your food!
  • And God willing, you should land up in a French restaurant, they take extra care of your health by presenting you with the smallest of portion sizes (Even their menu-pricing is prohibitive to you over-eating!) 
  • And finally, the setting does add to the joy of dining…releasing your “happy” hormones.

ps. If you can’t fine-dine, go local. Krishna, Kaushal’s wife, insists on eating local cuisine during trips.  It invariably lends to a fresher meal; you experiencing different food groups, and opening up your mind to newer tastes…all good for your overall well-being!

Don’t drink empty calories

empty caloriesAny beverage pre-packaged in a bottle or a can (except water) is generally not a healthy drinking choice. Instead try and stick to green teas, black coffee, coconut water or freshly squeezed juices.

But what about those adult drinks? Well, IMO, the above rule of thumb should still apply. But if your business rituals revolve around alcohol, here are some dos and donts:

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. (There’s a reason why they hand out nuts and olives before your beers! )
  • Show a little compassion to your liver…Don’t mix junk food and drinks.
  • If you cannot do anything of this, please drink water between your drinks.
  • Finally, don’t treat the corporate card as a license to binge drink! (This will serve good for your professional and personal life! :))

Out-Exercise your dinner

According to the Calories in, Calories out (CICO) principle, balance your calories by offsetting your big meals by an equally burly exercise routine. Check out this exercise routine from Ruchika Choudhary, the fitness trainer and nutritionist in our apartment complex. It has been specially designed for busy professionals who may not have access to a gym or lot of time on their hand, during their travels.

Note: Do 5 of these sets in 15 minutes and you should be home free for the rest of the day.

Pack your Vitamins

All said and done, its difficult to always get nutritionally balanced meal when you step outside.  I always pack my multi-vitamins when I travel. VitaminB12, Vitamin D3 and Omega 3 supplements are my staples. (alongwith pudinhara for when the meals get too out of balance! ) BTW, “if you are a gym junkie or a serious athlete, make sure you carry your protein powder along with your trainers,” recommends Ruchika.

The secret to “staying” fit: Location, Location, Location

locationIMO, the best location for a hotel is within walking distance to a grocery store and a jogging track. 🙂

The best place for a longer stay is at an airbnb home or at a friend’s pad.  Basically, where ever you can have access to a kitchen.

 Btw, If you frequent the same city, you should try and stay at the same hotel every time. There are covert benefits to making yourself familiar with the hotel staff. For one, they can get you off-menu items!   

Also, it helps to be savvy about local food-tech!  Instead of constraining yourself to hotel room service, you can usually order a healthier meal from a freshmenu or a swiggy or even a bigbasket equivalent.

Finally, go easy on yourself!

If you stress too much about eating right all the time, even the right foods will not serve you right. So, enjoy your food and eat in moderation, and it will all work out (with some workout! :)). 


A parting note: I wouldn’t have been able to compile this without the tips from my friends. So thank you Kaushal, Krishna, Deepak, Abhishek, Neha, Priya and Ruchika. It seems each one of us has figured out some hack to healthy eating…while traveling or otherwise. So next time, you are having a business dinner, why not use the topic as a conversation starter?! I’m sure it will be a win-win discussion.

The secret supplements for great health!

If you have been serious about your health and fitness, chances are that you’ve been skimping over myriads of those magic pills and powder ads on your Facebook wall – and getting equally baffled by the choice available and their claims!

Well, I’m going to make it easy for you. I’m NOT going to talk about any of them.

Instead, I’ll focus on those supplements that you got to have but don’t have to buy or ingest.

Motivation is like multi-vitamins! A small dose everyday gives.png

70% of folks who say they want to “get fit” or “lose weight” don’t end up doing so. WHY?

Because they are not motivating themselves correctly!

From Katrina Kaif to my dear friend, Juri Dutta, who lost 28 kgs of pregnancy weight in 9 months, many moons ago, suggests:

“You have to set very specific fitness goals, albeit small, achievable, and specific – My target was to lose 1 kg every 10 days.”,  A Program Manager at Juniper Networks, mom to a 10-year old, and wife to a serial enterpreneur, she recollects going to the gym at nights after gruelling work-days, even amidst quibbles from her family.  She achieved her target weight loss in less than 9 months. And there has been no stopping her ever since!

“And then, let the results take over. There is nothing more addicting than seeing the results of your hard work. It puts you in motion.” 

From Baby Fat to a Marathon Mom!.png

She is a serious runner today. She sets fitness goals every year. Her current goal is to run a full 42 km marathon. (May you beat this goal with the same vigour, Juri!)

Actually, you know everything there is to keep you healthy and fit. The supplement you need is the right motivation. 

Begin by setting the right goals. Goals, that scare you a little but excite you A LOT. 

Motivation may get you started.... (1).png

Last year, my husband, in front of a roomful of family, announced his resolution to meditate everyday in the new year. (Such an emphatic public announcement when he had never ever meditated before, felt like an act of drunken exuberance to me!)  But the next morning, when I was woken up by soothing meditation music on our Google Home, I realized that he was not kidding.  Over the next few months, I saw him experiment with various meditation apps, styles, groups, even buddies.  Everyday, his phone buzzed the meditation reminders. There was a meditation ringtone. He even got our 10-year old into meditation. Spending quality time has a a new meaning for him now.

But lo and behold, he did end up meditating for about 320 days last year!

(Yes, we did present him the Salman Khan award in the commitment category of our household, for his apt exhibition of “Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, uske baad to mai khud ki bhi nahi suntaa..!” (Once I have made a commitment, I don’t even listen to myself!))

The moral of the story is: Its tough to follow through, on new goals. Esp. since your brain is wired to resist new routines in favor of what its programmed to do. So you have to use all the arsenal at your disposal and persist. Eventually, the new routine turns into a habit. The brain operates on auto-pilot after that.  

Lets talk about my other friend, Puja Singh. You’d have no dearth of excuses to be lax on your fitness routine if you are a globe-trotting businesswoman/restaurateur, a full-time mom, and living in three different timezones!  But Puja is on auto-pilot, when it comes to her daily fitness habits. For her, whether she is in San Francisco or Singapore or Bengaluru, the day cannot start without yoga and HIIT or kick-boxing. A few years ago, she probably hadn’t even seen a deadlift…Now, on a bad day, she’d lift about 93 kgs. 

puja collage.png
Any guesses on her age?! To me, she does not look a day older than 25!


Here’s one way to inject a daily dose of discipline:

Announce your goals to the people in your life.  Post it on Facebook, if thats your thing. Let the force of social pressure keep you disciplined.


Making Ideas Happen (5)  

What is your reaction when confronted by pretty-looking servers nudging you to try sinful starters at parties? I bet most of you oblige without much ado!

Being mindful is to train your mind to be vigilant of these indulgent impulses. It starts with paying attention to yourself; putting awareness to your thoughts.  

What are your indulgent impulses?

After some soul-searching, I’ve figured out mine. I love to waste time on random minutiae. Now, how does that affect my fitness and well-being? Lets take last night as a case in point.  I had a deadline that I couldn’t finish in normal daylight hours. (Damn you, social media!) That made me sleep late. (And you know, I need my 8 hours of beauty sleep!) This made me miss my early morning yoga session. I dragged myself to the gym, much later than usual. By the time I came back, breakfast turned into lunch….You get the point, right?!

Mindfulness is the link that can can bridge the gap from our mobile, digitally-frenzied lifestyles to a state of well-being. 

For starters, try taking this daily dose of “mindfulness” supplement:

Have one meal a day, just by yourself. No Screens. No newspaper. No talking.

And finally, Oxytocin!

For all the folks, who think I’ve relented and am finally going to talk about a “real” supplement, I’m sorry to disappoint! 😦 coz Oxytocin is nothing but a hormone our body produces.

But why do we need a daily dose of oxytocin? Strong empirical evidence suggest its unrefuted role in our overall well-being and longevity. It also reduces the effects of cortisol(the stress hormone) and leads to the release of serotonin (the happiness hormone).  So, a magic potion for health and happiness really! 

And the great news is, it is the easiest of them all. Our close relationships, strong social bonds, and even altruistic acts – all contribute to promoting oxytoxin in our body. 

So, go ahead, folks…get  your daily oxytocin supplement:

Give a hug. Love your family.  Hang out with your friends.  Get social…(not just through social media).  And help someone. You are indeed helping yourself. 


ps: Now, if you’ve come till here, and still feeling cheated to have gotten lured by a “catchy” title, you can comment, holler, or shoutout! If you make enough noise, it may just inspire me to write a post on supplements of the popping variety! 🙂