I've been living in India for a few months now and eating Paleo is a challenge, to say the least. Chicken, mutton and fish are my only protein options, so I've included dairy out of desperation. The rural village I live in has cows so the paneer, curd, yogurt and milk are all "organic", which is awesome and I don't seem to have an issue with dairy. The fruit & vegetables are fresh, picked daily from the fields and in abundance, which is another bonus.
Anyway, I've just accepted a 1 year position here as the Fitness Director for a tennis academy. I'm on the Food Committee and I'm totally gobsmacked at what qualifies as healthy here. So much so that I don't even know where to start. Heavy oils such as "pomace olive oil" (must be good for you! It's olive oil! :S) & canola oil are used to cook everything. Thick, creamy, oily sauces filled with spices and deep fried foods are present at every meal. The kids live on grains and legumes. More than half the academy are vegetarians. They add sugar and/or salt and/or both to EVERYTHING, I'm just feeling so overwhelmed on where and how to start educating the kids, teachers and coaches on what they can do differently. I've tried to add more protein to their diets and what they've come up with is "chili nutri", basically processed soy chunks; battered, deep fried fish (it's healthy because it's fish!), chicken or veg (soy) "sausages" or cutlets (processed); peanuts (legume but the best of the options I have) and so on. I could seriously cry.
Sorry this is so long. What I need from you: Any suggestions on where to start? What are the best resources that will help me communicate the basics in a simple manner, as the kids are mostly ages 9-19 and they LOVE their rotis/dals (wheat and legumes). I plan to do a presentation to the kids using slides, playing videos, whatever I can do, to communicate the importance of their food choices.
I know I'm fighting an uphill battle but I just want to have a positive impact on their health, as much as I can because a) they're kids so they probably won't listen to me and b) even if a few listen, it will be worth it. I'm going to try to appeal to them on whatever level I can - vanity, health, athleticism, etc. Any suggestions you have would be so appreciated. We had a meeting today and I negotiated down from Cocopuffs to muesli. :S Help.
Recommendations I tell all my vegetarian friends:
1000 grams each of EPA and DHA through lemon flavor fish oil/ per day - both must be taken with food. A lot of vegetarians will take this because they understand the benefit.
1 Teaspoon virgin unrefined coconut oil per day- gradually increase to one tablespoon - preferably at night when fat burning occurs.
Pastured eggs (they have the brown shell) for those who are Eggetarian
Those who eat meat and seafood should be encouraged to eat pastured chicken, lamb, mutton, goat and wild fishes. Since Islam and Hinduism are the major religions it is best not to promote beef or pork. In the ancient period, before mainly the influence of Ashoka and Buddhism, beef was consumed in ancient India -we know this from both ancient texts and archaeological bones - but this is not a debate you want to get into in India. Arguing with a devout Hindu about beef is like trying to convince a fundamentalist Christian about evolution or the world is NOT 6000 years old.
Eat as much nonstarchy veggies (okra, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, bell peppers, squashes, zucchini), coconut oil, berries, and full-fat dairy (yogurt, cheese, ghee, butter, heavy cream etc.), lemon, lime, as desired
Eat veggies with good fats otherwise the vitamins in veggies are not absorbed*. Cook veggies in ghee/butter (no oils make sure it is pure ghee and not dhalda - hydrogenated ghee)* and raw salads eat with olive oil and an an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Acids like vinegar (balsamic, red wine, apple cider, etc.) and lemon juice kill parasites in raw foods.
Limit sweet fruits (mango, guava, grapes, watermelon etc.) to once a week, in summer time 2-3 times/week
Sweet potatoes/Yams have the most nutrition of the starches (plantains, potatoes) and should be eaten with plenty of ghee, butter, or coconut oil.
For potatoes - creamy mashed potatoes/cauliflower/turnips (if no nightshades) with lots of heavy cream and butter or coconut oil/coconut milk (dairy-free version).
Limit nuts to only unsweetened macadamia, walnut, pecan, and almonds (MAX one-third cup/day), AVOID PEANUTS, limits cashews to once/month
Full fat dairy is a complete protein and acceptable if no allergy, sensitivity.
Replace 50% grains with non starchy veggies (corn is a grain not a vegetable). Avoid gluten.
Avoid juice, dried fruit (including figs/dates), soda, artificial sugars, fried foods, and any sweetened drink
Drink water with lemon/lime and tea/coffee with heavy cream or whole milk instead of sugar.
May use Stevia (made from a leaf) that does NOT increase blood sugar as a sweetener. It is from a plant all natural, been used in Japan since 1970. Japan bans all artificial sweeteners - Splenda, Sucralose, Ace-K, Saccarin because it causes cancer in animals, and is not allowed in cancer hospitals.
Eat at home Organic Whole Full-Fat Dairy - yogurt, milk, cheese, etc. Homemade paneer, ghee or yogurt from full fat whole milk is fine
Avoid all skim milk, lowfat milk, milk powders
10-20 grams of Dark chocolate 80% and higher is fine per day. It is bittersweet, has low sugar, and no milk. It has the antioxidants, and good for the heart. Start with 70% and work up, the higher, the more bitter. Make sure no fillers like milk, soy, wheat, or other ingredients are not there.
Given that you are only there for a year and the young people you are working with aren't in the position of choosing their food, I think you might want to rethink your campaign. It will also help you keep your cortisol level down!
Many breastfed infants have no trouble digesting wheat or legumes. My husband is an example of this. Compromised gut health from modern US birth practices, formula feeding and high antibiotic use has created a situation where many Americans are gluten-sensitive/intolerant/celiac. This is not necessarily true in the rest of the world.
Once you leave, it's unlikely that their parents are going to change their food buying habits.
Better to be an example and let them see how you eat. Answer their questions, etc.
That said, since you are on the food committee, I would encourage small changes:
Olive oil or ghee over canola for cooking.
NO soy. Eggs/Cheese instead.
More rice & non-gluten grains, less wheat.
Oh, and the "force feeding" is rampant in other cultures, too. I had the same problem in Germany. Find out how to politely decline and don't take it personally.
The reason there is so much vegetarianism is two fold. One is of course religion - but more importantly it is the medical advise they get that meat eating causes cancer etc.etc. Ludhiana is largely non-vegetarian as is the state of Punjab. Try and educate them about the advantages of getting adequate protein and encourage them to read about why grains and legumes are bad. The young are very open minded, and will listen
I have spent some time in India and know what you're feeling and facing. My advice would be to respect their religious beliefs above all else. One long time paleohacker stud (Aravind) manages to do vegetarian paleo, so it is possible.
Also remember that wheat, while toxic for many is not toxic for those who can tolerate it. Other grains are not nearly as problematic as wheat. Rice should be no problem for most. Also, the traditional dish ragi is like a porridge made with millet, which doesn't contain gluten. Other non-gluten containing grains are sorghum, amaranth, and buckwheat. I'd also suggest a lot of eggs and potatoes. Ghee is traditionally used for cooking so you can encourage the use of that.
What area are you in? Apparently the state of Kerala consumes the bulk of India's meat. North India should also have more meat options than the rest of the country, so eat chicken, etc. when possible.
p.s. to explain to kids the importance of lifestyle choices, you can tell them that all illness comes from at least one of three things... hurry, worry, and curry ;)
thanks Suz for the link!
It is an uphill battle for sure. I started my blog because I benefited so much after eating paleo and I used to have such a grain heavy diet before. Since meat is not so much part of Indian food, most people get their calories from grains and it's turning into a huge problem. Indians have the highest percentage of diabetes in the world!
I am unable to convince even my own parents and in laws.
Another reason why it's such an uphill task I think is because it's a cultural thing not to question basic things. Most children will just blindly go to the temple because their parents have done it and grand parents before that and eat a certain way because they've been told it's healthy.
For a mindset to change at such a level they must be first open to accept that what has been told to them is not necessarily the truth. My blog is aimed at urban Indians who are constantly searching for answers. For them it's a resource that says that you can be paleo in India too like me. but for rural youngsters I'd suggest you try including as much proteins and fats in their diets specially as snacks and fillers.
I think you are taking on too much to want to change a culture's culture. Most of those foods you mention once feed ppl without obesity. I would try a different angle: meal timing like in Richards "Mastering Leptin" and/or Dr. Kruse's Leptin Rx. You could use the food available, push higher protein in the am and try to stop the snacking. And never any evening snacking!
Them serving you 'unhealthy' food is standard courtesy. There are gracious ways of declining other than a mental, "arggh, they are so not appreciative of me taking up the white man's burden!!" As to how likely you will be to change their diet, I'd say not very. Some of their foodways are of considerable history (wheat, from Norman Borlaug, saved the country from famine and lentils are time-honored starvation-preventers) but the worst stuff, like the veg oil and vegetarianism, are a way to signal modernity, high-status and not being backwards so you'll have to convince them that only lower-status populations (pick one, every group in India thinks at least one other group too lowly to lick their boots) use it.
Dietary restrictions like those you've observed have a general correlation with status in society--the more you restrict (Brahmin) the higher up on the caste ladder you are.
You have to keep in mind that high-quality foods like beef are not scarce in India because they can't raise cows for meat but because the people who eat these foods are very low in status--only the untouchables, scheduled tribes, Muslims and other undesirable non-Hindu people eat them (as well as those oh-so-dark southerners in Kerala--can't be too dark.) And as one person already wrote, good luck in trying to get these kids to disobey their parents. Northern India is also much worse than much of South in gender parity so also be ready to not be taken seriously if you're female.
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