- Nutrition expert Saroja Voruganti, stresses on the importance of having a well-balanced diet that moderately includes all types of nutrients instead of completely excluding certain nutrients.
- The significant changes in Voruganti’s diet were triggered by her becoming a parent and wanted to provide a healthier diet for her children. She then started to incorporate simple, healthier alternatives in her cooking.
- As a vegetarian, typical meals for Voruganti include smoothies, legume- or lentil-based foods, vegetable curries, salads, and roti. Fruits and nuts also play a significant role in her diet.
- Her food habits were also greatly influenced by her upbringing in India, where meals were cooked with freshly ground spices and lentils, and locally grown vegetables.
- She suggests that those considering making dietary changes should seek advice from a registered dietitian or nutritionist and that changes should be made gradually, not drastically.
Saroja Voruganti, renowned associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, now focuses on a nutritionally balanced diet consisting primarily of whole foods, while largely avoiding processed ones.
This shift in her dietary habits was not instantaneous, as the professor explains. “In my earlier years, my eating habits were quite different,” confesses Voruganti. She admits that during her younger years, she seldom paid heed to the kind of food she consumed.
So, what initiated the change? The answer lies in two significant life events: her growing years in India and her journey into motherhood.
A Food Philosophy Guided by Balance and Moderation
“Every nutrient serves a purpose, therefore none should be demonized,” says Voruganti. Her well-rounded food philosophy focuses on moderation and strategic balance. She strongly discourages from completely banning nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, or proteins, rather they should all be balanced in one’s diet.
Voruganti also emphasizes the strategic consumption of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in daily meals. Skipping meals isn’t recommended by her; she cherishes small meals over fasting.
A Change Triggered by Education and Parenthood
Despite having a nutrition degree, the professor admits not paying heed to the sugar, sweets, or fats in her diet during her student years. However, becoming a parent was a turning point that compelled her to reconsider her food habits. She wanted to provide a healthy diet for her children, which motivated her to explore simple healthy cooking alterations at home. For instance, replacing regular oil with olive oil or incorporating soy flour into whole-wheat flour to enhance nutrition content became part of her new cooking routine.
A Typical Day on the Plate of Nutrition Expert
As a vegetarian, Voruganti starts her day with a smoothie and a legume- or lentil-based breakfast. Lunch and dinner comprise a balanced blend of vegetable curry, lentils, salads, and roti. Occasionally, she substitutes rice for roti. Healthy snacks like nuts and fruits are integral to her diet.
Voruganti enjoys coffee, typically limiting to one cup most days, with a tad bit of indulgence on weekends allowing for an extra cup and a piece of chocolate or an Indian sweet for dessert.
Influence of Growing Up in India on Her Dietary Choices
Born and raised in India, Voruganti relished typical Indian meals cooked lovingly at home by her mother. She reminisces about the fun-filled visits to her grandparents’ village, where children were tasked with picking vegetables from the kitchen garden. Their food was always seasoned with minimal spices, focusing more on creating flavors with freshly ground spices and lentils.
Although moving to the United States in the late ’90s meant dealing with new food choices and lack of traditional Indian ingredients, the family adapted to using locally available vegetables and seeking out vegetarian options in restaurants. This encouraged more people to respect their vegetarian lifestyle and even offer custom-made vegetarian dishes when requested.
Nutrition Advice for People Seeking a Healthier Lifestyle
One of the best starting points, according to Voruganti, is consulting with a registered dietitian or a nutritionist or reading trusted sources online. Also, she suggests making dietary changes gradually and not drastically.
Moreover, our eating habits during childhood and adolescence play a crucial role in shaping our lifetime eating patterns; hence, parents should strive to instill healthy eating habits in their children.
Note: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official standpoints of the associated institutions.