Calcium – Choona lagao!

Mornings are probably the most chaotic time of the day in most households. Preparing breakfast, getting ready for work, packing tiffins for everyone, sending the kids to school, and most of all urging the kids to drink that one glass of milk! The same drama unfolds in our house as well. Getting my daughters, Rachita and Kriti, to drink milk in the mornings is really tough. Alyona and I figured that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to lead by example. Since then we both have made milk an integral part of our breakfast. And when we started practicing what we preached to our children, they have become more forthcoming.

But why do we give so much importance to milk? This is because milk is one of the rich and healthy sources of dietary calcium. 99% of calcium found in our body is present in our bones and teeth and the remaining 1% is found in body fluids. Thus it is important to provide our body with adequate amounts of calcium, from healthy sources, to keep them strong and healthy. Besides promotion and maintenance of the structure of bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for blood clotting, stabilizing blood pressure, muscle contraction, nerve transmissions, and more. And if the body gets insufficient calcium, then it will draw it from the bones, in turn weakening them.

Calcium requirements may vary throughout the life span depending upon the age and sex. The average requirement of calcium ranges within 500 to 1300 mg amongst growing kids and 1000 to 1200 mg for adults. Plus, it is extremely important for pregnant and lactating women and those going through menopause, to also consume the recommended amounts of calcium. One of the best ways to avoid the risk of osteoporosis, in the middle years, is to include high sources of calcium in your daily diet right from childhood. Adequate calcium in the diet helps in the formation of healthy bones and teeth, which is why it is very important for growing children to consume the recommended amount of calcium, which they can largely procure from drinking at least 2 glasses of milk per day. The rest of the calcium required can come from other sources of calcium.

Apart from milk and milk products such as curd, cheese, yoghurt, paneer, and butter, calcium can be found in high quantities in tofu, soya milk, cabbage, celery, spinach and other leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, sesame,flaxseeds, herbs and spices, oranges, a variety of beans, eggs and ragi. In fact, those who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergy can also fulfill their quota of calcium with these non-milk sources.

 These recipes are packed with ingredients that have high calcium content. Must try!
                   

However, for the body to process the calcium properly, it also requires phosphorus and Vitamin D. The easiest and best way to get adequate quantities of this vitamin is to simply go for a morning walk and soak in the morning sunshine! For those who are unable to move out of their homes, spending some time in the balcony or sitting near a window that brings in plenty of sunshine, is also good.

Sadly, for today’s young fashion and zero-size-figure-driven generation, it has become far more important to stay thin rather than healthy. As a result of this fad, they skip some meals or eat less than is required by the body, or go on crazy diets, thus losing out on essential nutrients including calcium.

A lot of people these days prefer popping calcium and vitamin supplements instead of getting them from natural sources. This dependence on pills is justified by the highly over used “busy schedule” excuse. Tell me, how much of your time is it going to take to drink a glass of milk or eat a fruit? I’m sure any doctor will recommend you to get your daily requirement of calcium from natural food sources before turning to pills and supplements. Avoid buying over-the-counter calcium pills, unless advised by your doctor. The increased marketing of calcium and vitamin D tablets have almost convinced people that taking these supplements is necessary for staying healthy. A recent study has indicated that too much calcium can cause a build up in the arteries, affect cardiovascular functioning and can result in a heart attack and other heart related problems. This again goes on to show how important it is to have a balanced diet!

If your calcium levels are really low, the best way to increase it is by chewing on paan. Yes! Like most of the problems in our life, ayurveda has a solution for combating this condition as well! Spread some choona (calcium carbonate) on a betel leaf and stuff it with spices and condiments like elaichi, saunf, ajwain, laung with a bit of natural gulkand, can also help somewhat in making up for any calcium deficiency. However, for the paan to be effective in a positive way, you must make sure that you avoid any supari, katha or tobacco. It is also important to chew the entire thing and swallow it. Spitting out paan not only kills the benefits of it but is also a dirty and unhygienic practice.

The sedentary lifestyle that most of us have become accustomed to is the cause for several of these deficiencies, illnesses and stress in our lives. With small changes in our lifestyle, like eating right, exercising, and sleeping on time, it is very easy to live a happy life. We just need to be aware. If you know about the positive and negative effects of the choices that you make, you will automatically make the right ones. It is very similar in food. Some understanding about healthy foods, a balanced diet and the right cooking methods can go a great way in ensuring a healthy life. After all, a healthy life is a happy one!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Tiffins to please

Want to know what was packed in my tiffin box today? Alyona had packed delicious Punjabi kadhi, paneer and vegetable jhalfraezi, nachni ki rotis, brown rice, salad and yogurt. Wholesome and completely satiating. What did you have in your tiffin box?

What is tiffin?
Now before I go further let us dissect the word ‘tiffin’ which leaves a lot of people wondering what it actually means. When I was researching for my book on ‘Tiffin’ recipes, I found that the word tiffin was derived from the English slang tiffing. This word is now obsolete but it means ‘taking a little drink or sip’. In the present day it takes on a different meaning and pertains to food.

I further found that the word ‘tiffin’ as we understand now, originated in British India when the Indian custom of having light snacks replaced the British practice of afternoon tea. The wafer thin cucumber sandwiches and cookies that were served with the very British cup of hot tea in delicate china cups were replaced by mathris, samosas, chewda and the like. In South India tiffin is generally used for in-between-meal snacks which include dosas, idlis, medu vadas etc. So they have tiffin for breakfast in the mornings and tiffin in the afternoon too accompanied by cups of hot frothing filter coffee. However in other parts of India, including Mumbai, the word mostly refers to packed lunches that school children carry to schools or working people take to office.

When my daughters started full day school, Alyona would pack two tiffins for them – one for the short break and one for the long break. The one for the short break would be a smaller one in which she would pack sandwiches or biscuits or dhokla or khandvi or aloo tikki or some similar finger food. In contrast the other one would have wholesome foods like roti-sabzi rolls or some pulav or a pasta or some stuffed parantha or foods such as these. It really was some task for her, for the children expected something different every day. It was natural too for their friends too looked forward to their tiffin boxes.

How do you pack tiffins?
Tiffins can be packed variously: for example sandwiches can be packed in aluminium foil or in zip lock bags; you get airtight plastic boxes which are also leakproof besides being usable to reheat in a microwave oven. These days you get compact hot cases which keep the food hot.

In Mumbai there is this unique system whereby you need not carry your lunch with you. Tiffin dabbas are delivered at various destinations by around five thousand odd dabbawalas and they have been doing this without a break for over 125 years now. They deliver nearly two lakh tiffin dabbas everyday and that too on time. Their exceptional management and operational models have become subjects of management study in global business schools. It is a matter of pride that the dabbawalas have a Six Sigma quality certificate and a global business fan club that includes Prince Charles and Mr. Richard Branson.

Did you ask what’s so unique about this? First of all the dabbawalas are semi literate and have no formal education in management strategies. And yet the dabbas are picked up from various homes and delivered to workplace on time. Lunch over, the dabbas are once again collected from various offices and reached to their homes before the sun sets. Furthermore what is surprising is that a dabba is collected by one dabbawala and delivered to its destination by another and rarely is there any mix up. How do they manage to do this? It is because of wonderful teamwork and the way the team members manage the logistics with fabulous technical efficiency. The way it works is really difficult to comprehend by people like us who sit in the offices and expect their lunch dabbas to be delivered to them on time.

To better understand how they manage this I spoke to a dabbawala who delivers a couple of dabbas at our office. He explained thus: the dabbawalas provide the dabbas which are marked with a colour-coded notation which helps them to identify its owner and the destination where it has to be delivered. Once the dabbawalas collect the dabbas, they travel to the nearest railway station on bicycles, then board the train and reach the station nearest to the destination. There the dabbas are sorted out for area-wise distribution and then delivered. This way a single dabba change hands three to four times.

Fun filled lunch hour
In our office lunch hour is like a merry picnic. Tiffin boxes in different sizes and shapes come out and all of us sit at the same table, eat from our own dabbas as also from others’ amid lot of chatter and laughter. In fact whenever I am out of Mumbai I miss this wonderful hour of pleasant camaraderie for it also gives us the opportunity of tasting and learning new recipes.

What to pack in tiffins?
What kind of foods can be packed in the tiffin box? Anything that your child wants or anything that you wish to have at work. It can be a complete meal or it can be a compact meal like roti-sabzi or sandwiches or idli-chutney or vegetable upma or….the possibilities are many. But let me give you a suggestion that is based on my personal experience. When you pack your tiffin box, pack at least two portions or you may not get anything. Your colleagues would like to taste your food too, you see. Same is the case with your children – kids often look forward to eating from their friends’ boxes.

So you see you can make the tiffin a many splendoured one. Just let your creative imagination take over your kitchen and ladle out delicacies that will please everyone.

Here are some great tiffin recipes….

  
     Vegetable Grilled            Perfect Hakka Noodles            Olive Upma
         Sandwich          

Be in total control: eat right without thinking!

How wonderful it would be if we were able to eat right without thinking? Small daily habits are what add or subtract calories. Let us look at the subtraction tactics very seriously! If you follow these regularly they can help you incorporate foods you need into your daily diet while removing those you do not need. As time goes, you will be in total control of your nutritional intake. And all the better for it!

Tip 1: At breakfast, put coffee in your milk instead of milk in your coffee. Fill your mug to the rim with skimmed milk first thing in the morning. Drink it down until all that is left is the amount you would normally add to your coffee; then pour your coffee on top. You just took in a quarter of the vitamin D you need every day, and a third of the calcium.
Tip 2: Drink two glasses of water before every meal. This will do two things: keep you hydrated and make you eat a little less. A study shows that drinking two glasses of water can make you feel less hungry, possibly reducing your food intake and aiding weight loss.
Tip 3: Always order your pizza with double tomato sauce and light cheese. Ah, wasn’t it the other way round? To skimp calories go slow on the cheese. And lots of tomato sauce means more lycopene intake which has benefits. The same hold true with sandwiches. Always stack up the tomato slices in a sandwich.
Tip 4: Go for onions in a big way if you like them. Onions are healthful being a good source of flavonoids that are heart friendly. So use lavishly on hot dogs, pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches.
Tip 5: Junk food lovers should drink two glasses of water afterward. The burgers, fries, submarines are loaded with fat and sodium, which can be harmful for your heart. Well, one cannot do much about the fat once it is eaten, but you can flush away some of the excess sodium by drinking plenty of fluids. Another associated tip: when you are asked what you would like to drink, always ask for iced tea.
Tip 6: Have an afternoon treat. A snack between lunch and dinner keeps off fatigue. It should not be a chocolate bar! It could be some yogurt, or some fruit (with skin on!) or crackers with cheese, a hard boiled egg or an apple…
Tip 7: Whenever you have salad, keep the dressing on the side. You can actually enjoy a salad with the taste of the dressing by first dipping your fork in the dressing then spearing a piece of lettuce. It might look weird to your neighbour but know that this technique can save you loads of calories without compromising on the taste.
Tip 8: Have a second helping of vegetables. Try and take in at least one and half cups of vegetables every day. Vegetables ensure long-term good health so what’s in this small measure? Have them!
Tip 9: Cereal can help at night too! Cereals are not only for breakfast but also helpful as a low-fat, low-calorie carbohydrate snack eaten before bed in case hunger pangs are keeping you awake. Cereal is also one of the easiest ways to reduce your fiber deficit.
Tip10: Do not miss the dessert. Always eat a little of it. Sweets signal your brain that the meal is over. Without them, you might not feel satiated – which might leave you prowling the kitchen all night for something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
More on Healthy recipes.
Some ideas for healthy eating :
Till I write again

Sanjeev Kapoor.