Apr 24, 2018

Dr.Oetker FunFoods Veg Mayonnaise review

Mayo or Mayonnaise has become so popular in India, that almost every urban household has a jar stocked up in their pantry. It is liberally spread on top of sandwiches or used as salad dressings to get the creamy texture. The original version of mayonnaise was made with egg yolks, lemon juice (or vinegar) and oil. 

My post is all about the vegetarian/eggless version of Mayo. Are we so addicted to the taste that we don’t bother to look at what goes behind an eggless mayo?

A popular Indian food blogger with 1M+ followers on Facebook shares a picture of Veg Mayo and asks her audience to share ideas to use it in various ways. Given her “influential” status, how much difference could she make if only she writes about the harmful ingredients in such packaged foods? She would help millions of people to make informed food choices, but NO…she chose to collaborate with such junk food brands and crowdsource recipes to increase adoption and consumption of such junk foods. 

Let’s look at the ingredients of Dr.Oetker’s Veg Mayo Garlic:
Refined soyabean oil
Garlic (6%)
Lemon Juice
Milk Solids
Iodised Salt
Emulsifiers and Stabilizers (INS 1442, INS 415)
Acidity Regulators (INS 260, INS 270, INS 330)
Preservatives (INS 211, INS 202)
Antioxidant (INS 319)

Nutrition facts (per 100 gm)
Energy (kCal) 499.2
Protein 3.8g
Fat 48.6g
Sugar 7.9

1) First and foremost, sodium level is not mentioned in the nutrition facts. The addictive nature of mayo is primarily due to high salt, and the brand conveniently misses sharing this information with consumers.
2) The amount of fat is nearly 50% of the pack i.e. around 50 gm of fat in 100 gm of veg mayo. Where are these fats coming from? Refined soyabean oil, the first listed ingredient. Refined oils are extremely unhealthy for the human body, causes inflammation and contributes to various lifestyle disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
3) Just look at the list of ingredients starting with INS. Each of these ingredients are added to get the right texture, to increase shelf life, to prevent mold formation etc. Regular consumption of such synthetic food additives are detrimental to health.

With great power comes great responsibility” - It is seriously disgusting to see such food “influencers” promoting junk, without worrying about repercussions of their actions. How these social media influencers are misusing their powers! What’s the difference between such people and corrupt politicians? 

Let’s not get into the popular argument - “If I eat once-in-a-while, nothing will happen”. One of my favourite bloggers Durgesh Nandhini recently shared the viral Dominoes pizza in India video in Instagram and gave a perfect response to such arguments:
'Once in a while', is not an excuse. Are we willing to be betrayed/cheated/harassed once in a while ? When we deserve the best for our minds, our body also deserves the best. Because mind, body and spirit are one. Low quality in one, will affect all three. 
If there is one lifestyle change you would like to make, let me suggest this -
Stop eating store-bought bread. Consumption of all unhealthy add-ons will automatically reduce - mayo, cheese, tomato ketchup, chocolate spreads, jams etc.

Apr 18, 2018

How to create a positive attitude among children on healthy eating

This incident happened more than a year ago. D had just got down from the school bus one afternoon.

D: take this, amma (hands me 3 tiny beans wrapped in newspaper)
Me: wow, are these beans from your school garden?
D: no these are cowpea. You have to make curry with it now.

And I made a simple cowpea beans thoran (hardly a tsp) and she had it with rice and ghee for lunch that day.

She had experienced the garden to plate cycle - right from sowing the seeds, watering the saplings, harvesting the beans to eating a healthy dish.

Ever since that day, whenever I make cowpea beans - both the fresh green variety and the dry black eyed beans (lobia/kaaramani) that go into a dal, she eats happily and asks for second or third helping.

This second incident happened a few weeks back. D loves idlis and dosas but prefer to eat them ONLY with molagapodi (dry chutney powder mixed with gingelly oil). She wouldn’t touch the chutney. On rare occasions, she would taste tomato chutney but wouldn’t eat any other varieties.

One evening, I was about to start making mint chutney to be served with little millet dosas for dinner. 
D: Amma, I want to help you.
Me: Ok, I’m making chutney today.
D: I’ll make it. Tell me what to do.
Me: Ok, let's add these ingredients to the mixie jar and grind it.

I gave her the fried gram dal, coconut, sautéed mint leaves, green chillies and salt one by one. 
Me: What chutney is this? Can you guess the colour?
D: Looks like coconut chutney, so it would be white in colour

After grinding the chutney, she was surprised to see the green colour. Her eyes opened up brightly, wondering aloud, “Wow, how did it become green?”

Needless to say, she ate the dosas with mint chutney for the first time that evening.

As parents, we try so hard to feed healthy foods and dishes to our kids. We try many techniques - blackmailing, threatening, offering reward (first eat healthy food, then you'll get junk food), hiding healthy ingredients in junk food and what not. 

I have also tried many of these techniques but over the years, I have learnt that creating a positive attitude in the minds of children will make them pick a healthy food on their own and eat without any fuss. It minimizes our efforts to constantly think of new ways to feed them healthy. The above two incidents are a proof of that.

Here are a few ways by which we can build a positive attitude in our kids:
Image Source: https://www.capitalgardens.co.uk/blog/kids-gardening-guide/

(1) Engage children in gardening
Even if you don’t have a garden space, grow a few plants in your balcony. Let the kids water the plants, observe the growth and wonder at nature’s miracles. 

D loves hibiscus flowers. Ever since I told her that hibiscus flowers are good for the heart, she would pluck a flower whenever it blooms and promptly asks me to make hibiscus tea. She offers it to her friends as well. When she catches a cold/cough, she knows that tulsi concoction is the remedy and would pluck a few leaves from the tulsi plant and hand it over to me.

(2) Take children for farm visits
This is extremely important for urban kids, who haven’t seen or experienced how vegetables or fruits grow in farms. We don’t want our children to believe that tomatoes come from supermarkets. The lens with which they view a vegetable on a plant is so different from us - it is a sight of wonder for them, that leads to many questions and new discoveries.

(3) Take children for vegetable or fruit shopping from local vendors
Online shopping has made our lives easier but we are losing out on the whole experience of hand-picking fruits from a cart. Children learn quickly using all their senses. A trip to a fruit market will help them see the different colours of fruits, their shapes and textures. They will be more curious to pick their choice of fruits themselves. No coaxing is required to make them eat fruits. 

(4) Involve them in cooking
I can’t emphasize this point enough, having experienced the positive results first-hand. Yes, there will be mess and we have to clean it up post cooking. I used to find it very tedious to clear up the mess. Sometimes, it slows down the cooking speed as well. Since the positives outweigh the negatives, I have been following these 3 rules to get D involved in cooking and at the same time, maintain my peace :-)
    1. Involve D ONLY while I make dinner. When I’m busy during weekday mornings preparing breakfast and lunch quickly, I tell her politely that I’m cooking very fast and she can help me later.
    2. Give her specific tasks to do. She likes to chop vegetables, so I give her a butter knife and she chops soft vegetables like capsicum, tomato, garlic etc. She also likes to stir-fry or mix things in a pan. So I bought a couple of spatulas with long handles and I let her use them, with constant supervision of course.
    3. Partially complete the work that can potentially create a lot of mess. D loves to play with chapathi dough. Earlier, the dry flour would be all over the kitchen counter. But now I roll the dough to a non-sticky consistency, which she then kneads it. I would make the balls from the dough, she would pat it and press it with dry flour, I would then roll it. This way, she gets to experience the whole process but with little mess to clean up later ;-)

It is a matter of pride for her, when she sees “her” capsicum pieces going into the mixed rice or “her” rotis being cooked. 

“We reap what we sow” - if we want our kids to eat healthy, we need to consciously invest time and effort. It doesn’t take a lot of time, just a little bit of planning and willingness to spend time with kids in such activities.

Apr 10, 2018

Say no to junk food #dothedifficult

My daughter D and I had a long argument last night. Just like Maggi is reserved for one Friday a month, D is allowed to have 1 pack of Lays chips one Monday a month. As much as I would love to completely eliminate all such junk from her diet, there are a few junk foods that D loves and keeps demanding them whenever we go out. So I started to moderate them using this “once-a-month” strategy, which seems to work well for us.

So yesterday being a Monday, she got her April share of “green Lays chips” and finished the pack in the evening. She only gets the Rs.10 pack, no buddy pack, share pack, party pack etc etc. 

Around 7:30PM, I was making dinner and she came to the kitchen. “Amma, do you know my friend got cheese slice in her snack box today? Will you pack a cheese slice for me too in tomorrow’s snack box?”
She goes to a summer camp these days and been observing the snacks that other children bring. Her regular school doesn’t allow ANY junk food and I continue the same snack box guidelines for her summer camp school as well.

“I cannot pack junk food in your snack box, baby. We will follow the same rules for all schools”, I calmly replied.
“Summer camp aunties won’t tell anything, Amma”, pat came the reply.
“We aren’t following the rules for school aunties sake, dear. It is for your good health”
“Ok. Then I want to eat a cheese slice right now”, she started to become adamant by then.
“It’s dinner time now, no snacking”, I started to become the strict mom.
“No, I want a cheese slice now”, she insisted.
“You already ate Lays chips today, so I can’t give you another junk food, and that too the one that has more salt”, my mind had already started adding up the sodium levels ;-)
I could sense disappointment in her face but I wasn't willing to give up either.
“See ma, Lays chips has lots of salt. If you eat cheese slice too, then lot of salt will go into your body and it’s not good for your heart”, I tried to explain.

In the end, I won the argument. She ate her dinner properly. I didn’t give her the cheese slice. 

A few days back, I came across this ad by ICICI Lombard on the occasion of #WorldHealthDay with the message “Say no to junk food #DoTheDifficult”. 

Yes, the task is extremely difficult, given that how children can easily be influenced by colourful packaging, attractive toys and catchy ads. Yesterday, D noticed Kinder Joy that had pictures of her favourite characters from the movie Despicable Me. I was glad that she didn’t ask me to buy, ever since we had the talk on why it is "a bad chocolate”.

D and I have many arguments and discussions related to food. Even if I’m not her “favourite” go-to person for junk food and sweet treats, I know I’m doing the right thing for her. 

A 6-year old can easily get influenced by her friends and peers in school. Obviously I cannot control what other moms pack for their kids, but it is my responsibility to help my daughter understand the reason and consequences. 

Parents (and grandparents), let’s #dothedifficult and not succumb to tantrums. Patient conversations, logical explanation (yes, it works too) and/or strict rules - choose whatever works depending on the situation. But let’s not give up easily.

Apr 7, 2018

30 healthy alternatives to packaged juices and aerated drinks

You might have heard of this quote - “Show me your friends. I’ll show you your future

When it comes to health and wellness, we can rephrase the same quote as “Show me your fridge. I’ll show you your future health”.

On the occasion of World Health Day (April 7th) today, I highly encourage you to take a look at your fridge and make a note of all the packaged food products you have in stock - juices, sauces, jams, spreads, readymade salad dressings, processed cheese etc. Take some time to look through the ingredients of each of these items and decide if the little convenience such products give is really worth compromising your health. 

With the onset of summer, we tend to load up our fridge with sugary processed squashes, syrups, tetra pack juices and aerated drinks. Apart from the high sugar content, they are also high on preservatives and other food additives, with very little fruit or vegetable in them.

Here are 30 healthy alternatives that will keep you cool, hydrated and fit this summer:

Lemon-based drinks:
1. Lemonade / Nimbu paani 
2. Lemon Kulukki sarbath (lemon juice, mint and soaked sabja seeds)
3. Ginger mint lemon drink
4. Shikanji

Traditional Summer drinks:
5. Tender Coconut water
6. Barley water
7. Paanagam (made with jaggery, lemon juice and spices)
8. Nannari sherbet (Sarasaparilla)
9. Kokum sherbet
10. Aam panna (raw mango based drink)

Vegetable juices (chop vegetable of your choice, blend it with lemon+mint+ginger+chaat masala/black salt):
11. Cucumber juice
12. Bottlegourd juice
13. Ashgourd juice
14. Amla juice
15. ABC Juice (Apple, beetroot, carrot)

Seasonal fruit juices:
16. Watermelon mint cooler
17. Muskmelon juice
18. Mosambi / sweet lime juice
19. Mango lemonade
20. Pineapple juice

Buttermilk-based drinks:
21. Buttermilk / Neer mor / Chaas
22. Masala chaas with mint, coriander leaves, ginger, green chillies

Flavoured water:
23. Khus water / Vettiver water (soak the roots in drinking water overnight preferably in a mud pot and drink it next day)
24. Spices steeped water (fennel seeds, coriander seeds)
25. Hibiscus lemon ice tea

Native/Local - special beverages:
26. Kambankoozh (bajra/pearl millet porridge)
27. Jigarthanda 
28. Aam ras
29. Lassi
30. Thandai

Many food bloggers have shared the recipes for these drinks. You can easily google and find out.

I agree that these drinks take some time to prepare but this time is an investment towards our better health. 

So on this World Health Day, let’s get rid of all processed, packaged, sugar-loaded juices from our fridge and take a pledge to make fresh, home-made juices and beverages this summer.

Apr 6, 2018

Top 3 foods that are "perceived" to be healthy

A few days back, I had shared my compilation of analysis of packaged foods to a few mothers, who then circulated it among other friend groups. The visits to my blog increased 10X in the past 2 weeks. There were many comments and messages too, mostly encouraging and supportive. 

As I wrote in this post, I like to analyse my blog statistics on a daily basis, to understand which articles are most popular. 

During the past 2 weeks, when my master list got circulated, the top 3 articles that received the maximum hits were on

Although the sample size is small, this gives an indication on the popular foods that urban Indians perceive to be “healthy”.

Greek yoghurt has become extremely popular in urban Indian cities, primarily because of the “high protein” hype. Although the plain/natural greek yoghurt seems okay in terms of its ingredients, the flavoured ones are loaded with sugar, artificial colours and flavours. Personally, I don’t consume loads of milk and milk-based products. I’m not a vegan yet and I do have my 2 cups of chai and my curd rice. But I don’t believe in the nutrition promise (protein,calcium, fats etc) of dairy products. More intake of dairy causes a lot of health issues, ranging from diabetes, obesity, hormonal imbalances, PCOD etc. I prefer to choose plant-based sources for my protein and calcium needs.

Brown bread has also become a regular staple in many urban households. As I wrote in my earlier post, brown bread also contains maida (refined wheat flour). Other chemicals such as improvers, emulsifiers, acidity regulators etc are also added to extend the shelf life of packaged breads. One of my blog readers had asked me to show a comparison between different types of bread. Here’s a quick comparison of the ingredients between milk bread, sandwich bread and brown bread.

As you can see, except for the 32% whole wheat flour, rest of the ingredients are pretty much the same - improvers, preservatives, flour treatment agents, emulsifiers etc. And of course, it contains caramel that actually gives the “brown” colour to brown bread. 

In terms of nutrition information, the calories, carbohydrates, protein, fats etc are same across all 3 varieties. In the case of brown bread, there is a mention of dietary fibre (3.5g per 100 gm). 100 gm would be around 4-5 slices of bread. So if you are eating a sandwich(2 slices) for a meal, then the fibre intake would be less than 2g, which is extremely low. Adding a few veggies like lettuce, cucumber and tomato might increase fibre but definitely not adequate for a meal. Recommended total fibre intake is 25 - 30 gm per day.

If a packaged food is being promoted as "healthy", as consumers, it is our responsibility to question and figure out the truth, instead of blindly believing the celebrities, tall claims, attractive packaging, relatable ad story, recommendations from social media influencers and food bloggers.

Apr 2, 2018

Why green tea is NOT a miracle drink?

This is one of the topics that many blog readers have asked me to write about. A recent green tea ad by Tetley caught my attention, which in turn led to this blogpost :-)

Tetley claims that their green tea contains 5X more antioxidants than an apple. Check out their ad if you haven’t seen it yet. The ad seems to convey this message - “eat whatever junk you want. If you drink green tea, all your sins will be washed away! Your internal system will be cleaned”. So the underlying promise is that green tea does jaadu pocha (sweeping and mopping) inside your body. 
BTW, in the ad, in very fine print, there is a line - "Green tea consumption is not expected to counter the effects of unhealthy lifestyle or food habits". Wait a minute, but isn't the whole point of the ad all about Deepika eating unhealthy foods and cleansing it with green tea?
Earlier, Lipton claimed that green tea helps to reduce belly fat. I had also written about it in detail in a separate blogpost.

I know many people who believe that drinking 3-4 cups of green tea will melt their fat away. And some of them even add a little sugar-free (artificial sweetener) to make the bitter tasting green tea bearable. 

How these ads cleverly convey that green tea is the miracle drink for all health issues! And it is so appalling that educated people fall for such messages.

I’m sure most of you are aware of these three key concepts but let me try to quickly define them for the sake of completeness:

Oxidation is a normal process that occurs in our body on the molecular level. It happens when the cells process the oxygen we breathe and generate energy. Oxidation also occurs when the cells use glucose to make energy, when the immune system is fighting off bacteria, when the body is detoxifying harmful chemicals like pollutants, cigarette smoke etc. Oxidation also occurs when we are physically or emotionally stressed. Oxidative stress play a major role in today’s many illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.

Free Radicals:
During the process of oxidation,certain highly reactive and unstable particles known as free radicals are produced, which interacts with other molecules in our cells, causing cellular damage.

There are thousands of antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and various other ingredients, that help protect our body from oxidative stress. These antioxidants either suppress formation of free radicals OR prevent them from causing any damage OR repair the damage already done.

Now let’s come back to green tea. 
(1) There are various factors that determine the antioxidant capacity of green tea:
- Growing region
- Harvest season
- Drying method followed (fan-dried, steam-dried)
- Loose leaf or bagged
- Brewing temperature
- Brewing time - brews of 5–10 minutes at temperatures 80–100°C will result in infusions with greater antioxidant capacity than teas created using a shorter brewing time and lower temperatures.

(2) The measure of antioxidants present in a food is quantified using a lab test, where a sample of the food is placed in a test tube, along with certain molecules that generate free radical activity and certain other molecules that are vulnerable to oxidation. After a while, they measure how well the sample protected the vulnerable molecules from oxidation by the free radicals. This measure is called ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.

From the database shared by SuperFoodly, here’s the list of foods relevant to Indian context, arranged by ORAC values in descending order:

(1) As you can see, ORAC value of green tea is so low (1253 mu mol TE/100 gms), compared to various other Indian spices. Please note, this value depends on the green tea sample that was used by USDA. Tetley Green tea’s ORAC value may or may not be the same. I have asked Tetley to share their values from the lab tests but I haven’t heard back from them yet. Even if the value is double or triple than that of the USDA sample, it is still nowhere close to the values of other spices.
(2) Triphala powder and especially amla have always been associated with anti-ageing and increased immunity in traditional Indian medicines such as Ayurveda and Siddha. Sadly, these don’t get enough media attention. 
(3) Red wine isn’t that high on antioxidants as many believe it to be. There are much better and healthier foods with higher antioxidants.
A simple concoction brewed with spices will give you enough antioxidants. You don’t need the hyped-up green tea. And most importantly, green tea will neither melt your fat away nor it would clean up all the junk from your digestive system.


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