Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why we need Disruptive Eating

Our concept revolves around so many WHYS.
Why 70% of US population are overweight?
Why obesity rate in the US inched up to 36% despite everyone’s Herculean effort at the price tag of $100 billion plus per year for the last 10 years at least?
Why obesity rate for African American women is 56%, Hispanics women 46%? Is the low income populace disproportionately affected?
Despite of such hullabaloo about obesity or overweight prevalence, why 60% of adult US population does not know about BMI, the body mass index?
Why per capita per day meat consumption in the US is 330 gms, way above than 220 gms for Europe and more than double, 160 gms for China? 1 pound = 454 gms and 1 Oz = 28 gms
Why 64% of world agriculture land is used for animals’ feed?
Why world meat consumption accounts for 21% of greenhouse gases, more than emission by all modes of the transportation from the aero-planes to the motorbikes.
Why the world meat consumption pattern is 36% pork, 31% chicken, 25% beef, 6% goat when one pound of goat needs 127 gallons of water, beef 1800 gallons, pork 600, lamb 700, chicken 500.
Why Heritage food USA has ‘Eat Goat to Save Goat’ campaign? Male baby goats are killed within a week of birth as there is no demand for the goat meat in the US. The goat cheese is wildly popular though.
Given the goat is healthier than even chicken, see MSU article ‘Why Goat’ at our website. For the same amount of meat, the Goat uses 1/3rd of grass needed for beef and 1/5th of grain for pork.
The whole grain is good. Why Sam’s club and GFS don’t have parboiled rice and whole wheat flour and they are two biggest suppliers for the restaurants here in the US? White rice or bread is not whole grain.
Why protein is meat or meat is protein here in US? People are eating excess protein and that too from the wrong source. Adult man just needs 56 gms and woman 46 gms of protein.
Why lentils is not eaten here even when Canada is the largest producer of lentils? Lentils may be the cheapest source of protein as well as the dietary fiber?
Why people here is the way out of ideal #ProteinProfile of 25:25:50 for meat:milk:vegan? This is my take, no survey here.
Why the US alone wastes $165 billion of food, 60% by the grocers, 40% by the consumers.
Like there are so many Whys. If these Whys bother you, you may agree that  we need to disrupt the way we eat, hence the Nirmal for Disruptive Eating. We rely on four things:
1.  You don’t need ‘Meat for Protein’ - Focus on alternate protein like lentils, soya chunks, tofu and other legumes which has more or equal protein with much less fat- key to achieve the ideal #ProteinProfile. #MeatFree is not about eating vegetables and fruits as they are not protein.
2.  The world is not becoming vegetarian overnight - Focus on the goat meat – healthier than chicken and most sustainable meat, we devised a way to serve the boneless goat, a first for any restaurant.
3.  Why Indian food is the key to #DisruptiveEating – first, lentils and goat meat are staple food items in Indian cuisine, India being 2nd largest producer of both. Second, Indian food is Curry based. Curry is made from the base sauce of tomato or onion or spinach mixed with plenty of spices. It makes the food tastier. Like you eat Soya curry or Chicken curry, your taste buds won’t complain because they would enjoy the dominant taste of the spices in Curry. No surprise India has 500 million vegetarians, 65% of total vegetarians in the world. Third, Curry is liquid and you are forced to eat with the whole grain, rice or bread like we can’t drink our lunch or dinner. And fourth, because your stomach is limited and you are eating more whole grain, you are eating less meat, hence avoiding the excess protein and excess fat.

   Curry may counter the recent WHO guidelines which revolve around the processed meat and the red meat. But the issue is cooking at the high temperatures as people here normally eat grilled meat. See this link:
   The boiled or stewed meat could be a solution. Any curry with its ingredients is boiled and cooked with the meat or vegetables at 220-30 F. And it is far better and healthier. See this link -http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2222970/Boiled-stewed-meat-better-heart-burgers-grilled-steak.html
4. Food exclusion is not the forced eating – As a food vendor or the restaurant, we can limit the choices. Two examples here. We used to have both-the white bread called Naan and the whole wheat bread called Roti-at Nirmal.  Similarly we used to have the lamb and the goat and both taste almost same. We discarded the Naan and the lamb altogether. The patrons complained initially but majority of them made switch to Roti and Goat off course knowing why we did take such drastic step. Like Naan is synonymous with Indian cuisine here in the US and we may have lost 20% of the sales.

The obesity rate for the Asians including Indians in the US is 12% as compared to 36% for the general population. As we Asians are not very much in the physical exercising, our food and eating style does play a greater role. Given that being overweight or obese is precursor to most of the health issues we face today, a reduction of 20-25% overweight prevalence in the next 5-10 years has potential to bring the healthcare costs down drastically.
What we need? We need Nirmals all across the US. First to provide food what we vouch for- the protein substitutes and the goat meat. Nirmal may be among 2-3 restaurants serving the goat meat or may be among 10-20 restaurants serving lentils or soya chunks out of 300+ restaurants in Washtenaw county.
Second, the message. The restaurants are the best way to convey any message as people eat almost half of their meals outside. For example, you interact with Nirmal once, you won’t forget BMI. From our logo to our menu to the entrance poster to our toll-free number – BMI can’t escape from your attention.
Third, Nirmal makes Indian food affordable and positions it as a tastier and healthier alternative to the tacos, burgers and pizzas, the low income populace does not have access to the healthy food.
What Disruptive eating does – empower each of us to change the world-how?
First, the health equality – key to fight the income and educational inequality – 3 components of the social inequality.
Second, less meat consumption, less greenhouse gas, we join fight against the climate change, if 100 million people in the US skip meat one day per week, total savings of meat would be whopping 3.6 billion pound a year
Third, say lentils and goat become hugely popular here and in the world, both have similarity, could be grown anywhere, lentils have drought resistant varieties, Canada is the largest producer, goat could be raised anywhere from the Himalayas to the sub-Saharan Africa and we don’t need the farms to raise the goats. Both could be great tools to fight the global poverty and hunger. How?
The world has almost 20% of unused or infertile land. Why can’t we grow lentils? The lentils crop makes the land fertile in the long run. Or say the meat consumption pattern reverses in next 10-20 years for goat with 50%, chicken 30%, how much savings it would entail in the grass and grain.
How many poor people we can feed from this saved grain? How much agriculture land we can free from the animals’ feed and use it for the humans’ produce or the human living. The world population would be 9 billion in 2050 from the current population of 7 Billion and we need food and space both to accommodate them.
Recently I was accepted as a leader by PreventObesity.net. We may be the first food vendor in their rank. Another first would be our App or video game for disruptive eating (still at concept stage). Like we can’t stay away from the disruptive technology for long. This App would be a game changer and would take real and imaginary inputs and outputs. Like you just go on entering what you eat, whether you use recycled or bio-degradable products, how much food you throw, how many minutes do you work-out, how many times a week you cook at home. You can get bonus points for eating goat and lentils and get penalized for eating excess protein or calorie. The point you earn can use for fighting the drought in a country, saving a town from the tornado or getting drowned due to the global warming or feeding the hungry people all over the world-the imaginary outputs. Then based on your effort, you could be among 10 Heroes to be featured at Nirmal website every year with some real benefits.
The key is #EatRight not just #EatHealthy. Eat Healthy takes care of self. #EatRight starts from the self to the family to the community to the country to the planet. ‘I am OK’ is not enough, we need to care for others being OK too. Like we can go to a restaurant and ask for whole wheat bread or the goat meat or the soya chunks. This may work for the Indian restaurants easily as the curry is so flexible. And yes there are 3500+ Indian restaurants in the US. That would create the demand. We the people can challenge the status quo, very few businesses do.
The history has our back. Just in this same community, President Kennedy in 1960 at the University of Michigan asked us to serve and change the world and the peace corps was born. And it made USA unique and stand tall in the world. We have another opportunity to make the world better just with #EatRight and bring a food revolution starting from here. The world needs that, are you ready?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Why #EatRight resonates with the Valentine’s Day

Today is the Valentine’s Day. As the world celebrates the message of love and compassion, #EatRight in 7 steps empowers each of us to take it further from ourselves to the family & friends to the community to the country to our planet. And It is so fitting for 2 largest democracies of the world – the India and the US-to be the part of this democratization by bringing Indian food to the mainstream US populace. Off course we are not donning the mantle of Columbus the explorer who like many traders of his time was sailing to India for its spices and discovered the US. So the history connects us here.
 Let me start with an incident from the last week. The health inspector of our county came calling in one afternoon. Like we do have half-yearly surprised inspection which we have had in January. So we were a bit flustered. She had come on a customer’s complaint. The complaint was about how we are serving the meat with tofu in a vegetarian item. We were taken aback. Like we do allow co-creation in which our patrons ‘make their own curry’ and we allow them to put 2 items in their choice of curry. Like goat chickpeas korma or tofu chicken kadahi.
We finally figured out what was the issue. We do offer Food Box in $5 with 5 items as a substitute for the buffet. We want to position this as a tastier and nutritious alternative to the tacos, burgers and pizzas. In fact, the Food Box is ‘Curry in Hurry’ given that Indian food may easily be the slowest food. So one day for lunch we had Tofu Chili, Chili being an Indo Chinese sauce. We mix soya chunks (Nutrela brand, not Nutella here) in this item because tofu is also made of soya. I would tell you why. I have been eating soya chunks of the same brand for the last 25 years or so and it is perfect meat substitute, please see our website. It has more protein than any meat item with almost zero fat. So we tell patrons about it and give it for sampling. So when a patron complained it about being meat, we were happy. Finally someone from the local populace confirmed it tasted like the meat. The health inspector did not know about it and we showed her what it is and how we use it.
But what distressed us was why he has to complain this to the health department. Like if we eat or get take-out and find something abnormal, we call first the restaurant, not the health department. Let me admit we do face greater scrutiny for everything and I can understand why. India is a poor country with lot of poor but there is nothing wrong with our food, culture or intellect. And yes India got independence only in 1947 after 1000 years of servitude first under the Muslim rulers followed by the British empire.
I remember talking to one patron about India having 500 million vegetarians, 65% of the world vegetarians and he thought it is because of poverty. I explained on two counts. First, only 125 million of this 500 million are ‘Eggatarian’, like they eat egg, no meat. And I don’t think the vegetables are cheaper than egg. Second, the poor in India do eat all kind of meats from the rats to the birds to the pork and beef. Don’t get surprised. India do have 85% Hindu majority population and the cow is revered, hence no beef for the majority. No sure about why we Hindus don’t eat pork, may be due to the long period of Muslim rule. Pork is strict no-no for the Muslims. So the beef and pork are cheaper than the goat and chicken, 2 most popular meats in India. What I was trying to emphasis our ‘Curry’ makes veggie eating easier and I asked him to try Tofu Tikka Masala or Chicken Tikka Masala and tell me the difference. He could not agree less.
Talking of Curry, one more thing I would bring it here. Curry is made from the base sauce of onion, tomato, or spinach, mixed with plethora of spices. Curry is liquid and trust me it is messy. Its handling and spill-over here and there make it tough to keep kitchen or the floor outside clean all the time. Most of the reviews revolve around our cleanliness. But it does not impact our food anyway. Like our curry is cooked at 200 F and it is served hot. The spices need boiling at high temperatures to get dissolved with the base sauce and also to seep in the meat or the vegetables. Same with the parboiled rice and the whole wheat bread. Only cold item we have is Rice Pudding, a dessert, served from the cooler at 40 F. Touch wood, I have not heard yet any food borne illness or recall coming out from the Indian restaurants or the Indian groceries.
Take our culture, I talk about Gita and Yoga for the mental and spiritual health as the final and 7th step for #EatRight. Gita is equivalent to the Bible and the Koran and celebrated its 5151 st anniversary two years back. I always marvel at its relevance as well as resilience if you think of onslaught it suffered almost for 1000 years. Another 1000 years was in the news last week when Pope met with the Russian orthodox church leader last week. And how their parting of the ways led to the birth of so many denominations of the church was on their agenda. Yoga is more popular in the US than India though its democratization is far away in the future.
In 2014 India sent a shuttle to the Mars, the fourth country to do so after Russia, US, and Europe. But 2 things stood out. First, only India did it in the first try. Second, it spent only $60 million whereas it was almost $600 million price tag for the US. Just for comparison, one F 22 fighter jet costs $90 million. So being poor is not always bad. It pushes you to find the ways to achieve the same result with the limited resources. 
See we humans are the social animals with lot of prejudices and biases. No surprise the most of turmoil in our community could be attributed to our mindset. Let us take the first step with #EatRight and let ‘Power of We’ do the wonders, a fitting tribute to St Valentine.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Indian food is more than just delicious

2016 started on very positive note for us as I was accepted as a leader for PreventObesity.net. PreventObesity.net, a subsidiary of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is fighting the childhood obesity in the US and we are proud to be the part of its huge network of 3800+ leaders and 300 K supporters all across the US. Also it is one of two organizations with links at Let’s Move, the First Lady’s initiative to fight the childhood obesity. So it is a kind of megaphone for our concept of ‘Disruptive Eating’ which we practice and promote at Nirmal.
When Nirmal was launched in Aug 2013, our first aim was to fight the obesity or overweight prevalence in the US as evident from the title of our blog you are reading. Though now we have broadened our canvass with linking #DisruptiveEating to the fight against the troika of global issues – the warming, the poverty and the hunger. Please read our earlier posts. We want to demonstrate that the eating may be the most mundane part of our daily routine, its impact is far reaching if we #EatRight.
Then I came across an article from the Washington Post~ a scientific explanation of what makes Indian food delicious - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/03/a-scientific-explanation-of-what-makes-indian-food-so-delicious/ . This article talks about how Indian food has so many ingredients read spices with no overlap of flavors unlike the other cuisines. When I say your taste buds won’t be able to differentiate between Chicken Tikka Masala or Tofu Tikka Masala, I am talking about the spices in our curry, Tikka Masala here. The flavor of the spices is so dominant that Chicken or Tofu takes the back seat. ‘Curry’ is the main reason why India has 500 million vegetarians, 65% of the world.
For the last 2 years, when we launched ‘Nirmal for Disruptive Eating’, I am kind of struggling to pitch ‘Indian food’ as the flag-bearer of our concept. And the reason lies in my childhood and my grandmother’s phrase. When I was 10 and whenever I used to ask her ‘May I eat this or that’, her constant response was ‘Aprup Bhojan Parrup Sringar’ in my mother tongue Hindi. It translates to 'you eat as per your choice but you dress as per others’ choice.' But then whenever I tell my kids about their dress or their make-up, pat come their reply, you are outdated or this is the new trend. So I use to tell myself it’s time to move over from the childhood’s phrase as the world is changing fast, really? At least not the way we are eating.
But the deal clincher turned out to be the last year’s obesity report. Despite everyone’s Herculean effort, the obesity rate has inched up to 36%. Specially 56% among the African American women and 46% among Hispanics women were heart-breaking. When we launched #DisruptiveEating on the social media last year on the Mothers’ Day, it was just not symbolic. We entrusted the mothers to ensure #EatRight in 7 steps. And when the mothers themselves are struggling with their own obesity, how they could take care of kids and other family members?
See something is very wrong somewhere. Because the way we are eating now is not good for our own health or the community’s health or the Planet’s health. Let me share why?
First, here 70% population are overweight and 36% are obese. 60% of adult population does not know Body Mass Index (BMI). The #ProteinProfile is way out of ideal 25:25:50 (my take, no science involved yet), the ratio of Meat:Milk:Vegan here be 60:30:10, my guess-estimate. We are eating excess meat and excess protein, less whole grain, less veggie, less fruit.
64% of agriculture land is used for growing feed for the animals and birds what we eat eventually. Is not this absurd? Like in 2050 the world population would be 9 billion from present 7 billion. We need these agriculture land back to feed these people. Also the meat consumption alone accounts for 21% of greenhouse gases, more than all modes of transportation combined.
Then now the pattern of the world’s meat consumption is 36% pork, 31% chicken, 25% beef and 6% goat. But one pound of beef needs 1800 gallons of water, 700 for pork, chicken 500 and goat only 127. And the goat, a red meat, is healthier than even Chicken. Read MSU article on our website. Then why we don’t eat goat? Goat cheese is wildly popular in the US but we have ‘Eat Goat to Save Goat’ campaign from Heritage Foods USA. Trust me I grew up eating goat in India, I can vouch for its taste and now the science too.
So why we need Nirmal for Disruptive Eating? Because the food part of our venture revolves around 2 themes – First, You don’t need ‘Meat for Protein’ and we offer the lentils, soya chunks, tofu at Nirmal as the meat substitutes. Second, for the non-vegetarians, the goat is the best choice. And how Indian food is the best for our concept? Because both the lentils and the goat are the staple food items in Indian cuisine, India being the 2nd largest producer in the world for both. Also our eating style, more whole grain less meat, because of ‘Curry’ is the key to achieve the ideal #ProteinProfile.
Lentils is the cheapest and the best source of protein and dietary fiber combined. How many of us know Canada is the largest producer of the lentils? Then why we don’t eat lentils here by correlation? Like it is far easy and affordable to cook lentils, parboiled rice or whole wheat bread at home.
When I talk about ‘Power of We’, I think of how we the people can change the narrative for everything. We designed Nirmal to cater to disruptive eating. Like 5000+ Nirmals all across the US can disrupt the existing US food industry. But there are 3500+ Indian restaurants in the US and you can change the way they do business. Like you can ask for whole wheat bread called Roti (from Tawa) or Parboiled rice or the goat or less dairy or vegan option for anything or ask 2 items in your curry like we do at Nirmal. How about goat tofu Kadahi? Like due to Curry, Indian food is flexible, not any rigid standard for any item.
It took us almost 18 months to discard the Naan, the white bread and the Tandoor oven, a special type of oven used to make the Naan and other Tandoori items. The article at our website ‘Why Whole Wheat’ triggered our action which tells how one whole wheat bread is equivalent to eight white breads. Let me admit Tandoori chicken could be easily the tastiest item in Indian food and it is healthier too. But the Tandoor oven consumes 3 times more energy than Tawa and it is a health hazard for the person using it specially making the Naan. Not worth the taste.
Two more things I would share. My research for how to make an Indian food chain in 2008-9 enabled me to crisscross the US from Texas to Michigan to Seattle to New Jersey. I used to ask the chefs and the owners of various Indian restaurants, why you use so much cream in Curry. Like I never saw any dairy or cream in my Mom or Grandma’s kitchen. Their answer was because the Americans like it. Then I countered how the Chinese food is the most popular ethnic food in the US without a single drop of cream in their food. Why you do the buffet, not good for business or for the patrons’ health? Like in India, only 2% high end restaurants do the buffet, here 95%. Or why you use MSG (Mono Sodium Glumate) in your food specially Biryani? MSG, commonly known in India as Azinomotto (the company who makes it) is used mostly in the Chinese food and it is not banned by FDA here. But it is not good for health, read this - http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/21/msg-is-this-silent-killer-lurking-in-your-kitchen-cabinets.aspx .
Second, the reviews about the Indian restaurants. We get kind of nasty and weird reviews. Like the Biryani was awful, in one sentence no why. Yes because once you get used to MSG, our MSG-free would taste awful. One more reason, it is made from Parboiled rice which is 80% nutritionally similar to the Brown rice. And the white rice of any kind, Basmati or others is not even whole grain. We don’t even have Basmati rice or Naan, the white bread. Because we want you to watch out for #GlycemicIndex (GI). Or Nirmal is a restaurant or the Nutritionist’s clinic? Yes come to Nirmal, you won’t see ever the Nutritionist’s office, our guarantee. Like we are ready to fight back such ignorance come what may.
But then I started looking the reviews all across the US and I was shocked. How the same buffet or the Curry could be excellent and awful on the same day at the same restaurant? See yes Indian food has no rigid standards to follow but such a huge gap? Then I realized why and that too from my previous experiences in India. On 3 occasions, I was not able to complete my lunch or dinner because of food so alien to my taste buds. Once in Mumbai, the New York of India, for a chicken item made with coconut oil, not milk as they do in Kerala. Once in Nagaland, the North-Eastern part of India, again the chicken item. Once in Surat, Gujrat for the vegetarian food as all items had so much sugar in it. Like there are 22 languages with the pride of place in Indian constitution but as the saying goes, the dialect and the food change every 100 miles in India. So I grew up in the eastern part of India and our family eat the North Indian food with more cream once or twice a month and the South Indian food may be once in 6 months. Yah sometimes we do find some items bizarre for our taste but I never felt confident to slam those items as awful. Like for the Americans if they started eating Indian food with Punjabi (north Indian) restaurant or chef, they won’t like the South Indian food. Indian food uses 200 out of total 381 or so flavors as mentioned in the Washington Post article and not all flavors you can like. And it does not make any food awful if you don’t like it. Off course I am not talking about something being stale or not fresh.
Here is our choice! Go for Disruptive Eating and eat what the mother nature has given us. Off course we need to tweak our eating habits. Or wait for synthetic burger for its price to come down from $350 K in 2013 to $3.50 in when? No guess here!