Kavita Devgan, noted nutritionist and author, has come up with her recent book 500 Easy, Delicious, Healthy Recipes. For those looking to give their life a healthy culinary twist, this book might just be the one for them. We caught up with her to talk about how one can to jump-start his/her journey towards healthy living with minimal obstacles.
What was the idea behind the book?
All my earlier books (5 before this one) were written with the intent of spreading gyan… you know ways to eat better, get healthier, live holistically, lose weight the right way, exercise right, be mindful, avoid deficiencies and lifestyle disorders… So I thought it was time to make life easier for everyone with a book, a tool that can help them put all that gyan into practice. Also in my practice as a weight loss holistic health consultant, most people would request for healthy recipes all the time… so the concept of this book has been churning in my mind for a really long time.
A step up from Fix it with Foods, the idea behind this book is very simple – it is to actually help people eat all the foods that they know they must eat but just don’t for myriad reasons.
It is structured to make cooking easy, accessible, and actually fun, with the hope that this will encourage them to cook more at home. And cooking more and eating more home-cooked food I believe is a nonnegotiable lifestyle change that we need to make to get and stay healthy. I feel the pandemic has made the world realise that it is best to eat more at home, and I am hoping this lesson sticks. All people now need is encouragement and self-belief that it is doable. This book I believe will do this job well.
Your columns have developed a wide-ranging readership, where does writing a book come in, in terms of giving out unique and fresh recipes?
I have always maintained that writing helps me reach more people (as compared to my one-to-one counseling session) so I focus on that extensively and enjoy the process too. My multiple columns over the last two decades have served as a route for me to spread my ideas on health and healthy eating and the power of a preventive lifestyle to a wide audience.
It has helped me reach people across the world and the response has been very gratifying. My writing helps not just my readers but helps me connect to people too, and understand their mindset, needs, and requirements. Most of my books have been a result of the nuggets of information that I have gathered by understanding. what people need, or want to read, via my columns. For example, during the covid pandemic, I wrote the book The immunity diet because I felt people were scrambling to understand what immunity really was and to rise above the marketing-led perceptions and hypes, and myths floating around.
Around that time I also realized how people were finally understanding the importance of eating more home-cooked food but were feeling lost as most people were not really sure how to cook healthy yet tasty food. This is where the idea of doing a unique, practical, easy-to-follow recipe book came about. I have in any case been sharing recipes with my clients (who I counsel) and had been writing a column too, so putting the book together was a breeze and before I realized it I had to cap the book at 500 recipes… as my editor said no more, please.
How would you describe “stress-free” cooking.
Over the years cooking from being a stress buster had become a chore that caused stress to most people. I find this sad as I believe to be able to cook food that is food for our body, eventually turns out good for our soul too. I wrote this book to make sure that people don’t find cooking a job and get back to their kitchens happily.
This book is targeted at all kind of cooks – the regular everyday cooks, to those who like to step into the kitchen once a week or so… those who have help at home, and those who usually order in, but now wants to eat simple, easy to make home fare. This book is for the mothers who are tired of planning different menus for three meals (and snacks) day after day, bachelors who want to whip up a quick dinner after a tough day at work, and also for those who like to eat variety but are not sure how to include vegetables, grains, and lentils they have never cooked (or maybe even liked) like say spinach or millets or quinoa or lobiya. It has recipes that appeal to the nutritionist and cook in me. I can’t and do not wish anyone else to compromise on the health quotient of what they eat, but at the same time I understand that unless the food is tasty, acceptability and sustainability are not possible, plus I am personally a lazy cook (can’t fathom spending hours and hours in the kitchen) and also understand that most of us are pressed for time… that is why I was convinced that Easy, Delicious, Healthy… are the three criteria that every single recipe in the book must meet.
Do you feel Indian audiences have now become more health conscious? Does that transformation become challenging for chefs?
I think we as a society were moving towards health (as opposed to just weight loss) slowly but surely over the last decade or so but the covid pandemic hastened the process exponentially. Now I feel there is a newfound surge in the number of people looking to get healthy as opposed to just losing weight. I see that firsthand in my practice as a holistic health consultant. And as I work with and advise many chefs and restaurant chains too I get to see firsthand the impact this has had on the hospitality industry too, and trust me it is very positive. Chefs have taken on this challenge – of merging health with taste – fabulously and the result is clear for everyone to see and experience. As the demand for eating healthy surged most restaurants have adapted rather well, and delivered.
Finally, how can one look at cooking as not merely as a necessity but as a meditative skill?
Well, I strongly believe that cooking is the new meditation skill; actually, it is age-old but is making a comeback. More and more people are beginning to enjoy the process to making as much as eating the meal. it is a wonderful way to be present, to be mindful, and then rejoice at the end result. Cooking is a multi-sensory experience that requires you to pay attention to your five senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste, and to be able to do this is a crucial skill that can help improve our well-being via flow, creativity and skill development. Plus cooking makes us feel satisfied and grateful. These are strong positive emotions that are linked to improved well-being.
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