5th November, 20205 min read

Diwali: How to stay healthy over the festival of light

 Diwali: How to stay healthy over the festival of light
Medical reviewer: Healthily's medical team
Author: Katherine Hignett
Last reviewed: 05/11/2020
Medically reviewed

Celebrations for Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, are filled with feasts and fireworks.

The feasting part typically involves big meals and lots of sweet treats, so it can be easy to eat too much and potentially put on weight.

Being overweight can raise your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and eating too many sugary and fatty foods can make these conditions worse.

And if you have a South Asian background, you’re already at higher risk of developing these conditions.

But having a healthier Diwali doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Here are some ways to enjoy the feasts while staying healthy.

Plan your meals ahead

Planning how much you will eat before each meal may help you limit the amount of food you eat. Try to also put fewer fried foods like samosas, murukku and thattai on the table as these are high in fat and calories.

Instead, choose high fibre foods containing lentils, brown rice, chickpeas and vegetables, which can help you feel fuller for longer.

But remember that fibre absorbs water, so drink plenty of liquids to help your digestion and prevent constipation.

If you’re diabetic, these foods may also help you keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. But remember to pay attention to your portion sizes to avoid overeating.

If you’re preparing food yourself, try cooking with vegetable oil instead of ghee and add extra spice instead of salt to make your meals healthier. Using more herbs and spices like ginger, cumin and coriander can improve the taste of your food without the added health risks of salt.

A plate of Indian sweets for Diwali

Make your own Diwali sweets

Sweets like laddoo (or laddu), halwa and barfi are often eaten at Diwali celebrations, but they can be high in sugar and calories.

If you make these yourself (rather than buy them) you can make them healthier by reducing the amount of sugar in your recipes.

If you’re diabetic, you may want to reduce the sugar content even further by using low calorie sweeteners instead of sugar.

Watch how much alcohol you drink

As well as eating more, you may find you drink more during Diwali celebrations.

But alcohol is high in calories. A pint of lager can contain roughly 240 calories, which is the equivalent of a standard size chocolate bar. So drinks are also worth limiting.

If you decide to have alcohol, try to have a glass of water between each drink to avoid dehydration.

Back of a woman's trainers as she walks on a pavement

Keep physically active

Try to keep active, especially if you’re eating more than usual. Exercise like dancing can help you burn extra calories and, if you’re diabetic, it can help you manage your blood sugar levels.

Cardio exercise — which makes your heart beat faster — like dancing can also make you more alert and boost your mood. Exercising regularly can also help you manage your weight and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.

Make sure to follow local social distancing guidance. This may mean keeping parties to small groups of family and friends, or just your household.

Check local guidance before the day.

Be careful with fireworks

Fireworks and firecrackers are a big part of Diwali celebrations, but they can be dangerous and can be a major cause of burns.

Last year in England alone, more than 2,000 people went to emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries.

Fireworks and firecrackers also release pollution into the air that can harm your lungs when you breathe it in.

How to avoid burns

If you’re lighting your own fireworks and firecrackers, these tips will help you use them safely:

  • read the instruction before you use fireworks
  • only use 1 at a time
  • light fireworks from a distance with a taper
  • don’t return to a firework that’s been lit
  • don’t smoke around fireworks
  • don’t put fireworks in your pockets
  • watch fireworks from a safe distance or from inside

Person holding a lit firework during the Diwali festival of lights

What do you if you’re burned

If you or someone you’re with is burned, make sure to rinse the wound with cool or lukewarm water and remove any clothing near the injury, unless it's stuck to the skin.

Keep the person warm with a blanket and cover the wound with cling film.

Some burns will need to be seen by medical professionals quickly, so if you think it might be serious, go to an emergency room.

How to stay safe from air pollution

Fireworks and firecrackers release smoke and chemicals like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that can irritate your lungs when they explode. When lots of them are set off during big celebrations, they can also raise local air pollution levels.

People with lung conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may find bonfires and fireworks displays trigger their symptoms.

You can reduce the risk of asthma attack by keeping a distance from any bonfire smoke and watching fireworks from indoors if possible. Carry your usual medication and make sure other people know how to help if your symptoms get worse.

Read more about Diwali and air pollution.

Key points

  • plan how much food you will prepare and eat to avoid overeating
  • make your own food and adjust your recipes to make them healthier
  • stay active, especially if you’re eating more than usual
  • take care when using fireworks and seek help for burns quickly
  • be mindful of extra air pollution if you have lung problems
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Plan your meals to enjoy treats at Diwali, advises Diabetes UK. Diabetes UK [Internet]. diabetes.org.uk. 2016 [cited 24 September 2020]. Available here.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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