Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why we need 'Disruptive Eating'

I met one college friend recently almost after 8 years. We touched base on the family, the college days and what we are doing now. Naturally now-a-days, I talk a lot about ‘disruptive eating’ and how each of us can make a global impact through such mundane act of eating. He listened to me for 10 minutes. Then he stopped me and asked me a question?

What does the plants eat? I replied ~ Carbon Dioxide and the plants exhale oxygen.
What we inhale? I replied ~ Oxygen and exhale the carbon dioxide.
So if we go on reducing the carbon, what the plants would eat? Basically we are reducing the food supply for the plants. Specially he was very unhappy with the government interference in imposing the carbon cut.
I was kind of stumped. Like we went to the same school here. I knew his political leaning but never imagined the degree to which this debate has degraded here in the US.
I did mumble through my response that his concern is not true. I asked him, how much meat he eats in a day? He said, may be a pound. I asked, assume if he gets 3 pounds of meat every day, what he would do? He said, I can’t overeat, this is not good for my health. I would throw it away.
So I said similarly the plants can’t overeat, and they need to throw away the carbon dioxide, where, to our atmosphere. That is what is causing the global warming. But he was not convinced.
So during the same week, I mentioned this encounter to my family. My high-school going daughter was kind of alarmed. She asked me, what was the world population in 1800? She is studying now in her history class about the industrial revolution around 1850 or so. And there were no motor vehicles either that time. I saw where she is coming from. In 1800, there was almost no pollution (extraneous carbon), less human and more trees. Why the less trees now need the carbon dioxide from the outside?
It set me out on some research trail. In 1800, there were approx. 900 million people in the world. Today the world forest cover is 4 Billion hectare. The annual net loss of the world forest coverage is 5.2 million hectare now. This net loss has reduced considerably in the last 10 years. 1 hectare can hold 1000-2500 trees depending on the size, separation etc. The world population now is around 7 Billion and by one estimate there are around 600 to 700 Billion trees now. Whatever way you extrapolate or interpolate, in 1800, there could be 1.5 trillion trees or more.
I wish I could have shared this data with my friend to authenticate my ‘overeating’ logic. But the real problem is 40% of population here shut them off from any debate about the climate change. Today we have a report from NASA on CNN and I am sure the naysayers won’t click the link ~ . No surprise when some republican governors are not ready to utter the CC (climate change) thing.
This debate with my friend put us into the urgency mode and we launched our campaign for ‘disruptive eating’ on the social media on the Mothers’ Day on 10th May 2015. I believe ‘Nirmal for disruptive eating’ can take this message to all and sundry more effectively. How?
Let me disseminate the disruptive eating. Ours is a comprehensive approach to tackle the social inequality and the climate change.
·         The social inequality has 3 components. The health inequality holds the key to overcome the income and educational inequality, the other 2 components.
·         The first step to achieve the health equality is to know your BMI (body mass index), the first stage of the ‘disruptive eating.’ 74% of the population in the US are overweight or obese, majority from the low income populace. Once you know BMI, even subconsciously you start to take care of eating.

·         At Nirmal, from our logo to the toll-free phone no of 844-KNOW-BMI to the poster at the entrance, you can’t miss the message.

·         At the second stage of ‘disruptive eating’, our message is you don’t need meat for protein and there are so many options in Indian cuisine from the lentils to soya chunks to spinach to chickpeas. Incidentally Canada is the largest producer of the lentils.

·         Indian food is curry based and this plays a role in having 500 million vegetarians in India, almost 42% of the population. The curry contains plethora of beneficial spices and the base sauce. With the chicken or soya chunks, the curry dominates your taste buds.

·         If the 100 million people in the US skips meat once a week, there could be saving of 3.6 Billion pound of meat. The meat consumption alone accounts for 21% of the greenhouse gases, the main culprit for the global warming.

·         The global food security is tied to reduced meat consumption as well as the food wastage all around us. We discarded the buffet and put a unique 1-page menu to reduce the food wastage. We are the first Indian restaurant to introduce 8 Oz entrees.

Please read the link ~

·         We stopped using the Tandoor oven due to the higher energy consumption (used in 95% of Indian restaurants in the US) and discarded the naan (white flour bread) made in Tandoor oven. We give our patrons just one option, the whole wheat bread. Our poster blares~ Eat Healthy, Save Energy, Save our planet.

·         For the non-vegetarians, our message is ‘Eat Goat.’ Goat is healthier than even chicken and Goat is far better substitute for beef and pork in the long term. ‘Nirmal’ may be the only restaurant serving goat meat in Michigan. Goat meat consumption can reduce the greenhouse gases due to reduction in the pastures and grains needed for beef and pork.

·        Goat could be reared anywhere from the Himalayas to the sub-Saharan Africa. The popularity of the goat meat could impact the global economy in big way. It is called poor man’s cow and may provide the milk and the source of income to the poor.

·        At the third stage of ‘disruptive eating’, we aim to make Indian food affordable. We replaced the buffet with $5 Food box (5 items). This avoids the food wastage as well as the overeating, a constant complaint of our patrons for the buffet. 95% of Indian restaurants do buffet here in the US and only 2% in India.

·         We promote the ‘home cooking’ by sharing various recipes through the social media. The mothers, the bedrock of any family, have all important role to play here and the home cooking can bring the price of lunch or dinner by half. We plan to launch the free cooking classes at Nirmal during the summer.

·         The low income people are still stuck in the burgers, pizzas or tacos. We want them to make switch to the lentils, the whole wheat bread (roti) and the Basmati rice, all foods with low glycemic index and covers the protein and dietary fiber requirements. The low glycemic index foods play a role in the weight loss or control.

·         At the fourth stage, at Nirmal, our patrons get a sense of gratification. They use the bio-degradable products, they can skip the meat and/or can eat goat meat. In all respects, they contribute towards the reduction of the greenhouse gases.

·        We believe that the physical health is tied to the mental and spiritual health. Hence we share ‘Gita’ and ‘Yoga’ with our patrons, the 2 pillars of Indian spirituality. We want to expose the patrons to Indian culture along with Indian food. 

The restaurants have very high visibility in the US as the majority eat outside. We believe we can convey our message unobtrusively through Nirmal specially to the young generation. Imagine 500+ Nirmals all across the US. Once more and more people get the message and get convinced, the politicians would follow the suit.

We are actively looking for the like-minded people and the organizations to take this concept further by expanding the Nirmal franchise as well as publishing the book and video game or app on the 'disruptive eating.'

Friday, May 8, 2015

'disruptive eating' simplified

The 'disruptive eating' consists of 4 stages. Each stage of activities or actions has its own reasons.

First stage is to inform people about the healthy eating and the healthy drinking ~ the mantra for Nirmal. Please visit our website and see ‘Nirmal at a glance.’

From the ‘BMI chart’ at the entrance, we have put various posters which our patrons can not ignore. Then we have our toll free phone number ~ 844-KNOW-BMI or our logo which leaves no one in doubt about our intention.

Let us talk about the magnitude of the obesity or overweight prevalence problem. There was a global conference in Nov 2014 at Rome, Italy under the auspices of FAO, UN. 2 Billion people out of 7 Billion world population are obese or overweight and the price tag to fight this is $1 trillion. In the US, 74% of the population are obese or overweight and the price tag to fight this menace is $116B. Incidentally in Nov 2014, FDA here in the US came out with the guideline that any restaurant chain with 20 or more locations need to post the ‘calorie count’ for their food items within a year. It may include the food vendors at the cinema halls, the grocery stores selling the food items. This is good first step, but is that enough given the magnitude of the problem. The New York city has such guidelines since 2004-5 and the survey after survey have pointed out that only 30% of the patrons took notice of it.

At Nirmal, our message is so explicit that 90% of the patrons have taken notice of it whether it is BMI or why eat lentils or Goat meat is healthier than Chicken. Majority have appreciated it though someone has called these weird, the dietician office etc. We believe we need to speak out loud if we need to take our message specially to the low income or less educated populace which are disproportionately affected by this menace. And the best place is the restaurants where everyone visits once or twice a week.

The second stage of ‘disruptive eating’ is the content of the message which is aimed at dispelling so many myths. And then why Indian cuisine for the disruptive eating?

Indian cuisine has 2 staple food items ~ lentils and whole wheat bread (roti) besides plenty of vegetarian and vegan options alongside the goat meat for the non-vegetarians. Let me explain how the disruptive eating revolves around these food items.

For example, here in the US, the meat is synonymous with the protein. We have put the nutrition chart on the back page of the menu or the walls of the dining hall which depicts that the lentils or the soya chunks have twice or more protein than the meat for the same quantity. Lot of people want to avoid the meat on the various grounds, what are their options? Indian food is ‘Curry’ based food. ‘Curry’ is a kind of gravy which is made from some base sauce like tomato or onion with the plethora of spices. Once you develop the taste of curry with the spices, you won’t even notice if you are eating soya chunks or Chicken. India has 500 millions vegetarians more than all vegetarians combined all over the world and the credit goes to the curry based food. Population wise 42% of India’s population is vegetarian as compared to only 8% in the US. So Indian food makes the choice of vegetarian eating much easier.

India is 2nd largest producer of the lentils and we consume it all in India as the lentils is the staple food item. On the other hand, Canada is the largest producer and the largest exporter too of the lentils. Lentils or legumes may be the only excellent source of the protein as well as the dietary fiber. Similarly India is 2nd largest producer of wheat too, no surprise why roti is staple food item for 60% of us Indians.

Take the calorie chart for the meat items used by us. The goat meat, a red meat, is healthier than Chicken. The guideline proposed by FDA is deceptive. Say if some food joint uses 70 gms of meat in beef burger as compared to 100 gms of meat in chicken burger, the calorie count would be almost the same. And people may miss that chicken is far healthier than beef.

India is 2nd largest producer of the goat meat (150 million head as compared to 4 million in the US). Needless to mention, the goat meat is very popular in India and with Indian spices, anyone can get hooked to goat meat items at Nirmal specially goat curry and goat biryani. In Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti region, no Chinese (China has the largest goat population) or Mediterranean or  American restaurant serve the goat meat. So if someone wants to try goat meat, what is their option?

At Nirmal, we provide plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, only whole wheat bread and the goat meat for the non-vegetarians.

The third stage of ‘disruptive eating’ is to position Indian food in competition with the pizza, taco or burger or specially the Subway sandwich. At present Indian food may be considered elite, one meal costing around $9-$10 at the minimum. We have brought it down to $5 introducing Food Box for lunch or dinner which contains 5 items. Food Box is a healthier alternative to the buffet. Eventually with our aim to impart the free cooking classes and the sharing of the recipes through the social media, we can bring it down more if cooked at home. We introduced various options in the menu such as 8 Oz entrees or the only curry which makes it cheaper for everyone to try Indian food. Also we changed the way we cook food to keep our food fresh as well as cheaper by minimizing the wastage. At Nirmal we have decided to remove the ‘Tandoor oven’ used to make the white flour bread (naan) from the kitchen which would bring down the labor charges as well as the energy cost. Various innovations can sustain us for the first 2 years of our operation, the period which we need to get our message through to the targeted population.

We need to wean away the populace who are still eating the pizza, taco or burger and provide them with a healthier option in the form of Indian food. This segment of population is not in good physical health and this is a huge barrier to overcome the health inequality. And we believe that the health inequality is the biggest impediment to fight the other 2 components of the social inequality ~ the income inequality and the education inequality.

The final and fourth stage of the ‘disruptive eating’ has 2 components ~ first to provide a sense of gratification to our patrons and second, to expose them to the culture associated with Indian cuisine. Say for example 100 million people out of 330 million population in the US skips meat a day per week, the total savings in the meat production is 3.6 billion pound (average per capita per day meat consumption is 330 gms in the US). The meat production accounts for 21% of the green house gases, the main culprit for the global warming. At Nirmal we use the bio-degradable products and our patrons sense that they are also a part of this big endeavor of reducing the global warming.

All of us know that the beef and the pork are not sustainable meats and no surprise we humans are trying to develop the synthetic meat. The unveiling of $350K burger last year is still fresh in our memory. The goat rearing could turn out to be an alternative as meat as well as to combat the world hunger problem. The goat could be reared in any weather from the Himalayas to the sub Saharan Africa and the goat does not need the pasture required for the beef meat and the food grain for the pork meat. The goat is always considered as a poor man’s cow and it is high time we bring it to the mainstream.

Indian food comes with a 5000 years of the culture and the traditions. ‘Gita’ and ‘Yoga’ are 2 integral parts of Indian culture and the exposure of these to our patrons would bring the mental and spiritual well being along with the good physical health.

In a nutshell, the disruptive eating addresses 2 most glaring issues of our generation ~ the social inequality and the climate change. And 500+ Nirmals in the US can make a huge global impact. Please read other posts here to get an idea about our thought process.
We are in the process of publishing a video game or app and a book on the ‘disruptive eating’ to bring our concept to the masses in the US and beyond.