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Interview with Dr. Ishi Khosla, Nutritionist and Founder of Whole Foods, India

eSvasa had an opportunity to meet up with Dr. Ishi Khosla, one of India’s finest and well known clinical nutritionist. A multi faceted lady, she’s also a columnist (for the Indian Express and Prevention magazine amongst others), media personality, researcher, writer and an entrepreneur – spearheading a health food company – Whole Foods India.

Here's what she had to say about eSvasa: "You at eSvasa are doing a commendable job, it seems to be sincere, dedicated and much needed effort! It will be very useful in creating awareness among the general population. Keep up the good work!"

Dr. Ishi Khosla

Our golden nuggets of wisdom with the Doctor:

What people need to know about Chemicals in our Food…

People still need to be sensitized to the fact that the food they consume needs to be healthy, and as free from chemicals as possible. We need to bring forth the negative effects of bio-accumulation and other dangerous effects of consuming chemical laden foods, even though these effects may take years to show up. Like the recent stronger smoking warnings on cigarette packages have been added to make smokers more conscious of the harms of cigarettes, we need to convey to people how chemicals present in food can be dangerous in the long term. The indifference must go.

Practical Problems relating to Organic food

Lack of availability of organic products, higher pricing, doubt regarding the certification process, and a fair share of dubious producers who mix inorganic components in their products and yet claim it to be organic – all these are problems faced by the organic community today.
It also depends on region and culture. Organic, or for that matter healthier food is more popular in the south, as people are more conscious of it there. So educating the public is very important.

Is Local food really better?

Sometimes buying imported cherries may be safer than consuming local non organic produce, because unlike in India, abroad the use of chemicals is highly regulated, and banned chemicals cannot be used. In India, there is no control over the quantity or quality of chemical that farmers can apply to their crop. Even banned chemicals can be smuggled and used.
However, one still needs to be careful… regulations in foreign countries are different for farmers when they sell produce in their own country to when they export them to countries like India. Sometimes, the lowest grade produce comes into our country.

Any tips to recognize what kind of fruits and vegetables to buy – like how can we identify chemically processed fruits and vegetables?

Be very suspicious of fruits and vegetables which look too bright and artificial.

On Whole Foods India and Organic Food…

Whole Foods introduced organic food in 2001, at a time when the concept of organic food was unheard of. It was an idea ahead of its times and we had to discontinue after continuing losses. The change happened during the Cola controversy in 2003 – when Pepsi and Coke were found to be laden with pesticides, and the public clamoured for healthy food. This time when Whole Foods re-introduced organic foods, they become immensely popular.

Worst food habits in Indians…

Eating fried foods and trans-fats! When you heat oil, trans-fats start forming. So just stay away from fried and very oily foods. On some products, even though the label states ‘zero trans fats’ if a single serving of the food contains up to 0.5 grams of trans fat, then according to the law it can still be labeled trans-fat-free! This is also contributing to one of the biggest health problems faced by Indians – Obesity.

Basically one should Increase intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds – natural and organic is preferable, have plenty of fluids, minimize sugars, refined and fried foods, limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks and avoid smoking.

Finally, please give us some tips of how to make kids consume healthy food.

Avoid ‘Hand-to-mouth phenomenon’ – NO watching television while eating!!
Stock smart: Keep only appropriate food in the house- nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy foods, low fat snacks.
• Parents should involve kids in meal planning using healthy eating principles. Encourage kids to help in cooking & shopping for nutritious food. Ask them to find healthy recipes combining lots of different colours such as red (tomatoes), green (peas), orange (carrots), and yellow (sweet corn).
• Have variety foods at meals and let the child choose. Pair familiar foods with unfamiliar ones, favorite with not-so-favorite.
Watch what they drink. It’s easy to drink down a lot of sugar calories by consuming regular soda, fruit punch, juices, sweetened teas and sports drinks.
Increase fruit and vegetable intake - Make a vegetable tray at the beginning of the week and set the five a day challenge. Have them accessible in a ready to eat form. Disguise them for the fussy child. Vegetables can go into- Soups/ dals/ stews/ rotis/ fillings/ rice/ noodles/ pastas/ corn/ salads/ chutneys & sauces etc.

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