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Wellness consultant Naini Setalvad dishes out healthy sweets and savouries for the festive season

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Diwali’? We can comfortably lie and say it’s the festival of lights and firecrackers but we all know it’s the yummy sweets and savouries we find so hard to resist!

Bittersweet truths

For many silvers, Diwali is the perfect excuse to live on a diet comprising mithai and savouries—which is far from nutritionally sound. Indeed, many even prefer to skip a meal or two, just so they can gulp down these festive foods. And they can often be cajoled into eating foods that do not interest them anymore, just by adding a sweet to their meal.

So why do silvers appear to crave sweets more than others? Consider the fact that ‘sweet’ is the food sensation they have enjoyed the longest in their lives—the first thing every human is exposed to as an infant is the ‘sweet’ taste of breast milk. In fact, we lose our taste buds as we age; from almost 10,000 to 15,000 in our prime, we are left with just 3,000 to 5,000 taste buds in the silver years. And lab tests have proved that, over time, we first lose the ‘bitter’ taste and then the ‘salty’ taste. It’s the sweet taste that’s the last to go. Thus inevitably, this is the taste silvers reach out to the most.

Smart substitutes

That said, a diet rich in sweets and snacks can lead to a rise in sugar and blood pressure levels for silvers and exacerbate joint pains owing to inflammation. Thus, it’s important to substitute the fried jalebis or gulab jamuns with non-fried dishes sweetened with natural sugars like jaggery, dry fruits and fruits. Also, using natural substitutes made from the stevia plant is healthier than using artificial substitutes.

Silvers can satisfy their sweet cravings with the options given below. Normally, sweets are made of white flour and white sugar whereas these are prepared with milk, yoghurt or whole grains. They contain good quality fat from cow’s ghee, nuts, coconut, some vegetables and whole grains.

  • Jaggery sandesh
  • Paayasam made with jiggery and coconut milk
  • Carrot/doodhi halwa made with jaggery
  • Shrikhand with stevia
  • Fruit chaat
  • Mishti dahi made with palm jaggery
  • Gud roti
  • Sweets made with dry fruits and nuts
  • Kheer sweetened with stevia

With a pinch of salt

Now, a word on the fried savouries. The salty snacks served along with sweets are often deep-fried and oily. Also, the ones bought outside not only tend to add unnecessary weight but can lead to an upset stomach and other problems. The oil they are fried in is often reused, which clogs up the arteries and increases cancer cells in the body.

No doubt, salt is required for the normal functioning of the body. But many silvers tend to consume too much of it, reaching for the salt shaker at every meal. Loss of taste intensifies this habit. However, high sodium levels in the body can lead to several medical issues in silvers, including high blood pressure, which in turn can cause multiple health concerns including hypertension and heart problems.

Rather than reaching for salty, deep-fried snacks, try the following healthy options instead.

  • Potato and purple yam chaat
  • Baked samosa
  • Aloo veggie patties
  • Patra
  • Khandvi
  • Makhana and dahi chaat
  • Bread dahi vada
  • Instant semolina patties
  • Dhokla

In conclusion

Remember, deep-fried salty snacks and sweets made with white sugar and white flour can deaden the brain, lower immunity, hamper digestion and trigger pain. But that’s no reason not to celebrate the festive season! Healthy eating is all about adaption, not deprivation. This Diwali, eat snacks and sweets that satisfy your appetite and pack a nutritional punch.




  • Potatoes: 250 gm
  • Purple yam (kand): 250 gm
  • Ginger-chilli paste: 1½ tsp
  • Coriander leaves: ¼ cup; chopped
  • Lemon: 1
  • Groundnut oil: 3 tsp
  • Sesame seeds: 4 tbsp
  • Rock salt to taste

Optional: If yam is not available, use only potatoes


Boil the potatoes and purple yam and mash together. Add rock salt, coriander leaves and ginger-chilli paste. Then, add lemon juice and mix well. Grease a baking tray with groundnut oil and add the mixture. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 30 minutes till a brown crust forms on top. Serve hot.



  • Potatoes: 100 gm; boiled and mashed
  • Green peas: 100 gm; boiled and mashed
  • Dry mango powder: 1 tsp
  • Ginger-chilli paste: 2-3 tsp
  • Garam masala: 1 tsp
  • Coriander: ¼ cup; chopped
  • Salt to taste

For the dough

  • Whole-wheat flour: 100 gm
  • Organic oil: 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste


Take the whole-wheat flour and knead soft dough; keep aside for some time. Mix the mashed vegetables with the remaining ingredients and prepare a mixture. Roll the dough to prepare small rotis and cut them into half. Fill one half with the vegetable mixture; fold the other half into a cone shape and seal it. Bake them in the oven at 3500 F for 20 minutes and serve.



  • Whole-wheat flour: 3 cups
  • Organic jaggery: 1½ cups
  • Water: 7 cups
  • Ghee: 6-7 tsp

To garnish

  • Coconut: grated
  • Almonds: chopped
  • Cardamom powder: 1 pinch


Soak the jaggery in 2 cups of water for an hour. When it completely dissolves, add the mixture to the wheat flour and mix it well. Then, add 4 cups of water and mix till you get the required consistency. Keep the batter aside for 2-3 hours. Heat a non-stick pan and make little chilla from the batter by cooking on the sides. Garnish these with coconut, almonds and cardamom powder, and serve.



  • Seedless dates: 1 cup; finely chopped
  • Mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios); 1 cup; finely chopped
  • Skimmed milk: 2 tbsp
  • Ghee: 1 tsp


Roast the mixed nuts in a pan till they turn brown. In a separate pan, melt the ghee and add the roasted nuts till they release an aroma. Now, blend the seedless dates and milk together until smooth. Sauté this mixture in a non-stick pan till it is well cooked and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add the fried dry fruits and mix well. Pour this mixture into a greased mould and allow it to rest until cool. Cut it into squares and serve.

Setalvad is an obesity and lifestyle disease consultant who offers diet counselling at Health for You, a wellness clinic in Mumbai, as well as online. Visit for more details or write to if you have any queries for her

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
October 2017