I signposted today’s blog topic in my recent post ‘Good news- cooked and booked’, where I mentioned that I would not be preaching dieting or calorie counting in my forthcoming dadima’s cookery book. Whilst I am conscious that a lot has been written on the topic of ‘everything in moderation’, I share briefly here, what moderation means within the context of dadima’s book and values. I appreciate that we all have individual body types, lifestyles, medical needs, levels of physical activity, energy needs and tastes. It’s about how sensibly moderation works for individuals within their lives.
Admittedly, and thankfully, I have lived my life by the mantra of ‘enjoy everything in moderation’, influenced by the refreshing outlook of my grandparents and parents. Growing up in an extended family, whatever food was cooked, I was expected to eat. My father is a firm believer in don’t offer children too many choices as that’s where fussiness starts. My grandfather, a man who lives life to the absolute fullest, never allowed his grandchildren to say ‘no’ to food before we’d at least tried it! Sometimes I would just have to grit my teeth, squint my eyes, chew and swallow. With hindsight, they were wise and sensible in their approach.
As a girl, I enjoyed nutritionally balanced, delicious food, but a big deal or fuss wasn’t made about it being ‘healthy’. My grandparents and parents cooked food in an effortless manner, and just seemed to know what was good us, all in the name of moderation and variety.
I don’t deny myself chocolate when I feel like it, or a few potato waffles for breakfast if that’s what I’m craving- I’m just mindful of portion sizes, and lead an active lifestyle within my busy regime.
I know that some studies completely slate everything in moderation because eating junk food in moderation is clearly unhealthy- better not to eat it at all! However, I do feel that this approach underestimates the intelligence of people, when there is so much knowledge and advice circulating social media. It’s not about the lack of knowledge I feel, but rather, the informed choices that we make, based on the wealth of knowledge available to us today.
Today’s level of information on healthy eating was not readily available when my grandparents were growing up in India, or when my young parents raised me and my sister. Just the other day, I was shocked to learn that my great-grandmother would drink a cup of ghee (clarified butter) at 3am, to get her ready for a day of physically intense work. My grandmother turned the example on its head and looked at me surprised: “Well, how was she going to get the strength to do all of that physical work, look after the children (and men!), and stay awake, without some fat?” Traditionally, women like my great-grandmother, would prepare paranthas or chappatis for their husbands to get them through a long day of work. There was a clear logic – their logic – in their ways of cooking. On a hot day, doing physical work, eating carbohydrates and fats early on in the day would slowly release energy- that dollop of ghee was perceived to be doing a great job!
For me, the health issues arise when these dishes, which were created to suit their active lifestyles, are removed from context and put into inactive lifestyles – the entire cuisine is then branded as ‘unhealthy’. There are, of course, so many factors which influence health issues (to include drinking and smoking), including excessive use of rich ingredients which I am not a fan of. However, it is disappointing when I hear people say: ‘Indian food is so unhealthy’. Is that not true of any cuisine if we try hard enough? I was raised on home-cooked Indian food, not on restaurant food. The food I enjoyed was cooked by my mother who instantly put a modern, superfood twist to all Indian dishes, alongside my loving dadima who was slightly more generous with the richer ingredients! Learning from my busy mum, cooking in a balanced style now comes naturally to me. I’ve been raised to believe that delicious food is about moderation, not abstinence! Food should be a happy and healthy eating experience for families. I promise that the recipes I share, will be ‘healthy’ in that they are balanced and good for you, all in the name of ‘moderation’ and a big sprinkle of FUN and SMILES!