The brave new world of organic dabba

  • Veenu Singh, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 06, 2014 18:25 IST

For all the foodiness we’ve been subject to in the last 10 years, the question of what to order for lunch has driven more than one person almost to a nervous breakdown.

Dabbas, of course, are an option, but if you’re truly health conscious, or have a condition that requires a special diet, what do you do?

Well, some people are trying to solve that problem, with specialised tiffins offering low calorie, vegan, organic, and even microbiotic food. “Many people are willing to pay that little extra for a specialised healthy dabba service,” says Shivani Gupta, managing director, SPAG Asia. “This is a big trend in the US and Singapore.” And now it’s catching on in India too.

The Low-Cal Lunch Tarani Kapur, 35, knows how hard it is to eat a healthy, low-cal lunch every day. "Despite the fact that I have been cooking for several years, I realised that I was unable to manage my weight," she says. "That’s when I thought of figuring out a way in which I could make low calorie food taste good without compromising on health."

Her grandfather was a hotelier and every person in her family is a foodie, so Kapur felt capable of coming up with low calorie tiffin options. Her dabbas are available in what Kapur calls ‘programmes’: diabetic, heart, weight loss and calorie control. But if you’re merely health conscious, Kapur has options for you too.

The food, cooked using flash-freeze technology that keeps it fresh for several days, is sent in microwavable containers, with a list detailing what must be eaten for which meal.

The dishes sound interesting – such as barley risotto, Asian wheat noodles. Dessert is always included, so you don’t feel a sugar craving at the end of the meal. "It’s high end food, with nutrition," says make-up artist Ambika Pillai.

The Vegan Repast

India has an idea of vegetarian food that the rest of the world can’t quite fathom. It means no animal products in the cooking, even in the cooking fat. Veganism takes this further. It means no animal products at all – even dairy. So no milk, no dahi, no paneer, no ghee… none of the things so dear to the heart of Indian vegetarians.

But veganism is slowly finding fans in India, primarily because of its health benefits. Pune-based Anuradha Sawhney found out for herself when, in 2010, she learned that her cholesterol level was high even though she was on a diet. Shocked, Sawhney decided to go deep into her eating habits and realised that the real problem was her use of refined oil and the fact that she ate no whole grains."So I went oil free and included whole grains in my food," she says. "Within the next three months, not only did my cholesterol level come down to normal, but I lost a few kilos too."

Motivated by her experiment, she wrote a cookbook, Vegan Kitchen, and started vegan tiffins in Pune. "I started experimenting with forgotten grains like javari and ragi," she says. "I replaced regular atta with whole wheat atta, banished all refined things like sugar and maida and started using organic spices."

To have a vegan lunch made by Sawhney, you have to live in Pune. But you can take away snacks like khakras made of oats and barley, as well as health bars.

The Organic Spread food is food that is free of all chemicals and pesticides. And that’s exactly what 43-year-old Delhiite Anuradha Madhusudhanan, executive chef at Tattva Gourmet Organic Kitchen delivers: fresh, healthy and tasty organic food.

Having eaten nothing but junk food while she lived the corporate life, Madhusudhanan realised that office-goers need healthier, more nutritious food. So she researched ayurvedic nutrition and began experimenting with her own food.

When her doctors told her she wouldn’t survive her pregnancy because of her falling haemoglobin levels, she put herself on an iron-rich diet for a month. This led to a marked improvement in her haemoglobin levels and a successful delivery.

Inspired, Madhusudhanan launched her lunch delivery service. Sourcing all ingredients locally from NGOs and organic shops, she believes in the Ayurvedic principle of satiation in which all the six tastes are present in the food – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, salty and astringent. “All the items on the menu are designed keeping this balance in mind,” she says. .

Organic food is suitable for everything from weight management to medical conditions. I use cold pressed oils rich in antioxidants, and fresh foods,” adds Madhusudhanan.

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From HT Brunch, September 7
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