It’s 4pm on a warm Monday. A swarm of well-built men, with chiselled abs and sporting on-trend athletic gear, walk in through the door at Sequel, a newly opened gluten-free, organic café and juice bar in Bandra.
Orders on almost every table comprise a tall glass of cold-pressed juice (some with berries, others with carrots or beetroot), and a bite or two of kale chips or an avocado dip with crackers (of course, made with super foods — sorghum and flax seeds — instead of refined flour).
Since its opening in June, Sequel has become a popular pit-stop for Bandra’s gym rats. And it’s not surprising. The menu ticks all the right boxes: gluten-free, organic, cold-pressed, super foods.
Last month, Foodhall — the premium gourmet store in Lower Parel — celebrated a month-long health food festival. Popular international health food trends such as poke (pronounced Poh-keh) bowls, a trendy Hawaiian import that features Chipotle burrito bowl with a sushi twist, and California quinoa rolls debuted in the city at this festival. These were lapped up with the same enthusiasm that they elicit abroad.
This weekend (September 18), Sunny Side Up, a first-of-its-kind health and fitness festival will witness the debut of another such popular food trend — the protein smoothie bowl. Presented artfully in decorative bowls, dressed with nuts and colourful berries, these bowls have been a social media phenomenon for a while now.
Cauliflower pizza, anyone?
The one thing that’s common to the new wave of health food is that they are promoting nutritious food that’s not merely palatable, but actually tasty. For long, healthy food was frowned upon (especially in India, where taste is often equated with the deep-fried or the masala-doused) for being bland and boring. However, this is fast changing as we are catching up with international trends.
“Given our sedentary lifestyles, people are fixing the one thing they can — what they eat. This, coupled with the fact that the media (online and offline) is spreading knowledge about health food options makes people conscious of what they want to put in their bodies,” says Pankil Shah, co-owner, The Pantry. This south Mumbai café caters to people with specific dietary needs — gluten allergy and vegan diets, among others — they claim, without compromising on flavours. For instance, the base for its flour-less pizza is made with cauliflowers, and is topped with low-fat cheese.
At Kaboom (outlets in the office areas of Ballard Estate and Lower Parel), you’ll often find 20- or 30-something yuppies digging into Thai curry rice and falafel wraps. The menu here changes every day, cutting out the monotony associated with eating healthy. “We don’t add extra oil to our south Asian curries. The natural oil from coconut is enough,” says Yohaan Dattoobhai, owner. Similarly, the pesto is made without olive oil, but uses the natural oil from the almonds.
Beyond carbs and fats
At Sequel, owner Vanika Choudhary has been testing recipes and looking for alternatives to fatty ingredients. “Since people are so well-travelled, they come in with lots of expectations. One of them is quality produce. Our cacao and acai berry are sourced from Peru, vegetables are sourced from organic farms in and around Mumbai, and wild black and brown rice comes from the Himalayas,” she says. Eating local be damned.
Dattoobhai of Kaboom says, “Earlier, the definition of healthy was anything that didn’t have sugar, carbs and fats. However, today, a new definition of health food is emerging. It’s about paying attention to quality,” he says. Dattoobhai sources his quinoa from Rajasthan.
And it’s not just health cafes and restaurants that are ready to go the extra mile to please the increasingly picky customer. Kitchens across popular bars have joined the health bandwagon. Lima, the Peruvian-themed bar, has introduced quinitto (quinoa plus risotto) on the menu. Myx in Juhu offers asparagus and avocado sushi rolls to customers who don’t mind piling on calories from beer, but still want healthy bar bites.
But where does this sudden obsession stem from? It’s not just about losing weight anymore. A busier generation is eating out almost every other day. “When you are ordering in, or eating out three to four times a week, choosing healthy options becomes necessary,” says Bhakti Mehta, who runs Little Food Daily. She delivers healthy meals (Vietnamese rice rolls and baked beetroot falafels with skinny hummus) packed neatly in bowls.
While fads such as meals in bowls offer convenience, there is a flip-side you need to be wary of: some so-called health food could be causing damage to the body, and to the ecology. For instance, a smoothie bowl packs in store-bought yoghurt, fruits, fruit juice, granola and honey. That’s a lot of sugar in your breakfast. And what about those imported avocados — on toast and blended into smoothies — that could be fuelling deforestation in Mexico? Health food doesn’t need to come at such high costs. It just needs to be wholesome and nutritious.
5 must-try healthy, yet tasty, dishes
• Flower power pizza: This flourless pizza packs in all the nutrition of cauliflower (used as the base) with the goodness of mushrooms and arugula.
Where: The Pantry, Yeshwant Chambers, near Trishna, Kala Ghoda
Call: 2270 0082
• Scrambled eggs bowl with creamed spinach, potato roesti and grilled tomato: A perfect start to your morning, this breakfast in a bowl has all the nutrition you need to power through the day.
To order, visit: littlefooddaily.com
• Cacao nib and soya milk cheese cake with nachini crust: This dessert is full of super food goodness and tasty.
Where: Across Smoke House Deli outlets
• No carb spaghetti: Replace the flour-based pasta with spiralised yellow squash, carrots and zucchini topped with basil.
Where: Craft, Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla
Call: 6180 2073
• Breakfast smoothie: Combines blueberry, Greek yoghurt, chia seeds, flax seeds and dates in a jar.
Where: Across Love and Cheesecake outlets
Sunny Side Up brings together a host of fitness activities with healthy food on 18th September, 8am to 10pm
Where: Cooperage Turf Ground, Colaba
To register, call: 99678 89787