iconimg Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ruchira Hoon, Hindustan Times
May 13, 2011
Online marketing executive Sudeepa Basu was tired of lugging food with her everywhere. She wanted to eat healthy but the limited options and the thought of eating a cold sandwich for lunch (again!), made her sick. Basu decided she had a choice — she could either binge or come up with a plan that helped her eat healthy.

That’s when Basu and her friend Pooja Singhal decided to set up Foodie Health and Snacks, a company that was conscious of the challenge that working women needed to eat right too. “People with careers are often challenged at eating healthy food at their workplace. We realised that if we could account for the exact calories in each portion, we’d know what to avoid and when,” says 32-year-old Basu , who runs Coriander health café in the food court at Spice Mall, Noida.

Basu’s USP is simple. She provides a well-balanced meal of around 450 calories which includes a salad and dessert. She also offers a take-away system that delivers all over Noida, six days a week at R3,500 a month.

But Basu isn’t the only one who has had a healthy novel idea. With a spate of health cafes opening across the city, it’s obvious that people are making that choice to go healthy.

While it all started with Navdanya’s Slow Food Café, niche options are now gathering shape. Take Café Amaltas for example. It is Delhi’s first gluten-free café, the brainchild of entrepreneur Sanjay Tiwari. “The idea behind a gluten-free café is to make people aware that allergies and food intolerances are a part of our lives,” says Tiwari, who has been running the café for about 10 months now. “Most Indian diets consist of 40 - 50% of wheat and that’s one thing that is never used in our café.” What is however used in his café are lots of fibre, gingelly oil and even pure cow’s ghee.

Tiwari’s inspiration was his autistic daughter, whose needs included a gluten-free diet. So he decided that by doing a wholesome interpretation of regular meals, he could actually come up with some delicious options and there were actually people who were keen on eating it. “With the help of a dieticians and nutritionists, we’ve come up with novel approaches to different foods such as pizzas, tabak maas etc. And we want people to know that healthy doesn’t mean bland. We cook like how you’d cook at home.”

So far Café Amaltas is only functional on Saturdays. Tiwari adds that it’s because they really don’t have the resources so far and that most people he’s met don’t really know what gluten-free really means. “Our patrons include celiacs, or those who have allergies or families with special children. Other than that it is word of mouth or through Facebook.” he says. And with a pay-as-much-as-you-want policy, it’s hard to stretch the café.

But it’s not just standalone places that are offering healthy options. Spa cafés too across city hotels are now offering nutritious options. The

recently launched Ambrosia Café at Amatrra has a menu that can put any upscale restaurant to shame. Kapil Middha, the creative brain behind the food, says it took him some time to develop healthy food that fused both global and Indian textures. “But once I got to it, I could mix and match so many vegetables with flavours that making the meal became a complete pleasure.”

At Café Odati in Mantra Vedic Spa, the food is prepared in consultation with the ayurvedic doctor’s recommendation. Raw, low fat and low salt, the food is designed to be digested easily and to give the body more energy.

Dietician Ishi Khosla who has been running the Whole Foods café at Max Healthcare is now in expansion mode. While her health cafes mostly function at hospitals, what she wants to provide is essentially healthy food with good nutrition. “We give a choice of low calorie curries like rajmas and lobiya and healthy sandwiches made from whole grains etc.” Khosla’s idea is to make sure that people get to eat a

variety of food, fortified with omega 3 and devoid of transfat. She sums it up well. “We want people to live healthy. That’s all our aim is.”