Why the wholesome meals motion is spreading throughout India

Professional food photographer from Mumbai, Pawan Manglani knew how to eat healthy, but during the stressful months of the first lockdown, he stopped taking care of himself. Processed foods, desserts, alcohol and sodas entered his diet and continued long after the pandemic. Manglani, 36, has seen changes in his body and stamina. It became difficult to walk, climb stairs and play cricket. “I didn’t want to go out and buy new clothes. in 2022 February 1 I decided I was going to discipline himself,” he says.

He joined a gym and started eating fresh, whole, and home-cooked food. He began to look for an alternative to cola, which he liked. A friend introduced him to a fermented tea called kombucha. Little-known in India, kombucha has a 2,000-year history and is rich in probiotic bacteria and antioxidants; it is also an acquired taste. Manglani tried a number of brands before finding a flavor he liked, made at Pune-based Umami Brew, which adapts kombucha to Indian tastes using local fruits, herbs and spices.

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Manglani now has a separate shelf in the fridge that holds a three-month supply kombucha bottles that he or his friends bring from Pune to their Andheri home. When he wants to drink, Manglani opens a bottle, serves the kombucha in a whiskey glass with plenty of ice, sips slowly and savors the taste, relieved that it’s good for the body. “I’ve recommended it to a lot of people and helped them get off sugar,” says Manglani. He also doesn’t go overboard with his kombucha, consuming it twice a week.

In Mysuru, 18-year-old Arshiya Ruman MZ tells other children not to eat outside food unless they are sure about hygiene. When it comes to comfort food, ice cream, Arshhiya opts for a without milk The Just Gelato brand, which uses seasonal fruits and other natural ingredients. She doesn’t have any other ice cream even when she goes out with her friends. “The more natural you eat, the better your health. We never knew we were being visited by a virus that could kill people or make them sick. We have to choose wisely what we eat so that people can see us and choose responsibly,” she says.

There is a nutrition movement in the country that has been accelerated by the pandemic. People are more concerned about the food they put into their bodies. The conscious eater, who used to stand out in his social group for checking ingredients, nutritional values ​​and hygiene before eating, is now a prime example. Cooking blogs, influencer posts, and everyday conversations are littered with references to a balanced diet. intermittent fasting and energy supplements. “Immune booster” was one of the most searched terms during the pandemic.

In his 2018 In the book Ultimate Grandmother Hacks (Rupa), nutritionist Kavita Devgan writes that traditional practices like adding green onions and peppers to lunch and dinner and eating as a family with the television off, has all but disappeared from modern households. It was during the pandemic that Delhi-based Devgan began to notice a shift in its customers, particularly millennials (an important segment in a country where 66 percent of the population is under 35). “They go back to tradition in the little things, like wearing a fruits when they leave because they have realized the importance of antioxidants and enzymes in fruits,” says Devgan, who published another book, The Immunity Diet (Rupa), this year. “People are now more aware, read a lot and adapt to a healthier lifestyle more quickly than before when they were more focused on just losing weight,” she adds.

The last time India saw a major change in eating habits was after 1991. of economic liberalization where the old staple foods became foods high in sugar, fat and protein. The cola wars and the fast food boom led to the emergence of chain restaurants in major cities and later in Tier II and III cities. The unfamiliar taste of foreign food – from pizzas and hamburgers to coffee and donuts, attracted Indians who also fed on comedies and films from the US and Europe, which brought western lifestyle into their rooms. One of the effects of globalization is that India has become one of the epicenters of lifestyle diseases in the world.

in 2022 In June, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation released data that in 2021 In the first half of the year, Mumbai saw a six-fold increase in monthly heart attack deaths compared to the previous year. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India has the second largest population of adults in the world diabetes population, and every sixth person suffering from this disease in the world is an Indian. “During the last three decades, the number of people suffering from diabetes in India has increased by 150 percent,” ICMR said in a statement.

“We started to understand that we were on the wrong path and had to change our habits, but it was slow because adapting to a healthy process is difficult when we are tempted unhealthy food. The pandemic accelerated the process as people began to spread the word about improving their lifestyles. What could have taken another decade happened in two years,” adds Devgan. India was one of the epicenters COVID-19, a tragedy in which everyone lost something. Even people who were not spared by the disease were in a lot of trouble. Those who recovered suffered terrible health scares. The collapse of the country’s health care system added to the shock. People realized that their greatest asset was their health – and it was partly theirs.

The symbol of changed thinking is packed salad a bowl Once a humble side dish, salad has become a meal in itself. Restaurants, stand-alone shops and home cooks have started serving salads and soups in many cities. Delhi-based chef Tanuvee Agarwal tends the Atticus garden, which becomes lush with greens, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, carrots and other vegetables during the winter months. She started picking them to make salads for which she offered a subscription plan of Rs 1,500 three days a week or Rs 2,500 five times a week. Agarwal, who worked at Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn in the US, was surprised by the huge footfall she received for her salad. “Many of the people we started supplying to worked 9-5 from home and didn’t have time to cook. It was a matter of convenience for them to order a salad from a trusted place,” she says.

Atticus’s suggestion was from “turnips, mustard leaves, radishes and tatsoi with lemon vinaigrette salad” with warm lentil soup to “mixed crisp greens, carrots, mushrooms, celery with a light hummus salad” with roasted pepper soup. During the first two waves, the number of customers increased by 20 percent annually. in 2021 Agarwal has introduced non-vegetarian ingredients and plans to expand this range this winter. “There is a myth that if a person eats a salad, he will reduce the number of calories. If you eat a salad with a lot of mayonnaise, you will not achieve this. We focus on making healthy salads that are low in fat and really healthy,” she says.

How to know what is healthy, especially when groceries shopping? The health food market is full of myths and jargon, and sometimes harmful products are passed off as good food. Two words that have recently entered the consumer vocabulary will help clear up the confusion: transparency and traceability. The first was reinforced in 2021. in December, when the Delhi High Court ordered food businesses to declare all their ingredients, including plant and animal sources, on their packaging. The latter is a feature that allows buyers to know the origin of their product.

One of the first companies to introduce traceability in India was True Elements, which makes healthy breakfasts and snacks such as flavored pumpkin seeds, rolled oats, Goan cashews and protein-rich nuts. berries. By entering the product name with the batch code on the company’s website, it is possible to see its journey from the farms where the ingredients were purchased, with detailed quality reports. “Since the pandemic hit us, customers have become more sensitive to what they consume and more aware of the impact it will have on themselves and the environment. Currently, the market is moving towards healthy and sustainable food, especially Clean Label products and ingredients,” says Puru Gupta, 2015. co-founded True Elements with Shreejith Moolayil. True Elements has presence in many cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. and Nagpur.

Devgan advises that home-cooked food should make up 80 percent of a person’s diet. But the industry has found a way to package healthy food to make it easier to access. According to Prasoon Gupta, founder and CEO of Delhi-based Sattviko, whose products include Antioxidant Makhana Snacks, the health food market is growing at 20 percent and will reach $30 billion in five years. “More people are looking for convenience food without the guilt of overeating unhealthy food or compromising on taste,” he says.

in 2021 December. UK-based market research firm Euromonitor International and PepsiCo India have released a report titled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on the dietary preferences of urban Indian consumers in 2021. It says nearly 90 percent of urban consumers would be willing to pay more for a healthy food alternative. The fact that the food industry was quick to respond indicates that the health food movement is only going to grow. For now, unhealthy potato waffles and candy dominate the shelves, but they share space with snacks, sweets and savory dishes that are labeled “vegan”, “organic”, “gluten-free”, “pesticide-free and artificial ingredients”. Interest in A2 milk and dairy products and organic grocery products is increasing.

It has become a better landscape for health-conscious mothers like Mumbai-based Pia Desai. She’s always exercised and eaten healthy, but became more conscious when her children were born about a decade ago. At the time, there were few healthy food options in India, so Desai would ask friends traveling abroad to bring back baby food and snacks for her children. “When the market opened up and new snacks became available, my life became easier,” she says. Although the communications major cooks every day, she solved her daughters’ problems by buying a bunch of Snack-A-Doodle strawberries. an apple bars. “I love that there is no processed sugar. It’s slightly sweet from the apple and the kids love it,” she says.

Snack-A-Doodle 2021 in April was founded by two mums in Mumbai, Radhieka Pandeya and Smer Dhall, when online classes and confined lives increased the need for nutritious snacks. “The pandemic has changed the game for health brands. We have seen a monthly repeat customer rate of 30%. We pride ourselves on being honest about the ingredients in our products,” says Dhall.

Large business houses have turned their attention to the health food market. One such is Marico, makers of Saffola cooking oil. The consumer goods giant in 2022 announced in May that it had acquired a 54 percent stake in True Elements. “True Elements has built its first phase of growth largely through innovative clean product offerings and strong consumer confidence. The goal of the next phase will be to further build brand equity and accelerate its penetration into newer households. The investment in True Elements is a deliberate step to accelerate the development of our food portfolio as we aim to reach our next ambitious milestone of Rs 850-1,000 crore by FY24. of Rs 100 crore in turnover for Foods,” says Sanjay Mishra, COO and Managing Director of the India business. , new business, Marico Ltd.

Changing your lifestyle begins as a difficult journey with obstacles such as peer pressure and withdrawal symptoms. However, surveys show that a significant number of people exercise, eat well and commit to a healthy lifestyle. The broader rules of good nutrition have not changed for centuries. “With any habit, you have to be patient. Give it time and you will see the change,” says Devgan.

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