“My Thali” – The Indian American “Plate”

04 Apr

A traditional Indian thali plate.

By Kumu Gupta

As a President’s Challenge Advocate, I would like to introduce “My Thali”, a concept equivalent  to USDA’s MyPlate program, a fun way to eat healthy for the Indian American community.

MyPlate was introduced in 2011, as a replacement for USDA’s My Pyramid program. The Food Pyramid was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture in the year 1992, and was updated in 2005 to MyPyramid. A food guide pyramid is a pyramid shaped guide of healthy foods divided into sections to show the recommended intake for each.  Using the new USDA plate icon, basic suggestions of MyPlate food groups are to:

  • Balance calories (reduce portions)
  • Increase certain foods (vegetables, fruits and whole grains)
  • Reduce other foods (sodium and sugary drinks)

Thali (Hindi: थाली [t̪ʰaːli]) meaning “plate” is an Indian meal made up of a selection of various dishes. Thali dishes vary from region to region in India and are usually served in small bowls on a round tray. Sometimes a steel tray made with multiple compartments is used.

An Indian American diet is similar to the American diet in that dairy, vegetables and fruits constitute most of what is eaten in the course of the day. But the Indian American methods of cooking or preparing food can be a fun experience for one to enjoy the pleasures of the culture while adopting healthy eating habits. For example, mango, a favorite Indian fruit, can be enjoyed as mango lassi, a popular and traditional yogurt-based drink (can be substituted with low fat yogurt) of India. It is made by blending yogurt with mango juice. This would take care of the fruit as well as dairy requirements for the day. Dal (also referred to as dahl or daal, or dhal) is a preparation of pulses (dried lentils, peas, or beans) and is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. Similarly, chapati is unleavened flatbread and is made of whole wheat flour and cooked on a tava (flat skillet). This is a low-fat to no fat alternative for the grains food group.

This fun and easy way of enjoying an Indian meal also applies for breakfast. With today’s 1 Minute Cream of Wheat, you can alternate upma (a hot breakfast dish) one or two days of the week with toast, eggs, pancakes, and fruit for a not-so-boring 7-day plan for a fresh start to your day.

Thus “MyThali” combines healthy and delicious alternatives of Indian American cuisine in conjunction with the guidelines of MyPlate and goes a long way in helping you stay fit in your new home away from home.

Kumu Gupta is a guest contributor to our blog. She is a President’s Challenge Advocate with the President’s Challenge Program, a premier program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.


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