‘Health food’ is usually processed food that is available for sale and described such because it is prepared, packaged and marketed as healthy. It is usually sold in retail in fixed quantity packs.
Think about this for a minute – Can ‘health food’ completely fulfil the nutritional requirements of all the family members in an economical and sustainable manner?
‘Health foods’ may or may not be strictly healthy for all as the constitution of the same may not be agreeable to all body types. Some might have fibre but added sugars. Others may claim to be healthy but if you carefully check their labels, you won’t find those very different from other similar products in terms of the macros, micros and caloric values. These are also usually a bit more expensive than the regular grocery items that one buys for the home kitchens.
‘Healthy Food’ on the other hand, is a general description of food or combinations thereof which is deemed healthy for human body. It basically includes optimal portions of grains, vegetables, proteins & fat.
The required food combinations for each home are different and thus are adapted by the home makers accordingly while also fulfilling the diverse expectations and requirements of their own family members.
It is easy, economical and sustainable to eat ‘healthy food’ as there is plenty of choices and variety available to cater to everyone’s tastes.
The truth is that it is NOT what one eats for a one month/three month/ fixed duration plan but what one eats everyday that defines one’s health in the long run.
Therefore, one must look inwards towards one’s home kitchens for maintainable & healthy food choices.
We cannot stress enough on the virtues of home food and the importance of cooking at home in helping one to maintain good nutritional health. Combine this with optimal exercise, rest and relaxation and you have the perfect recipe for a healthy life!
Being healthy is not the end of a journey but it is the journey itself hence all the more reason for it to be sustainable!
This journey of good health begins in the home kitchens.Cook & Eat more at home!
Can everyone be a masterchef? Does it fascinate you to watch cookery shows with Chefs demonstrating their cooking prowess? It looks so simple when they do it. This is because it is easy and do-able for them and not only because they are PROS but because of the following reasons as well!
The Chefs KNOW what they are going to cook beforehand.
The Chef is only cooking one dish at a time.
The Chef is also under no obligation to cook what “everyone” will like.
All the required ingredients are ready, chopped, prepped as per the recipe by the support staff, and organized neatly in small bowls, handy for use.
There is no last-minute confusion about a missing ingredient or a risk of compromise because somebody forgot to “soak the rajma” a night before! 😉
The Chefs are under no pressure to use less oil, moderate salt & spices, or cook with health or other considerations in mind. Their focus instead is on aesthetics, plating & driving a perception of rich taste.
Since everything is ready and prepped, the actual process of cooking is merely an assembly of ingredients with aplomb!
This last part is essentially the show that we all watch in awe with our mouths agape!
We do not mean any disrespect to all those talented Chefs out there but only want to draw attention to the kind of planning & support which goes behind the scenes to pull off the recording of each recipe demonstration.
If done right and planned properly at home everyone could be a Masterchef! And we mean it! All it takes is a little bit of planning and everything is sorted.
There is a learning for all of us here.
Get into the habit of planning the meals in advance. It always helps to save time and reduces stress. This will include taking into account the preferences of all family members and their specific requirements for their meals so that everyone’s needs are catered for.
2. Once the meals are planned, one knows exactly what groceries are required for each meal and can proceed to buy/organize accordingly.
3. The required peeling & chopping of vegetables, soaking, marinating, pre-cooking, etc can be done as per the planned schedule. One can even get it done from the service providers if the option is there.
4. When it is time to cook whether one is doing it oneself or someone else is doing it for them, It can be managed easily as this is the least stressful of the activities.
The fact is that the one person who is in charge of providing food for everyone at home has to do all these tasks oneself in most homes. That person, be it yourself, your Mom, Grandmom, Sister, Father, Brother, Cook – each one could do with help. It is high time we all stop taking our daily meals (& how/where they are coming from) for granted and extend a helping hand.
About time we EMPATHISE and participate in the process.
Meal Planning will help and make all this easier!
Start small but do get into the habit yourself or enable the decision-maker of your family to do so and everyone will eat better and live better!
‘The 100+ Thali Project’ was a challenge that I set for myself.
I wanted to see how my life can change and how different my meals can be if I start planning them the way I am wanting others to do, using AMIYAA App.
Ghar ka khana (Home-cooked food) usually does not elicit a very excited response unless one has been away from home for long. In such a scenario, the simplest of home food becomes the strongest of cravings. Once this craving is taken care of, we resort back to the “lauki-torai” jokes and make light of it!
The other occasion when one talks wistfully of Ghar ka khana is about the favourite dishes that one’s Mom cooked for the family or what one ate in one’s childhood and youth.
Else, home food mostly remains on the periphery of public discourse and is taken for granted most of the time.
Daily Home Cooking and its associated chores are considered mundane and monotonous with little or no differentiation brought in, on an everyday basis. It is at a huge disadvantage for this very reason and has caused a bit of apathy and more than a bit of discontent amongst the people impacted – those who are eating and those who are cooking!
However, with the variety of ingredients, fresh seasonal produce, diverse cuisines, more experimental palates, I sought to bring some excitement into this daily chore and experience in my own home.
We are a family of 4 ranging from 16 years to 56 years. Our parents (76/84 years) join us for lunch on weekends and holidays. Everyone is vocal and has strong preferences where food is concerned. While I prefer being a vegetarian, my family likes to eat non-Vegetarian food as well so we do cook it occasionally.
How I went about it?
The first thing I did was to sit with my family and list down all of our favourite meals in the AMIYAA App’s very useful “My Handy List” in the Library module. We would keep adding to the list as and when we would remember. By the end of it, this list itself became quite long and helped me plan meals of choice.
We also realized that we have some favourites Dals (Pulses/Legumes) which we combine with standard Sabzis (vegetables). Then there were certain dishes that we like to have with Rice & others with Chapatis. In our Meal Plans, we tried to switch these combinations for variety.
We tried not to repeat any one type of Dal or vegetable within a week and ensured that we also had ample protein in the week along with seasonal produce.
As a family, we also order in sometimes so that had to be accounted for in the Meal Plans as well, along with the times when we were going to a friend’s place or had guests over.
The deal with the family was that while Breakfast would be on the go as everyone had a different schedule to follow, we would have one Dal-Sabzi Meal in the day and one meal would be ‘different’. The latter usually was Dinner or Lunch on Sunday when we all ate together.
We also agreed that we will try to incorporate new ingredients/dishes/recipes in our Meals occasionally to add variety to our daily meals.
However, we agreed to have a few new introductions to have a fall-back option in case one/more family members did not quite like the new dishes. The fall-back option usually was a leftover from a previous meal so that took care that one did not have to cook more dishes for any one meal.
With this understanding amongst us, I set to work. I started by making my Meal Plans for 3-4 days at a time and planning accordingly. I found this easier than when I tried to make plans for longer durations. I did not mind doing this twice a week as it also gave me an opportunity to ensure that my fridge was not collecting too many leftovers or unused ingredients. This helped me cut down the food waste tremendously.
The first week was tough to get the discipline in place. It took some getting used to for me and the family. There was a good selection of fresh vegetables, proteins and greens in the meals, along with ensuring that none of the Dals got repeated. We also got to eat ‘Litti-Chokha” at a friend’s place. We had never had it before and loved it.
Lunch & Dinner
As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to eat vegetarian food and, in my quest, to add vegetarian protein sources, I introduced Soya chunks to our menu. Each of the family members (including myself) had a certain preconceived notion about Soya having eaten it earlier. I took the opportunity to make it to our tastes and this worked for us.
Now I am looking for new recipes for Soya once the Green Peas go out of season.
We also had an epic failure in the Amla Methi Sabzi. I had seen the recipe on the internet and got swayed by the health benefits of both ingredients. As expected, both of them lent their sour taste to the dish and it was almost unpalatable. The day/meal was saved by the Dal and the freshly made pickle of Carrots, Turnip & Cauliflower (Gobhi-Gajar-Shalgham ka Achaar)! J
The family enjoyed Mutton Curry at my elder brother’s place on Saturday.
Inspired by the Litti-Chokha of last week, we made Dal-Bati for lunch on Sunday which was loved by all three generations of the family. We happily repeated it for Dinner.
Learning of this week – You win some, you lose some! 😉
Lunch & Dinner
This week saw Cabbage Sabzi being repeated (after 9 days). But no one complained or noticed. This could be because it was paired with a different dish this time. 😉
Our daughter (21) made Pasta Dinner on Friday.
Our Mother is an amazing and generous cook and on Sundays, we like to eat her specialities. She makes Dosas like a pro and that is what we had this Sunday with all possible accompaniments.
In the evening, we had friends over and had Red Thai Curry with Steamed Rice for Dinner.
Lunch & Dinner
Sem Phali was the new vegetable on our menu this week. We had never made it at home or even eaten it previously. It was strongly recommended by our vegetable vendor and so we bought it and cooked it with potatoes. We loved the crunch and mouthfeel and will definitely have it in future as well.
Chowmein got repeated after 12 days (Week 2) but again its pairing was different from earlier. And it is a ‘least resistance meal’ where I am concerned! It is part of the Family’s Favourite List!
Cholai Saag (Amaranth Leaves) got repeated after 8 days but it was green (Week 3) vs red (week 4) and the dish combinations were different each time. Also, we like Cholai so planned to have it again.
Soya chunks made a re-entry, albeit in a different avatar. A dry Sabzi as opposed to the Curry version of Week 2.
Lunch & Dinner
Bokchoy Soup & Fried Rice make a comeback in our dinner after 13 days. Oriental flavours are enjoyed by all in the family and this time they had Chilli Chicken to go with it.
I tried an Andhra recipe of Methi Koora (A dry preparation of Methi Leaves with Arhar Dal) for lunch one day.
Our family likes the Sindhi dishes of Sai Bhaji (All greens & Chana Dal) and Bhugar Chawar (Spiced Rice). This week We also had Dal Pakwan, another Sindhi Dish at our friend’s place.
We ordered in Samosas and had Chaat for dinner one night.
We went out with the family for lunch on Sunday and had a light dinner to balance the sins of the afternoon! 😉
Lunch & Dinner
We tried Kundru Sabzi (for the first time) this week. Liked it and will be making it again. Gajar Matar got repeated in the Menu after 20 days but since we all love it, no one had any issue with it. In fact, the complaint was why it had not come into circulation earlier?
Baingan Bharta & Kala Chana Curry (Last made in Week 1), Palak Paneer (last made in Week 2) were other dishes that were repeated this week. These again are part of the Family’s Favourites List so were happily accepted by all.
Rounded off the week with a sumptuous Aloo-Puri, Kaddu lunch on Sunday.
Lunch & Dinner
Soya Curry made a comeback this week (Last made in Week 2) and Fried Rice after Week 3. The Kaddu Sabzi made a faster comeback (within days) on popular demand by the family.
Our office colleagues came for Dinner one night and we had the Burmese Khow Suey with them.
Dal Bati returned to the Sunday Lunch scene again on demand, by old and young alike!
Lunch & Dinner
A lot more dishes or ingredients from previous weeks appeared again on the Menu. These were included after discussion with the family. But having done this for almost two months, the family was happy to see their favourite meals coming back into the menu of this week and I was relaxed knowing well that meals were being enjoyed by everyone.
Lunch & Dinner
The repetitions in the Menus were not for lack of choice or bandwidth but consciously picked on from the long list of family favourites list that we had created initially. Our relationship with food improved tremendously and we started enjoying the meal times more. We started looking at new recipes, dishes and cuisines more curiously wanting to try them at home. Our collective urge to ‘order-in’ reduced drastically as everyone was getting to eat a variety of tasty food of their choice at home.
The family discussions were diverse and did not get waylaid by complaints of food! 😉
We made Menu selection an inclusive activity so that it did not fall on anyone’s shoulder (mine!) singularly. We ate consciously. We were happy and looked forward to our meals every day!
For me, personally, there were a lot of other gains too.
I reduced my stress of figuring out what to cook for everyone by making it an inclusive activity.
I saved my time by planning the meals for a few days at a go and then following up with organizing groceries and prepping in advance.
I planned my monthly purchases such that I availed the ongoing deals in the store.
I also reduced wastage by not buying excess and limiting fresh produce purchase to only what is needed for the next 3-4 days.
I got time to work on my startup (AMIYAA) and to spend it with family & friends too.
And we all ate healthy and tasty food and continue to do so!
It took me much longer to write and put together this blog post than it took me to make my meal plans of 8 weeks (2 Months) and put them in action! J
I think everyone should try Meal Planning. It helps!
One reason for this is that it tends to become boring and monotonous after some time. The funny thing is that it does not become so only for those who are eating it but even for those who are cooking it! In the latter case, it may be called decision fatigue!
The reasons for this are several.
Tastes and preferences are very personal attributes and the younger generation has to be led into acquiring tastes of traditional home-cooked food beyond their comfort foods and locally available ingredients. This is a battle that is mostly pitched against the heavily advertised fast food and restaurant industry which finds favor with the younger impressionable lot.
On the other hand, there is a battle to get the older generation to sample, accept and enjoy the exotic, non- Indian cuisines as well but the rigidity of their tastes makes it difficult as they prefer to stick to their own comfort zones especially where food is concerned.
What complicates matters further is that every family member has their own specific likes and dislikes with few items garnering favor with all.
It is the lady of the house who is usually in this tussle of searching for common middle ground and she comes under immense pressure to cater to everyone’s tastes and preferences satisfactorily. Add to it the decision fatigue she undergoes being made to be responsible for resolving this daily repetitive conundrum!
The limited number of the commonly liked dishes and food items then become the ‘least resistance meals’ and are made more often thus further compounding on the monotony of the menu.
There are some easy-to-do things to introduce variety in the daily menus and slowly get the family roped in as well.
One member or the other of the family is always unhappy with the dishes being served!
The first thing is to include everyone while making the meal plans. This way everyone has an opportunity to articulate what they would like to eat in the next few meals. All that needs to be done then is to include the same in the meal plan, cooked and served accordingly.
The cooking style and flavors seldom change in daily cooking and new dish and cuisine introductions are few and far in between
One can tackle this by having a day(s) in the week or month (depending upon the ‘appetite for change’ of the family members) where one would try out certain new dishes or recipes. The trick is to have everyone’s support and interest while attempting to cook from new recipes. Sometimes, when the recipe being tried is radically different, a backup meal can be planned for, too to be on the safer side.
The same ingredients are bought and cooked cyclically, in the same manner, that they have always been cooked.
In a country like ours, where we have a very wide range of different ingredients available all year-round in most places, we are spoilt for choice. Adding to the diversity of our daily food selections thus is very easy. Variety can easily be introduced in our daily menus by bringing in more ingredients than what one is using currently. One can even explore making the same ingredient in a different way rather than making the same dish recipe repetitively as most home kitchens are wont to do.
The dish parings are fixed and standard in most households, eg., a particular vegetable/sabzi is always paired with any one type of Dal/legume.
This is a no-brainer really and the easiest way, perhaps to create a different meal. Just a little bit of tweaking and one can have a lot more different combinations within the limited offerings. The difference can also be brought in through various pickles or accompaniments as salads, papads, etc.
In most home kitchens, one grows up eating the same kind of food that one ate in one’s parents’ households (plus some) and so it continues, mostly. There may be a bit of exaggeration here but it is not far from the truth that new dishes, new combinations, new recipes in daily home cooking are more of an exception (weekend specials) than a rule.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post which we call “The 100 Plate Project”.
With the backing of good nutrition, one can easily achieve one’s health and fitness goals.
To put it simply, the successful pursuit of good health is based on one premise – Nutrition. Everything else follows this.
However, getting the right nutrition in place is far easier said than done, especially so if one is managing other responsibilities alongside as well. This is not because one does not want to eat healthy or is not serious about the health goals but because it requires effort and commitment.
In the daily rigmarole of responsibilities, one’s own needs often take a backseat, especially the healthy ones! It just seems so difficult to do everything the right way.
As in other activities, planning comes in handy for nutrition as well. Whether one is planning for one’s own dietary requirements or taking care of the family’s requirements as well, Meal Planning is of help to all.
Simply put, meal planning is as important to a healthy lifestyle as having a timetable for a successful study schedule is.
With meal planning, one is able to account for available resources and time, specific dietary requirements, and health goals that need to be catered for.
1. We have never broken down our food into macros (viz., Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins) therefore the moment one sees a table of food items described as per the macros, we get confused and overwhelmed!
2. What follows is that we start looking for recipes for the major food items and get further confused when we have to quantify each element and balance out the portions for the entire day.
3. However, the fact is that recipes are only indicative and quantification of each macro will still need to be done by each person as per the recommended plan.
1. Your Dietician gives you specific meal plans, which may be very different from what you are used to eating usually.
2. You thus have to start catering for your meals separately from your family thus creating an extra load on your already heavily burdened shoulders / stretched schedule.
1. You have to manage certain health conditions through your dietary intake as per the Doctor’s advice., viz., less oil, salt sugar, etc.
Remember, that whatever the case may be and whatever our health and fitness goals may be (Fat loss, Weight loss, Muscle gain, managing lifestyle disorders, etc),the ONLY way to a sustainable mode of eating healthy is to incorporate the macros/dietary requirements in our daily menus with our own style of cooking in our own kitchens.
Every household has a unique taste and preference and the food/recipes that we are familiar with are appreciated by us and our palates are used to the same. Another significant thing to note is that if we adapt our dietary requirements to what is being cooked in our kitchens then no special cooking is required and the same dishes could be served to the family most of the time.
This goes a long way in sustaining our diet plans and our healthy eating.
Also, most Recipes or Menus suggested by others are usually new to our kitchens and thus need a special effort to get cooked. Because of the special effort that is required, one ends up repeating certain dishes/preparations in a pattern and soon becomes bored of eating the same dish over and over again.
This is another reason that we are not able to adopt these ‘exotic’ recipes in our daily cooking/lifestyle in the longer run.
It definitely looks simpler to look outwards for help with either specific meal-wise/dish-wise recommendations or even pre-cooked meals, which one can order in, according to one’s specific diet requirements.
However, the fact is that we cannot eat out /order quantified/specialized meals ALL the time. It is neither practical nor economical nor is it sustainable.
And let us remind you that being healthy is a lifelong journey aided by sensible everyday decisions. It is not a short-term viz., 12 Weeks / 6 months /one-year plan.
Sooner than later we will have to come back to our own home kitchens and thus the earlier we take the matter into our own hands the better it will be. This will need some planning (investment of time & effort) initially but once we do it a few times, it rolls smoothly.
For all the foods that are noted in the nutrition plan, one should ask one’s coach for possible alternatives if those are not in regular use in one’s kitchens. One should not feel shy or overwhelmed. One should always get one’s doubts cleared to avoid unnecessary hurdles, as one has to look at the long-term sustenance.
Thus, whatever the marketing spiel is, always know that it is easier to maintain diets within one’s own cuisines and that a sustainable and healthy eating practice starts and ends in one’s own home kitchen!
By saying this, we do not propose that you stop eating out completely – that is not wise or practical because there will be occasions when you may have to eat outside of the plan!
You must remain flexible and adapt to those situations in an informed manner. Also, if you are able to manage a healthy home-cooked meal most of the time then eating out a few times will not make a difference to your health.
What we are saying is that meal planning and cooking at home is an opportunity for everyone to make the meals interesting by incorporating a bit of variety and ensuring that the meals check the required boxes in one’s pursuit of specific health/fitness goals.
Remember the six-pack abs are made in the kitchen!
This would be a real good possibility if only every household ate the same kind of meals, liked the same ingredients, and prepared them in a uniform manner. As things stand, food is very personal and unique to each household and there is no standard one-size-fits-all formula in Meal Planning.
Truth be told, no one knows better than us what food will get appreciated in our homes! And thus, no one else can decide our daily menus for us! We will have to do this ourselves till we make someone like AMIYAA App a part of our lives!
AMIYAA understands this and helps you to make your Meal Plans, just the way you and your family like it!
And with use, AMIYAA will only get closer to understanding your likes and dislikes! Like all relationships, this one too shall need your time, patience, and unquestionable support. 🙂
In AMIYAA, you have a friend.
Download the App now and use it! It will make a difference in your life! Every journey (however long it is) starts with a small step so do not be afraid of taking one in this direction today!
In conclusion, we would like to say that Meal Planning is not as complicated as it seems in your head. It is in your hands to keep it simple!
Most of us know basic cooking and our daily home cooking is just that and a bit more. Most daily meals being prepared across Indian households are being made from the accrued and knowledge and observations of the person cooking the food.
We may have learned some from our mothers, from our friends, and so on. Most people do not check recipes when they are cooking the regular daily meals unless they are new to the process of cooking. In such cases, recipes will help and should be referred to.
People mostly check out recipes when they have time or are entertaining or when they want to try out something new. But this is not a daily affair, for sure. So please do not confuse occasional cooking when you might need specific recipes with daily cooking where the estimation and experience come into play for cooking the meals for the family!
That is a funny take on the activity of Meal Planning. We know that planning will help us eat well and feel good throughout the week, but still, it ends up on the dreaded chore list and often gets skipped. Ease it into your weekly routine and be patient with it and it will grow on you.
Meal Planning is a chore-destroyer if there ever was one! It makes everyone efficient. As we said in the beginning, any good habit will seem like a chore first, take time to be acquired and our minds will give us more than a few reasons to convince us that we are better off without it! Once you get into the groove, you will realize that Meal Planning actually eases a lot of other chores for you and you are in a better space.
We are still trying to wrap our heads around this one! In reality, Meal Planning does not have to cost more than what you can afford. With Meal Planning, one has the ability to buy only what is required and prevents excesses even in cooking.
The leftovers can be incorporated in the next couple of meals. A bigger batch enough to cater for two times can be cooked in a one-time effort. The perishables can be bought only as required and be used prudently.
The non-perishables can be bought and stored for longer durations. Here, one can even take advantage of deals and discounts on volume purchases being offered in stores. With Meal Planning, you can plan really nice meals within your budget and even save some resources from there.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Meal Planning enables us to be more flexible with our choices. Having a Meal Plan is an advantage and does not hold one back from enjoying otherwise.
With a Meal Plan in place, one always knows what’s cooking and is fully prepared accordingly.
However, one can be open to changing one’s plan when one’s family/friends might want to eat out or order in.
Is it not better to know what you can eat at home in case the plan one was making with one’s friends was to fall through? Meal Planning frees us up from those last-minute panic situations when one is HANGRY (Hungry & thus Angry) and then resorts to ordering in/eating out/eating junk food, none of which can be classified as healthy choices made from a free mind!