Apr 24, 2017

Conversation in the park

It was a sunny Saturday evening. We (husband, daughter D and I) decided to go to a park as D loves to play in the play area. Being a Saturday, it was crowded and the play equipments (swing, see-saw, slide etc) were lined up with children. D was so excited that she was shouting “yay” on top of her voice. I followed her around as she started to climb up the slide. Husband walked up to me slowly and was looking a little worried. I asked him, “what happened? You look tense”. He showed me his phone with an email open. Without getting into further details, let’s just say, it was a stinker email from someone whose ego was hurt and was venting out his frustrations. More on the lines of “How dare could someone do this to me?”.

I was telling my husband to let it go and not give too much of a thought. With such an arrogant, rude and authoritative tone of that email, it was hard to put it aside your mind and enjoy the evening. Meanwhile, D got upset with two boys who were sliding down fast, without giving her a chance. The mother of the two boys noticed that D was sad. She walked up to her and said, “What happened, dear? Do you want to climb the slide too? I’ll tell the boys to wait”. D then got her chance but she wasn’t happy yet. She then started crying that she wanted the swing and see-saw too. Both my husband and I tried to convince her that she needs to wait for her turn but she was adamant. The kind lady spoke to D and calmed her down. She then asked her son to play with D on the see-saw. The boy also obliged happily. The lady then introduced herself as a teacher and was having a nice conversation with D. Her words were kind and pleasant. Her actions were proactive and calm. She could have just spent her time with her two boys but instead she voluntarily decided to calm a young girl and talk to her.

The difference between these two conversations made us wonder why such positive communications are rare and few.

We are ready to lash out rude, cynical and negative thoughts on email, social media and text messages, without a wink. If only we could take a few minutes to re-read what we have written and think whether we would say the same thing to the intended person in front of their face, many ruthless emails could have been avoided.

Maybe, I’m generalizing and stereo-typing, but my experiences so far have led me to this bitter truth - “the more you go high up in the bank balance ladder, the bigger your ego builds up

In this ever-connected world of smart phones, emails and social media, all it takes is one email to spoil a beautiful evening with family. Let’s try to curb the urge to check our emails on the go, atleast during weekends. Our families deserve our undivided attention, especially our children.

Last but not the least, a kind word or a gesture can be such a powerful, positive boost to someone in need. The teacher’s kind gesture took our minds completely away from the effects of the nasty email. We felt happy and relaxed later that evening. Let’s spread more such kind words and actions. The society needs them badly.

Apr 21, 2017

30+ quick snack ideas for summer vacation demands

As a mother of a growing child, it is a challenging task to keep up with the snack demands, especially on holidays. With summer vacation having started, my daughter likes to repeat “I want to eat something” multiple times throughout the day. Sometimes, it could be that tiny hunger pangs between meals, while at rest of the times, it is sheer boredom and attention-seeking (and also to keep mummy on her toes all the time!!).

Summer prevents us from spending long hours in the hot kitchen. That doesn’t mean we need to buy loads of unhealthy packaged snacks and juices from the supermarket.

 I have compiled 30+ quick snack ideas that can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. With a little planning and stocking up the essential ingredients, you can feed your children healthy and tasty snacks.

  1. Fresh fruit juices - sweet lime (mosambi), watermelon, muskmelon or a chilled lemonade
  2. Seasonal drinks - aam panna (raw mango drink), panagam (cooling drink made with jaggery), tender coconut water
  3. Fruit popsicles or ice lollies - healthy treats that get set in freezer overnight
  4. Fresh cut fruits - mango, watermelon, grapes, guava, muskmelon, papaya or pineapple
  5. Fruit salad with honey and chaat masala
  6. Dry fruits and nuts - a small bowl of their favourites (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, dates, raisins, figs)
  7. Milkshakes - chikoo milkshake, mango milkshake, chocolate milkshake (I usually try to avoid banana milkshake as it increases kapha/mucus. Once in a while is fine)
  8. Fruit yoghurt - home-made with thick curd, fruit pulp and a dash of honey or cane sugar
  9. Smoothies - I’d recommend mixing fruits, seeds and nuts with coconut milk or almond milk
  10. Buttermilk - perfect for the summer. Can blend with ginger, mint, green chillies, curry leaves or coriander leaves, depending on what your kid likes
  11. Raitha - Can make a variety of raithas using cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, pomegranate. With a little dash of chaat masala, roasted jeera powder and black salt, it tastes heavenly.
  12. Lassi - chilled glass of mango lassi is a bliss, isn’t it? :-)
  13. Curd rice - my little girl can eat curd rice anytime of the day ;-)
  14. Boiled peanuts
  15. Roasted peanuts
  16. Sundal - a South Indian snack made with lentils. High in protein and fibre.
  17. Popcorn - keep dry popcorn seeds handy. With 2 tsp of oil and salt, mix a handful of popcorn seeds. Cover and let it pop on high flame. Delicious, home-made popcorn is ready - fresh, no preservatives, less oil, less sodium.
  18. Boiled sweet corn - Universal favourite snack. Steam some frozen corn for 5 minutes, add a dash of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper.
  19. Veg Salad - Mix and match a variety of veggies - carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, boiled potato. Add some lentils like cowpeas or chickpeas to increase nutritive value.
  20. Boiled sweet potato - It used to be my favourite during my childhood. Boil the whole sweet potato. Once cooked, peel and eat it as it is
  21. Red Poha with milk and nuts - Soak red poha in water for 10 minutes. Drain completely. Mix with milk, cane sugar and chopped nuts.
  22. Chikkis - If you can make it at home, nothing like it. I usually buy it from the store. Compared to the numerous junk out there in the shelves, chikkis make it to my shopping cart always
  23. Puffed rice (pori)
  24. Dry bhel - Mix puffed rice, boiled peanuts, cucumber, carrot, onions. Add salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Beach style snack is ready!
  25. Upma with Sooji (rava) or Vermicelli - Only if your kid loves upma. It’s a general rule that kids hate the sight of upma ;-)
  26. Sevai (rice noodles) - In 10 minutes, it’s easy to whip up a lemon sevai or a coconut sevai. My daughter’s favourite.
  27. Mini idlis/dosas/oothappams - if your child loves to eat chutney podi as an accompaniment, then these can be made in a jiffy, provided the batter is ready.
  28. Jaggery dosa - healthy and sweet treat. Can be made with either wholewheat flour or a combination of ragi and rice flours. Give a fancy name like jaggery pancakes if it doesn’t attract attention! :-)
  29. Adai/Chillas - quick to make provided the batter is prepared. Can be served with jaggery and/or butter.
  30. Porridge / Kanji - Can be made with multigrain (sathumaavu), ragi flour, bajra flour or broken wheat.
  31. Idiyappam - might take a little more than 10 minutes. Most kids love it. Keep the processed rice flour handy.

Hope this list helps you as a quick reference. If there are any other healthy and quick snack ideas, please share in the comments below.

Mar 22, 2017

Why Magnesium is important and how you can obtain it from plant-based sources?

As I had written sometime back, migraine and I go a long way. While reading up about migraine, I learned that increasing magnesium intake can reduce migraine attacks. So I started researching about the importance of magnesium and its sources. Though we all understand that calcium and iron are important for our physical wellbeing, there are other minerals that are equally important for various body functions.

Essential minerals that our body requires are divided into major minerals (macrominerals) and trace minerals (microminerals). Magnesium falls under the category of major minerals.

Magnesium helps
- to maintain the normal functioning of nerves and muscles
- to keep the bones strong
- to maintain a steady heart rate
- to improve immunity
- to regulate blood glucose levels
- to prevent and manage lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
- in the production of energy and protein synthesis
- in regulating body temperature
- in the treatment of migraine, insomnia, depression, anxiety and panic attacks

Recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium:

4 - 8 years => 130 mg/day

Boys 9 - 13 years => 240 mg/day
Boys 14 - 18 years => 410 mg/day

Girls 9 - 13 years => 240 mg/day
Girls 14 - 18 years  => 360 mg/day

Men, 19 - 30 years => 400 mg/day
Men, > 30 years => 420 mg/day

Women, 19 - 30 years => 310 mg/day
Women, > 30 years => 320 mg/day

Sources Magnesium per 100 gms

Amaranth seeds, pale brown 270 mg
Ragi 146 mg
Maize, dry 145 mg
Jowar 133 mg
Wheat flour, atta 125 mg
Bajra 124 mg
Varagu 122 mg
Rice, raw, brown 94 mg
Samai 91 mg

Cowpea (brown and white) 213 mg
Moth bean 205 mg
Green gram, whole 198 mg
Black gram, whole 190 mg
Black gram, dal 173 mg
Field bean, brown 173 mg
Rajma, red 173 mg
Bengal gram, whole 160 mg
Horsegram 152 mg

Green leafy vegetables
Amaranth leaves, green 194 mg
Curry leaves 182 mg
Amaranth leaves, red 177 mg
Basella leaves 153 mg
Beet greens  120 mg
Mint leaves 110 mg
Drumstick leaves 97 mg
Spinach 87 mg
Coriander leaves 73 mg

Cluster beans 82 mg
Ladiesfinger 66 mg
Water chestnut 57 mg
Ginger 55 mg

Tamarind, pulp 83 mg
Dates, pale brown 74 mg
Banana, ripe, poovam 44 mg

Spices and Condiments
Cumin seeds 442 mg
Poppy seeds 393 mg
Coriander seeds 343 mg
Cloves 334 mg
Cardamom, green 330 mg
Cardamom, black 286 mg
Ajwain (Omum) 273 mg
Turmeric powder 260 mg
Chillies, red 231 mg
Pepper 196 mg
Pipali (long pepper) 189 mg
Fenugreek seeds 167 mg
Asafoetida 96 mg

Sunflower seeds 413 mg
Till / Sesame seeds, black 390 mg
Till / Sesame seeds, white 372 mg
Till / Sesame seeds, brown 328 mg
Almonds 318 mg
Cashewnuts 307 mg
Mustard seeds 266 mg
Walnuts 180 mg

Jaggery 115 mg

1) Most of the legumes/pulses we use in Indian cooking on a daily basis contain adequate amounts of magnesium
2) Magnesium is present in very less quantity in vegetables and fruits. Including greens in your daily diet will provide the required intake
3) When compared with the list of calcium-rich and iron-rich plant sources that I had compiled earlier, there are many common sources that are good in magnesium as well - curry leaves, mint leaves, ragi, cowpeas, till seeds etc
4) It is no wonder that our age-old home remedy for migraine attacks include chewing cloves or drinking a glass of warm jeera water. Both cloves and cumin seeds are rich in magnesium
5) Maize can be incorporated in the form of home-made popcorn using minimal oil and salt

Mar 20, 2017

Power of Intuition, kindness and music

A few days back, I woke up with a not-so-happy state of mind. There were many questions that I was asking myself - “What the hell I’m doing?”, “Does anyone care?”, “What’s the point?”, “Why is it so hard to change or influence behavior?” and so on. It is strange that such mornings coincide on days when I don’t have Yoga classes. As usual, my trusted confidante, my husband bears the brunt of my rants :-) He patiently replied, “If you love what you are doing, don’t worry about results. Give yourself more time to see any impact.”. Though it made a lot of sense, my mind wasn’t clear.

I continued my daily routine and was preparing lunch. My maid dropped in and asked me for a headache tablet. I used to stock up these medicines earlier but I have completely stopped taking painkiller medicines and manage common ailments through home remedies. I responded to her, “I don’t buy those medicines these days”. She continued with her work but I felt sorry for her state. So I made my usual dry ginger coffee and offered it, while I wrapped up the lunch preparations. While she was leaving my home, she said with a smile, “thank you, madam for the drink. It helped my headache”. My brooding, dull mood shifted to a positive one.

This incident reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite Tamil movies “Pasanga”. The guy would be cribbing to his girlfriend that he is not feeling good and something is troubling him. The girlfriend would immediately take out his wallet, take some money and give to an old lady who would be begging in the vicinity. She would say, “Whenever you don’t feel alright emotionally, help someone in need. You will feel a lot better”.

Coming back to my day, my daughter returned from school that afternoon. We had lunch, after which I was relaxing with a book while she switched on the TV to watch her favorite movie “Swades”. It is our family favorite and I had watched it for like 20+ times :-)  D called out to me, “Mummy, let’s hug and watch this movie together”. Usually, I would have replied, “You watch the movie, D. I have watched it many times.” But this time, I decided to pay heed to her request. So we both hugged each other on the couch and started watching the movie. When the opening credits started rolling, a quote by Mahatma Gandhi was displayed, which gave me the answer I was looking for since morning.

“Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it is an attitude that only hinders progress."

The lesson I learned that day - On days when we are down and dull, we just had to listen to our intuition to get the answers.

As the movie was going on, the foot-tapping song “Yun hi chala” started. D and I sang loudly on top of our voices. At the end of it, I was upbeat and full of energy. Music uplifted my spirit and singing without any inhibition put me in a positive mood. D loves to sing and she always sings with so much of energy and without worrying about anything. I realized that if I love to sing, I should just do it, atleast inside my home. Why worry whether the neighbours will get to hear? :-)

Just wanted to share a slice of my day. Though I’m a positive person, there are days when I need such triggers to pull me up.

Mar 16, 2017

Why Indians don't need Quinoa?

There have been hardly a few times in my life so far, when I spent my late evenings doing data analysis on issues that are important to me. This PDF "Indian Food Composition Tables - 2017" is giving me sleepless nights :-) I decided to research on this latest “super-food” that is imported, has a lot of “food-miles” and a lot expensive.

I switched on FoodFood channel after a long time at my in-laws place and the chef is making a “quinoa” pulao. I went to a supermarket and what do I see adorning the shelves there - yes, you guessed it right - “Quinoa”. This pseudo-grain has become such a rage in the last couple of years among the health and fit community of urban India. Most popular food bloggers have atleast one recipe using quinoa in their respective blogs/Instagram pictures. “Why this Kolaveri” towards quinoa - I don’t know about the nation but I certainly wanted to know ;-)

When I googled to find out what’s so special about quinoa, most of the websites talk about how quinoa is a “complete protein” - which means it has all the 9 essential amino acids our body needs.

I browsed through the amino acid profile of various grains and lentils. Here’s a summary:

1) As you can see, the amino acid values in green colour belong to the grains/pulses that are higher than that of quinoa. The amino acid values in pink colour belong to the grains/pulses that are lower than that of quinoa.
2) Among the grains, Kodo millet (Varagu) fares much better than quinoa. To compensate for the lesser Histidine and Lysine amino acids, we can easily take the cooked millet with a cowpea / field beans dal to get the complete protein required
3) Most of the grains are lower in lysine but can be easily compensated by taking pulses along with the grains.
4) You don’t need to take all essential amino acids in every single meal. Mix-and-match the different local grains and pulses in a week and you don’t need to worry whether your protein intake is complete or not
5) Most of our Indian meals have both cereal and dal. Choose millets, brown rice or hand-pounded rice over polished white rice. Include a variety of dals in a week.
6) All the local millets and pulses are far less expensive, as compared to the imported quinoa. 500 gms of Kodo millet is in the range of Rs.60-75 whereas the same quantity of quinoa is in the range of Rs.400-600. It has a higher cost on the environment too. Though there has been news that some farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand are cultivating quinoa, the current demand is mainly catered through imports.

It is okay to try out quinoa to see what the hype is all about but let’s not include it in our weekly / monthly grocery list. It is neither good for our local farmers nor for our environment. Frankly, it is an unnecessary expense and you can spend the same money elsewhere on more productive causes.

P.S. I'm not sure if the "Total" column would make sense in this analysis. Will figure out more before I comment on it.

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