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New crop of health cafes making eating out healthier



Indians may have a soft corner for ”maa ke haath ka khana”, but the urge to gorge on that street side pav bhaji topped with a dollop of butter or check out that new restaurant serving greasy Chinese food has almost been irresistible.

But it is changing, albeit slowly and for just a section of upper crust urbanites who can afford it, with the increasing number of healthy restaurants and cafes telling us that eating out no longer means eating unhealthy.

They have on offer menus that are a perfect combination of health and taste. They will serve you a fresh, crunchy and fulfilling salad instead of the butter chicken, and also replace your sugary glass of coke with a lip-smacking smoothie.

Fabcafe by Fabindia, for instance, has a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian salads, but if you are in a mood to indulge, it will not disappoint with its delectable yet healthy momos, chaats, samosas and biriyanis too.

Ingredients are the key, said Rebekah Blank, brand head of the cafe.

“We are very intentional and careful about the ingredients that we use and the recipes that we put on the menu.

“Here, people can go out and enjoy a scrumptious meal and also feel that they haven”t overindulged or done something that is bad for their health,” she said.

Their super healthy gluten-free roti was made using “quinoa atta or jackfruit flour” and cakes were made of “palm jaggery or coconut sugar” instead of the traditional refined sugar or flour.

With Indian diners eating out around seven times a month (National Restaurant Association of India 2019 survey) Anil Saxena, a doctor at the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, said health cafes were a welcome change.

Poor food habits have made Indians more prone to heart diseases, he said, ahead of World Heart Day on Sunday.

A 2018 study by medical journal ”The Lancet” revealed that the prevalence of heart disease and stroke has increased by over 50 per cent from 1990 to 2016 in India.

“Change in lifestyle habits, bad diet, outside food and the concept of partying harder has changed the natural history of coronary artery blockages. Kids are requiring intervention for heart disease a decade earlier as compared to their parents,” said Saxena.

Mumbai-based nutritionist and lifestyle educator Karishma Chawla agreed saying this trend had become the need of the hour for “human and environmental preservation”.

“The normal high glycemic foods which lead to inflammation in the body — the root cause of many diseases — are being replaced with better quality carbohydrates which work against inflammation.

“The main difference here is the ingredients being used, and to an extent organic produce being introduced in the menus,” she said.

KODE in Mumbai, is another kid on the healthy block.

It has on offer a menu that is low on calories, and high on nutrition and taste.

Their “non-fried” Vietnamese spring roll, along with “gluten-free cheese cake, ragi crumb and Avocado on toast” are a hot favourite.

“We do get a number of requests for dishes which constitute ingredients like whole wheat pasta or dishes which are gluten free and also Keto friendly. This has pushed us to experiment more and curate dishes which are healthy,” said Momin Faqi, executive chef, KODE.

The trend is also making its presence felt in the online food delivery sector.

A quick search on food apps like Zomato and Swiggy with ”health” as a key word will throw up plenty of choices like Transform Nutrition, Dietliciouz, Healthy Cravings, Cafe Healthilicious and many many more.

According to Zomato, since August last year, the app witnessed a whopping “118 per cent” growth in “healthy” restaurants.

Orders for salads have “tripled in the past one year”, said Zomato.

“I am very cautious of what I am eating when I am eating outside food. The fear of heart diseases, among other diseases of course, is always there on my mind. Good thing is that now you have options that go way and beyond the regular Subway.

“It is expensive, but I guess if more and more people opt for healthy food, that is something that can be taken care of,” said Tamanna Sourabh Gupta, a home maker in her 30s.

Five-stars too are catching up with the trend. Alongside their existing menus, they are now also curating health menus and fitness programmes.

For example, The Westin in Gurgaon, has a special segment of “Eat Well” options on their menus. Their specially crafted menu, featuring items like “Tofu with multi-grain toast”, “Haldi latte” and “Parfait with berries”, gives guests the freedom to choose “portion size, nutritional balance and quality of ingredients”.

“There is no issue with eating out as long as you make healthy choices. You can make healthier choices by asking for minor tweaks. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with French fries, ask for a side of vegetables instead,” said chef Anurudh Khanna, multi property executive chef, The Westin.

We, Indians might never have needed a reason to eat out, but looks like now we have enough reasons to eat healthy.

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