Holi 2024: Dive Into Guilt-Free Treats With Healthy, Herbal Ingredients

Holi 2024: Dive Into Guilt-Free Treats With Healthy, Herbal Ingredients

Indulge in Holi sweets and snacks guilt-free by including healthy and herbal ingredients

Pramita BoseUpdated: Sunday, March 24, 2024, 09:56 AM IST
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Pic: Wikimedia commons

If springtime is here, can Holi — the festival of colours — be far behind? Come March 25, this annual rangotsav will be celebrated with an unbridled spirit of joy, unity, friendship, brotherhood, close bonding, sharing and of course, amid a big splash of happy hues! But how about giving a healthy twist to your Holi plans this time?

Sweet Indulgence

Can your staple dose of sweets be guilt-free and not sinfully delicious? Yes, say nutritionists. They feel that even confectionery items comprising sandesh, barfi, kheer, dahi, payesam, laddus, modaks, pedas can be prepared with a  herbal ingredients and taste as yummy as your regular desserts.

“It’s a misconception that sweets can’t be fat-free. Diabetic options like both biscuits and sweets have gradually flooded the retail market in recent years. So to give your calorie count a check this season and see your belly flab losing some of its inches, you may choose a herbal intake to tingle your taste buds this Holi,” states a dietitian.

To add that essential health factor to Indian sweets and Holi specialities like gujiyas, puran polis, malpoas, gulab jamuns, jalebis and thandai, substitution of ingredients is highly necessary. “Well, in order to achieve this, a slew of ingredients can be incorporated to prepare some great sweet dishes,” notes Chef Konnark Sharma, culinary director at the Neighbors Goa restaurant.

In sandesh, chhena (cheese curd obtained from curdled milk) can be replaced with paneer sans any sugar content. Also, stevia plant can be used as a sugar substitute or as a natural sweentener. Plus, jaggery, cardamom, bits of cinnamon, sprinkles of saffron can create different and exciting flavours. Kheer can be whipped up with oats and broken wheats stirred in coconut milk with dates used as a sweetener or else millets tossed up in almond milk. Both ways, the outcome could be nectarine on the palate. Last but not the least, laddus can be rolled out of millet and whole wheat flour.

“Herbal sweets come in handy with a bonus. They not only provide delightful flavours but also dispense health benefits. By ditching the conventional recipes, sweets can be elevated with herbal elements, offering a dash of goodness to your plate,” believes Gagan Anand, founder, Scuzo Ice ‘O’ Magic dessert café.

Date and nut laddus (shaped into balls) contain a concoction of dates, almonds and cashews, while ragi (finger millet) nuggets are mixed with finger millet flour, jiggery and cardamom. Chia seed kheer is cooked with chia seeds, milk (or dairy-free alternative), honey (or agave syrup), vanilla and saffron, whereas apple halwa consists of apples, ghee (clarified butter), cardamom, minimal sugar, nuts and raisins. As the name suggests, papaya halwa has a ripe papaya in it along with ghee, sweetener and cardamom. The thick shiny silken syrup of ragi sheera boasts ragi flour, ghee, slight sugar, cardamom and nuts.

“Each of the above-mentioned titbits offers a unique blend of tastes and nutritional benefits. For instance, date and nut balls are naturally sweetened treats packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals derived from dates and nuts. Ragi dumplings are gluten-free, rich in calcium and fibre, and sweetened with jaggery for a salubrious dessert option. Chia seed kheer provides omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, while apple and papaya halwas dole out fruity sweetness loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Finally, ragi sheera is a nutritious dessert rich in dietary fibre, thus lending a pleasant option with earthy flavours and a hint of sweetness,” elaborates Anand.

Snacks with goodness

Herbal snacks can be a more balanced and a way healthier answer to your evening cravings. If you want to shun those deep-fried oily and salty fritters, then pick herbal finger food to boost the nutritional value of your intake. The crunchy munchies will not only satisfy your appetite but also aid your weight-loss journey. “Blending of herbs with everyday snacks can offer medicinal benefits like the anti-inflammatory spice, turmeric. It can enhance the quality of a regular snack by adding curative properties to it,” informs nutritionist Aarya Jagushte.

Ingredients, namely spinach, almonds and berries can be used to make herbal snacks. Herbal energy bars made with nuts, seeds and dry fruits; herbal popcorns seasoned with herbs like thyme; and herbal mixes made from a combo of nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and puffed rice are a few easy examples to set your foot on the herbal fare route with.

Green Bites

Mother Nature has abundant resources of greens and grains, rich in nutrients. One look around your garden or a nursery will unveil a silo of herbal, flowery and fruity treasures to nurture lifelong. “Nature care and cure are the best methods to jog your way to a wellness regime. I’d definitely recommend okra and kale chips (crispy snack made with dark green kale leaves) as herbal snacking options. Okra contains olive oil and sea salt. Therefore, any chronic patient or even a normal person with hypertension issues can have it,” prescribes clinical nutritionist Dr. Sangeeta Tiwari of Artemis Lite hospital in Delhi.

Further, she suggests almonds and energy balls for pregnant women or those with difficulty in eating or coping with age-related ailments. “Ingredients like almonds, dates and cocoa (an agent of natural sugar) are also beneficial to patients suffering diabetes. Besides, quinoa bars containing nuts, quinoa and honey are ideal to nibble at without second thoughts, particularly for those with a sweet tooth. So, it’s only better if they dodge branded chocolates and embrace bite-sized herbal delicacies to healthify,” insists Dr. Tiwari.

Work-out experts perceive that nutrient-dense herbal snacks with generous quantities of vegetables like spinach and broccoli, whole grains like quinoa puff, jowar puff, ragi puff, variety of oat puffs available in the market, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fruits, namely berries, apples, dried apples, dates, dry dates, plus beans and seeds can be part of one’s daily fitness routine in terms of weight control and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

THANDAI GELATO

Ingredients:

2 cups of almond/ soy milk

1 cup of coconut cream

1/2 cup of jaggery (adjust to taste)

1/4 cup of thandai powder (readily available or homemade)

1/4 cup of chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews)

1/4 teaspoon of cardamom powder

A pinch of saffron strands (optional)

1 teaspoon of rose water (optional)

1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper (optional)

Method

Prepare Thandai Powder:

Grind together 1/4 cup of almonds, 1/4 cup of cashews, 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon of melon seeds, 1 tablespoon of dried rose petals, 1 tablespoon of cardamom seeds and 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns into a fine powder. This is your thandai powder.

Final Preparation:

● In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk and coconut cream.

● Add thandai powder, jaggery, cardamom powder and saffron strands.

● Heat the mixture over medium flame until it starts to simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the jaggery and blend the flavours.

● Once it simmers, reduce the heat to low flame and let it simmer gently for another 5-7 minutes.

● Remove the saucepan from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

● Once cooled, cover the saucepan and place it in the refrigerator to chill completely, preferably for 4-6 hours or overnight.

● Once chilled, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any coarse particles.

● Pour the strained mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until it reaches a gelato-like consistency.

● Add nuts and flavorings.

● During the last few minutes of churning, add chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews) and rose water if you wish.

● If you like a bit of spice, you can also add a pinch of ground black pepper.

● Cover it with a lid or a plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the surface of the gelato to prevent formation of ice crystals.

● Freeze for at least 4-6 hours or until it settles firmly.

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