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The nine-day festival, Navratri, that culminates with Dussehra—marking the triumph of good over evil, has begun. It is a celebration of the feminine energy, in the form of Goddess Durga, who is worshipped in various forms across the country. Navratri is also a time when people observe fasts, as a symbol of giving up pleasures to discipline the body. Navratri fasting rules may differ among different communities, but most often, it involves giving up rice, wheat and cereals; lentils and legumes; eggs, meat and fish; and some spices.

That does not stop us from making delicious eats from what one is allowed to eat during Navratri—millets and veggies, fresh fruits and dairy. Here’s a are Navratri foods you can eat, to keep your taste buds and cravings in check while staying hydrated and energetic.

1) Kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour)
Rich in fibre, proteins and minerals, kuttu ka atta is the most popular ingredient used for various preparations such as puris, kachoris and dosas made during Navratri fasts. Kuttu ka atta gives the body the required energy and keeps you feeling full longer.

2) Sendha namak (rock salt)
Any dish made during the Navratri fasts is seasoned with pure rock salt. Subtle in taste, rock salt, when consumed in its purest form, can help improve digestion, metabolism while boosting your immunity.

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3) Nuts/Dry fruits
While you are fasting, your body loses a lot of nutrients that are essential for its day-to-day functioning. A bowl of dry fruits or any preparation using nuts during Navratri will give you a much needed boost. They are a quick munch during the day and can be eaten when you don't want to spend time in the kitchen.

4) Fruits
We all know the benefits of eating fruits. Try and consume at least four kinds of fruits each day, eat whole and preferably don’t juice it, especially during fasting for Navratri. Juicing leads to loss of fibre and some essential nutrients. A pinch of rock salt and a squeeze of lime will spike up the flavours and add a shot of vitamin C.

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5) Sabudana/Sago
One of the most popular ingredients for fasts during Navratri, Sabudana is all carbs. So go easy with the frying when cooking sago. If you’re making Sabudana khichdi, you could use generous portions of ground nuts or green peas.

6) Sama rice/Varai rice
A grass seed, Sama rice is usually a substitute for rice in fasting season. Sama can be used during Navratri to make pulao, khichdi, dhokla and also kheer. It has good amount of carbs and proteins and makes a wholesome meal.

7) Dairy products
Include curd, milk or cottage cheese also known as paneer, in your daily diet during Navratri. As far as possible, avoid milk sweets as the increased demand during festivals also witnesses an increase in the incidence of adulteration of dairy products.

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8) Singhare ka atta/ Chestnut flour
Popular in the northern states, this flour is turned into pooris and rotis for Navratri food. These breads go very well with jeera aloo or dahi ke aloo. Another delicious alternative is a halwa that you can churn up with the flour.

9) Beverages
Tea and coffee can be consumed during Navratri fasts, but exercise moderation. Excess of these beverages can cause acidity.

10) Sherbets
In order to keep your body hydrated during Navratri, whip up sherbets from lemon, mint, oranges, stewed apples and pears. Sweeten with jaggery, and spice it with black pepper powder. You can also combine fruits and nuts together to make a delicious and healthy smoothie.

11) Vegetables
Fill up your plate with vegetables, in salads, stews and curries. Potato is widely used in a fasting menu, but don't get restricted. This Navratri, create a rainbow on your plate with pumpkins, beets, gourds and tomatoes.

12) Rajgira flour (Amaranth flour)
This healthy flour made from amaranth is a substitute for the regular wheat flour. There are numerous Rajgira recipes; you can make parathas, rotis and puris and serve it with chutney, or a bowl of curd for a nutritious Navratri meal. While it gives your body potassium, calcium and minerals, it also gives you the energy to keep going throughout the day.

Illustration: Vartika Pahuja

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