Saturday, 29 December 2012

Resolution 2013

Every year, promptly before the beginning of the new year, we think of all the things that we need to change in our lives or the goals that we need to reach! Then we go ahead and set our resolutions with all the hope and expectations that a new beginning brings. With that done, and the new year still a few days away, the thought creeps in, we have decided to be good the whole of next year, oh my god, lets have the last few days of fun! And we do the exact same things that we promised ourselves not to…. This is the beginning of our downfall and yet another year of unfulfilled resolutions…
Of course the most popular resolution is to lose weight (which used to be mine year after year for many years), which we approach with a number and make it even more daunting. I have to lose 10 kilos this year or fit into a size 8 dress etc. Typically this kind of plan ensures the first 2 weeks of January being great (eating breakfast, avoiding the ice cream after dinner, no namkeen with tea etc), that slowly changes, one meal at a time, and we get back to our normal routine and then some big occasion lands itself suddenly and demands a crash diet, weight loss and a subsequent weight gain, and back to routine. So, we start again, another December, a few kilos heavier with the same resolution!

How about we try something slightly different this new year? Like focussing on Health vs Weight and to acquire at least one healthy habit for the entire year and hopefully for life . 
So, lets see, maybe I could list a few that will help you choose…

1. Eat a portion of raw vegetables or fruits at each meal. This will add a host of immune boosting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Every colour of fruit or vegetable brings its own unique group of phytonutrients or plant nutrients that protect and cure the body in a multitude of ways. e.g. Blue-purple coloured fruits and vegetables like blueberries, purple grapes, plums, eggplant contain resveratrol, anthocyanidins, phenolics, flavonoids which support heart, brain and bone health and provide antioxidant protection against ageing. Raw fruits and vegetables will also add the extra fibre to our diet which is great for digestive health and will make us full even with consuming lesser calories.

2. Swap one refined grain that you are currently using with a whole grain, like rice with red rice, white bread with whole wheat bread etc. Whole grains not only reduce the risk of many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc, but also have a lower glycemic index and high fibre content which helps weight management.

3. Eat your last meal 2-3 hours before your bed time. This helps your body digest the meal fully before the body prepares to rest. During digestion the blood rushes to the digestive organs and while we sleep, our body repairs and rejuvenates the wear and tear of the cells. If we sleep immediately after a heavy meal, both of these processes cannot take place efficiently. This causes the undigested food to remain in the system for long causing acidity, burping, a bloated stomach and waking up feeling tired, not fresh as the recovery was hampered.

4. Cut the sugar in your tea or coffee by half. Sugar apart from being addictive and adding to the empty calories causing weight gain, is also toxic for the body in many ways. So, a great way to start being aware of your sugar intake and controlling it, is to halve the quantity consumed daily in your morning and evening tea/coffee.

5. Swap one snack everyday with a portion of nuts or seeds. Snack times are typically moments when even the most enthusiastic healthy eaters give in to unhealthy munching. It is the best time to chomp on a portion of nuts or seeds like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax etc. The high protein and fat content keeps you fuller for longer and the B vitamins give you energy and promote your metabolism. They also contain selenium, chromium and vitamin E, which are all components of antioxidants that fight free radicals (that can age and damage your body's cells).

6. Drink 2 glasses of water on waking up. For our body to work optimally, we need to be hydrated. After 7-8 hours of sleep when we consume water immediately on waking up, it hydrates all the organs of the body which makes us alert and refreshed. This also increases the metabolism and helps the kidneys effectively eliminate various toxins and waste products. It also adds to the total water consumption of the day!

I hope this new year, you are able to achieve all that you set your heart on. Wish you good health and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Kickstart your day with a yummy breakfast smoothie.....

Breakfast is the most important meal of   the day! We have heard that often enough, but it is tough to find time to prepare and eat something that is nutritious as well as appetizing in the morning rush!

There are several advantages to eating a healthful breakfast -
It revs up your metabolism! After a 12 hour night time fast, when you eat a nutritious breakfast, the brain and the body feels alert and energized and reassured with the supply of energy (and hence doesn't try to conserve or store it as fat reserves for contingency/starvation ) but prepares to use the energy for all the day's activity.
Eating breakfast keeps you from bingeing.  A lack of real food in the morning, followed by many rounds of coffee or tea to camouflage the hunger,  creates  an artificial satiety and then by lunch time you are ravenous and are likely choose fatty calorie dense food and too much of it!
A morning meal keeps your blood sugar regulated and that, apart from keeping your body stress free, also keeps you in a good mood.

I begin my day, everyday, with this amazingly delicious, raw, vegan smoothie, which is now a favorite with so many of my friends, family and clients!
To call it a protein shake just doesn't do it justice, it's a complete meal, antioxidant rich, full of vitamins, minerals, omega -3 essential fatty acids, digestible energy, amino acids and protein.
Each ingredient in this smoothie is nutrient rich and adds it's own unique set of benefits to the mix.

Sprouts, which is a great breakfast/smoothie ingredient, is said to, ‘represent the miracle of birth’. They are in the true sense, super foods. They are alkaline, whole, pure, and natural foods.                

A sprout is at the transitional stage between seed and plant. Sprouts are essentially pre-digested foods as the seeds’ own enzymes do most of the work. During sprouting, much of the starch is broken down into simple sugars such as glucose and sucrose by the action of the enzyme ‘amylase’. Proteins are converted into amino acids and amides. Fats and oils are converted into simpler fatty acids by the action of the enzyme lipase. On sprouting, there is also a tremendous increase in nutrients as compared to the dried grain. The vitamins, minerals and protein content substantially increase (to give you an idea, the vitamin B2 content goes up by over 500%) with a simultaneous decrease in caloric and carbohydrate content. 
Also, during sprouting there is a reduction in the gas producing quality of beans. Mainly oligosaccharides have been held responsible for gas formation. As the process of germination ends and sprouting begins, the content of oligosaccharides is reduced by 90 percent.
The content of fiber and water increases tremendously, which is a boon for a healthy digestive system.
Sprouts are a good source of chlorophyll, said to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. They are highly beneficial foods for losing weight too. They keep one full for a long time and also prevent over-eating as one feels satisfied on consuming just a handful and is the best way of getting the advantage of complete nutrition.

To sprout the grain, wash and soak it in water overnight, in the morning, drain the water and tie the grains in a cheese    cloth or a thin muslin cloth in a pouch and let it hang for a couple of hours (to drain the extra water). Now, put this pouch in an air tight container and store it in a warm humid place for 18 - 24 hours, depending on the weather.

So, here's the recipe that will change your life, it did mine...

1 apple
3 small (cardamom) bananas
1 orange peeled with an inch of it's peel
1 pear
1 kiwi fruit
5 almonds
5 cashews
1 tbsp flax seeds
2 cups water
1 cup ice
1 tbsp of sprouts (ragi/moong/red rice)

Blend the above in a  high powered blender.

Now, that's a great start to a wonderful day! Enjoy!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Protecting your spirit

No matter what you are told, how you are treated, you have to believe in yourself, protect yourself, stand up for yourself.... No one else is going to do it for you.
Food cannot be a substitute for actually feeling good with yourself, and that is not dependent on any one except you. You, are responsible for your own happiness , not your spouse, not your boss and not the amount of money you make !
Sometimes, we go through life, having no sense of awareness, just getting thrown from one situation to the other, from being elated one moment to being despondent the next, feeling helpless and out of control! And it's the same lack of awareness with food! There is an intense craving, followed by bingeing, which results in a euphoric sugar high, then a crash and a guilt trip.
That's when we need a realistic, detached assessment of our situation, a bird's eye view.
So, ask yourself, are you stuck in a rut? Can a change in your attitude or behavior help you deal with it better? Certain things are beyond your control and certain things are within, can you identify them and focus only on what is within your control? Are you appreciating all the positives, big and small that you have been blessed with?
Food needn't control your life, you should be in control of the food!
The first step is to recognize emotional eating for what it is, stop and analyze the real issue, try to work through it, find a hobby or social work to immerse yourself in (there is nothing like seeing other's problems up close  to get a realistic perspective on yours)!
Focus on all the positives in your life, appreciate the good that people do for you and remember, food cannot fulfill an emotional void, only you can.
Eat clean, nutritious food that will energize and nourish your body, make you healthier and stronger. Food shouldn't evoke feelings of guilt, food shouldn't make you sluggish and drowsy, food shouldn't clog your arteries or give you disease!
Take time out for yourself everyday, even if it is just 10 minutes of drinking your ginger tea in peace or doing Pranayama or yoga or even watching your favorite TV show or read a book!
Experience joy each day:), even it's for a few moments! 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

One Pot Meal

It has been a cloudy, cold and wet day, and this melancholic weather always makes me crave ghazals, ginger tea and pipping hot 'khichdi' (lentils and rice cooked together to a soft consistency and tempered with cumin). There is something soothing and healing about khichdi, almost as if it nourishes the soul with the body, a cure for all maladies emotional and physical.

I make various versions of it, depending on what I feel like or what is available at home, this particular recipe calls for bajra or pearl millet. Its an easy and quick way to experiment with a variety of whole grains and lentils.
Bajra/Millet is easily digestible and gluten free, which makes it an ideal grain for people with celiac disease. It contains all the essential amino acids and is especially rich in B vitamins, calcium and iron. It helps maintain cardiovascular health by decreasing triglycerides and is even good for diabetics, causing lower blood glucose levels and LDL cholesterol levels.

So, here it is - Millet pot meal

1 cup whole bajra or pearl millet soaked overnight
1/2 cup moong dal
4 cups chopped vegetables (carrots, beans, spinach, tomatoes, bottle gourd, cauliflower or any other vegetable of your choice)
3 cups water
Cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, green chillies to taste.

In a pressure cooker, dry roast cumin and add the dal and bajra. Roast a little and add the chopped vegetables, chillies, turmeric and salt. Add the water and cook (3 whistles on a low flame).
Enjoy on a cold night or after a long and tiring day, it's satisfying and sure to warm you up!!!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Raw energy bite

 A wonderfully satisfying and yummy, all time snack or dessert. You could eat it to combat a mid afternoon slump, a sweet tooth, post workout deficit or even PMS.
This is one recipe where each ingredient is a super food in it's own right and each and every calorie is densely packed with energy, protein, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids , fiber and many micro nutrients !
This raw power packed energy bite is a great way to consume your daily quota of flax seeds. Flax has a unique combination of features—omega-3 fatty acids, high-lignan content, and mucilage gums— which is a key factor in the health benefits it offers.
It's one of the highest sources of heart healthy, omega 3 essential fatty acids. 
The lignans are fiber like compounds which apart from providing fiber like benefits also provide antioxidant support and have a health-supportive role to play, in the form of phytoestrogen or plant estrogen.
"Mucilage" refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. For example, gums can help prevent the too rapid emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine, thereby improving absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine.
Flax protects the blood vessels from oxidative stress and inflammatory damage,and decreases the risk of high blood pressure. The antioxidant and anti inflammatory qualities make it ideal for cancer prevention! It also is diabetes preventative and helps better sugar management for diabetics and boosts digestive health! Flax can also help manage post menopausal symptoms like hot flushes.

Dates and dried figs are a great sugar substitute to create healthier desserts, they not only provide a superior taste and texture but are also better than any other sweetener available because of their high fiber, calcium and mineral content! Together they are great for digestive health and bone health and to prevent heart disease and various kinds of cancers. Figs especially are wonderful for diabetics because of their high potassium content.

Here's the recipe,

1 cup oats
1 ½  cups nuts ground coarsely (a mix of walnuts, pistachios, almonds)*
1/2 cup ground sesame seeds
3/4 cup ground flax seed
1 cup finely chopped dried figs
1 cup finely chopped dates
1 cup hot water
1 tsp cinnamon powder
* you could replace the nuts with roasted and ground peanuts if you prefer.

For Diabetics
Replace 1 cup dates with 1/2 cup figs &1/2 cup dates along with the existing fig content.

Put the figs and dates in a shallow bowl and add the hot water, mix well and let it rest for an hour. In a large bowl mix the first four ingredients, then add the fig date water and mix really well. Chill this mixture in the fridge for half an hour. Roll bite sized balls of the mixture and refrigerate. It keeps for a couple of weeks.
It is an ideal snack for kids to carry to school or for adults to carry to the work place! A great replacement to the high sugar, store bought energy bars or muesli bars!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

We are making our children fat!!!

As parents we constantly question ourselves, are we doing the right thing, are we doing enough, are we setting a good example, are we letting them make their own mistakes, are we letting them be independent?
Well, we do the best we can as parents, being responsible for another human being isn't easy. As we are focusing on the issue of the moment - school, academics, friends, sickness, behavior, we most often forget to think about our child's food habits....
As they grow older, we unmindfully reward them with junk food and chemical filled soda, serve oily preservative and sugar filled faux food at their birthday parties and not so surprisingly, our children come to associate this junk with being happy and having a good time! Slowly its just easier to get our kids to smile and make peace, by ordering in or having a quick meal at a fast food place - more processed  junk! And we wonder, why our kids are over weight or obese? We are the  reason for it!
As adults we find it difficult to be disciplined about food and exercise, and we not only lead by example but set our children up on a road to ill health  and obesity and a life time of lifestyle diseases.
We are the parents, we need to take responsibility, change our lifestyles first,  so we can preach what we practice. If we serve home cooked, nutritious meals, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and our kids see us enjoying them, they would come to enjoy it too. Family outings should be about bonding and spending time with each other, whether it's cooking and eating together or playing board games or making music or more physical activities like hiking, gardening or running....
Children learn more from us than we can imagine, they look up to us to see how we react to and solve our problems, if weight is a stressful topic and it's all about starvation diets and reward bingeing, they will emulate us!
We have to make food about nourishment, energy and health and not about instant gratification, craving and excesses.
We have a choice, to make our children healthy, fit, disease free or to continue on this destructive path which will lead to allergies, early puberty, diabetes, cholesterol, heart conditions...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Green Smoothie

Bring out the drum roll ladies and gentlemen , as I am about to introduce to you the queen of super foods, Green Leafy Vegetables!!! Seriously? Yes, I know, you probably expected a fancy, difficult to source, expensive food item. But the real winner has been right under our nose! So, why is the humble greens a super food?
For starters, they are almost a complete food, rich in calcium, protein (yes, surprise!), fiber, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin A, C, E and other minerals. And Chlorophyll !

Chlorophyll is the molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesize carbohydrates from CO2 and water. Its most amazing benefit comes from the fact that it's molecular structure is identical to hemoglobin except for the center atom. In hemoglobin this is iron, whereas in chlorophyll it is magnesium. This means that when ingested, chlorophyll actually helps to do the job of hemoglobin (hemoglobin is vital to the health of our blood – in fact, blood is approx 75% hemoglobin). It helps to rebuild and replenish our red blood cells, boosting our energy and increasing our well being almost instantly.
Chlorophyll carries significant amounts of oxygen with it and thus, also plays an important role in supporting the aerobic or 'good' bacteria, promoting intestinal flora and overall health and destroying anaerobic or 'bad' bacteria (which cause infection and disease).
Chlorophyll helps in preventing and healing many forms of cancer, providing iron to organs, making the body more alkaline, counteracting toxins ingested by us, improving vision, reducing pain caused by inflammation, soothing ulcer tissues, relieving sore throat, eliminating  body odors, purifying the liver. In fact scientific research shows that there are hardly any illnesses that could not be alleviated by chlorophyll.

It is difficult to find a better way of consuming chlorophyll than by drinking green smoothies, which are essentially a blend of dark green leafy vegetables, fruit and water. Adding a portion of fruit to the greens makes it palatable. And in a blended form, their nutrients are absorbed efficiently by our bodies.
A great source of green smoothie recipes is
The addition of green smoothies in my family's diet is fairly recent, but all of us have come to love them so much, even my 6 year old and more importantly each of us can see a distinct improvement in our energy levels, health and skin!

My versions of the green smoothie

4 cups cubed watermelon
2 cups cubed pineapple
1 bunch of spinach 
2 cups water
1 chopped pear
1 chopped apple
1 plum
1 pomegranate
1 bunch fenugreek leaves
10 leaves of mint
2 cups water

Blend all of the above in a high powered blender and enjoy fresh everyday. 

You could use any locally available dark greens like beet greens, turnip greens etc and rotate them to include a variety in your diet!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Maintaining discipline in the face of social pressure ....

There are so many social scenarios where it gets difficult to eat healthy, eat vegan or avoid eating at odd hours. I have struggled a lot in the past at maintaining a healthy lifestyle without having to give up an active social life! It requires planning and foreseeing and a sense of humor!
So let's see, Scenario 1: The  festival season is here and there are several Diwali parties to attend! The theme is excesses, sweets, food, drinks, partying, it's a real challenge to not be a victim to the situation and yet, enjoy every bit of the festivities. So, what do you do, to not end up with acidity, water retention and a few extra kilos? Drink a lot of fresh fruit and vegetable juices (with pulp) throughout the day, eat a light meal, low on salt and oil before your dinner party. During the party, graze on raw or roasted nuts, avoid the sweets and deep-fried snacks, and at dinner, eat just one thing that you truly love.
Scenario 2: Sunday brunch (my husband is incredibly fond of these). Don't starve yourself all morning to go eat at brunch! That kind of fasting and feasting done often, will make you store calories as fat, as the body expects periods of being deprived and prepares for it. Eat light in the morning and at the brunch, fill up on the salads without the heavy dressing and sample a few other items. For dessert choose a small portion of just one item.
Scenario 3: Clubbing followed by a late night meal. Well to start with, an early dinner at home before heading out, and get a healthy appetizer like grilled veggies, no cheese thin crust pizza, roasted nuts or a mezze platter to share and skip the late dinner altogether ! Dancing the night away helps burn those extra calories...
And remember an occasional fried snack or late meal won't ruin your discipline but the joy of sharing a wonderful evening with friends and family will be a memory worth making!!!
Happy Deepawali !

Friday, 9 November 2012

Swapping refined grains with whole grains

Although we have been making many changes towards eating healthier as a family, it has taken my husband more time to adapt, especially when it came to the traditional specialties! But he very bravely took up a challenge recently to "Reverse his Diabetes", as his birthday gift to me, I was over the moon, yay!! Finally, I could have my way with him, yes I know how it sounds;), but I needed to tread slowly, not overwhelm him with too many changes.
So, I chose a breakfast staple - Dosa - fermented rice and lentil pancakes, which he loves, and swapped the regular white dosa rice with organic red rice.

White rice is a refined grain. What does that mean?  It's germ and bran has been removed, which results in loss of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Refined grains get digested quickly and this rapidly increases the amount of blood sugar or glucose in the bloodstream which in turn triggers a surge of insulin to help cells use this nutrient. As glucose is metabolized, blood sugar plummets, making us want to eat again. This "blood sugar roller coaster" boosts triglycerides, lowers helpful high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and increases the risk for heart attack in people who are overweight.

Compare that to red rice, a whole grain, which means it has all the essential parts (bran, endosperm, germ) and the naturally occurring nutrients of the rice - fibre, manganese, B vitamins, iron, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous and thiamine. And of course the benefits are endless, lower risk of diabetes or in my husband’s case, better blood sugar management, lower risk of heart disease and gastrointestinal disease, lower severity of asthma attacks, prevention of gallstones, weight control etc.
Well, the red rice dosas turned out to be much tastier, slightly crisper and browner than their white rice counterpart and well, the husband ate, a little surprised! Round one goes to whole grains!

So, here's the recipe -

2 cups red rice (Fabindia or Navdarshanam organic red rice, both are quite good)
1 cup urad dal
3 tsp fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste

Wash and soak the rice, dal and fenugreek seeds overnight . Grind the soaked  grains in a blender or stone grinder and pour it in a large bowl. Keep it in a warm place, free from drafts, let it ferment for 8-12 hours or till the batter rises and has a distinct smell of being fermented. Add salt and mix well.
To make a dosa, take a ladle full of batter and spread evenly on a hot griddle. Cook only on one side till it's done. Enjoy with fresh coconut chutney !

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Food & I

My relationship with food has been like a long love affair, it started as an infatuation, wherein I had an  intense fascination for all of my mother's amazing gastronomical adventures, she loved cooking and I loved eating, for every achievement in school the reward was a yummy ma ki daal (split urad in creamy sauce) or dal baati (mixed lentils with baked whole wheat buns dipped in clarified butter)! Life was beautiful:)
As a teenager, our relationship grew to the next level, we began to realize each other's flaws, if I over ate, I put on weight! I had feelings of guilt and anger, the first disagreements after a romantic courtship, sigh...
I moved out of my parent's home, to study and then to work, my happiness in life was tied to my relationship with food! If I had a great day at work, I celebrated by eating out, if I had a terrible day, I cheered myself by eating out.
I got married, but it was only when I was pregnant with my daughter, that I seriously considered HEALTH, over weight! And that's when I appreciated my body the most. Recovering post child birth, was when a serious tryst with health, diet and  nutrition began! My relationship with food, now was a serious one, of maturity, trust and deep love!Our body is a self healing organism. If we nourish it with clean, plant based nutrient rich whole foods , it has the innate intelligence to heal and repair itself.
My goal through "cure yourself with food", is to bring an awareness, for people to look within themselves, their lifestyle and food choices to have a healthier, younger body, prevent disease and cure themselves of disease.