If you ever got to google “Are Nepali dishes healthy?”. The first answer google furnishes you with is “Nepalese dishes are generally healthier than most other South Asian cuisines, relying less on using fats and more on chunky vegetables, lean meats, pickled ingredients, and salads’’. This is precisely what google presented but not what I illustrated.
Be it Newari cuisine, thakali dish, or Brahman bhojan, Nepali dishes are always rich in nutrients, flavours and, are vibrant with a gleam of tradition, culture, uniting people from different walks of life. Food is not only a basic need here in Nepal, but it is also a great source of celebrating, socializing, and connecting people.
Nepal has culinary influence and Nepali dishes are mostly a blend of Chinese and Indian cuisine. But blissfully, we have foods less spicy and sweet than India, more fibrous and less salty than china. Ecstatic thing, Right? Now, let us take a look at what we eat and how we do.
For the main course, we have Dal Bhat Tarkari. Dal is a spiced lentil soup, bhat is the regular rice (sometimes dhido, a buckwheat pudding in place of rice) and tarkari is the vegetable curry (or meat sometimes). We mostly have cucumbers, radish, and carrots as a salad. In addition to that, tomato or radish pickle (Spiced with Sichuan pepper, coriander, or mint) and yogurt is the side plating, a honeypot of flavors and nutrients.
Snacks are mostly Bhatmas sadeko (spiced soybean), Dahi cheura (yogurt and beaten rice), Dudh cheura (milk and beaten rice), Makai bhatmas (roasted corn and soybean), roti(Tortillas), Pancakes, sattu ( roasted and ground whole grains), Chickpeas, chatpate (chat made of puffed rice, greens, onions, tomatoes, spices ), aalu sadheko ( spiced boiled potatoes).
Nepali drinks are so much refreshing and chock-full nutrients at the same time. We have buttermilk, lassi (fruit-flavored buttermilk), curd, fresh lemonade, organic green tea. Buttermilk and tea are the sought-after drink here in Nepal.
A balanced healthy diet
What I love about Nepali cuisine is that it is freshly prepared and eaten, not preserved with hazardous preservatives, and also contain a lot of fibers, essential for gut health.
Nepali foods have a burst of rich savors along with the most essential nutrients. In a regular Nepali meal, all the vital nutrients like amino acids, protein, and even micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, prebiotics, probiotics, are abundantly present, which is a great thing. Moreover, Spices and condiments used here are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial agents. What else do we need?
Fermented foods like gundruk (fermented greens), sinki(fermented radish), kinema(fermented soybean), tama (bamboo shoot), mesu(salted bamboo shoot), curd(yogurt), tofu, jaand, tongba (local beer), khalpi(salted and spiced cucumber), kimchi are quite a lot famous here in Nepal. These fermented foods are a fountain of micronutrients like B-vitamins (B1, B2), folic acid, vitamins C, E, K, minerals like iron, calcium, selenium, antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenol.
But, like anything in the world, Nepali dishes also are not ideal and served perfectly. We have our boon and banes.
Some of our culinary goofs pre-existing in typical Nepali kitchens are:
- Milk tea (even with sel roti, sometimes) in an empty stomach early in the morning,
- Regular usage of some legumes in daal,
- Fried rice as breakfast in an empty stomach,
- Use of saturated fat (ghee) in almost every meal,
- Consumption of meat from an entire buffalo, goat by a family mostly during festivals.
There are more if we look over. But, these points are ample for knowing that the problem is not with our resources or our food but with our eating pattern. So yes, we can make it, right.
Are we eating right?
Let us take an example. You are about to prepare a cup of coffee. You have milk, coffee powder, and sugar, all required to make a cup of coffee. If you add 50 grams of coffee powder, 100 grams of sugar, and 20 ml of milk together, will it make a good coffee? Will that taste appealing?
The same goes for our health. A tiny portion of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) and a whopping amount of carb is not appealing for our health too. It is the portion of food and nutrients that matters rather than what we consume.
Eating a plate full of rice, a small spatula of veggies crammed in the side of the plate, a spoon of curd and pickle is not going to make any wonder to our health. We should consider a handsome amount of veggies, curd, and pickles in our diet to make it a balanced diet. It is not only about food. Eating right is what makes a balanced diet.
We used to have such tempting healthy foods, and we do not have them anymore. Even though we have such delectable and equally healthy meals, appetizers, snacks, drinks, and many more, there is a declining health status of Nepalese people. What gaffe we made is responsible for our degrading health? Swapping, Yes, it is swapping.
Why are we so fond of swapping food habits?
I do not understand why Nepalese substitute our organic, flavoursome, nutrient-dense foods or ingredients with synthetic and nutrient-less foods or ingredients. For example, Lemon with synthetic vinegar, turmeric with food colour, herbal spices with MSG, buttermilk, and tea with sodas, cow milk with the synthetic milk powder, lemonade with instant juices, locally compressed seed oils with packaged refined oils, fresh vegetable soup with packaged soup, fresh fruits with canned fruits ( same with the meat and fish), homemade pickled with canned one and whatnot.
These may be due to the problem of availability and taste preferences. But it is not always the case. Mostly the reason behind these swaps is that we have been so much obsessed with modernization that we find our authentic, healthy dishes subservient to the western kitchen dos.
Do not trade modernization and taste with health
We are so much into imitating the western world that we benightedly choose detrimental meals like pizzas and burgers over healthy snacks. It is okay to crave those foods sometimes but, as mentioned earlier, we are into swapping and never looking back.
Not only that, we feel like ignorance is bliss when it comes to knowing about the hazard with the fast foods these days. If any recipe goes wrong, it can be fixed. It can be refried, remade. Ingredients can be changed as per our taste. But, once our health declines, everything goes out of our hands. We will have nothing to do but only regret.
So, let us look for the burst of flavour and aromas in our authentic dishes. We already have so much of organic herbs, spices, snacks, from different cultures to substitute our regular foods and to choose a healthier and tastier one. We have abundant healthy dishes from different cultures, which will suffice for a few months even if we like to change our foods daily. When we have plenty of healthy bona fide options, why run after chunks of unhealthy food?
Why Nepali cuisines over fast food?
You can google Why should you not eat fast food? The answer Google provides you with is ‘’ Eating a poor quality diet high in junk food is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease, and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death. And as you might expect, frequency matters when it comes to the impact of junk food on your health’’. And again, this is what accurately google presented but not what I interpreted.
Anjana Neupane is a second-year undergraduate student of Nutrition and Dietetics at Central Campus of Technology, Dharan.
2 thoughts on “Are we eating right?”
Great article…best wishes Anjana !!!
I want to apologise beforehand. If this comment makes you feel bad in any way, it might be a mere chance of fate. And I’m not in any way demotivating you to write. Instead you should see this as an invitation to “choose your words clearly” the next time you write.
Let’s say there’s another Nepal out there on this vast multiverse where whatever you’ve said is true.
There a chatpate waala swaps Lemons for vinegars and Spices for MSG because he is, what you call, SUBSERVIENT to western culture.
There people BENIGHTEDLY choose Pizzas and Burgers over bhuteko bhat because, well, they too are subservient to western culture.
And Pizza, an Italian Dish, according to your way of reasoning, became famous in America and Europe because they too were subservient to Italian culture.
Throw away taste and pleasure, subservience is why people choose one food over the other.
People, there, are confused because they hold two inconsistent thoughts in their head. One is that rather than what we eat, portion size matters. Another is, we should choose healthy foods over unhealthy ones. So, does the portion size matter or the actual food? They don’t have an answer. Or is the answer Circular reasoning?
They’ve become the proverbial donkey who is equally thirsty and hungry. He is somewhere between a pile of hay and a water fountain and dies of both hunger and thirst because he cannot make a decision as to whether he should quench his thirst or satisfy his hunger.
Let’s get out of the hypothetical world.
You have mentioned that you don’t understand “why people choose Western foods over Nepali ones” and in the next paragraph you have stated that the reason is imitation, or rather blind imitation. People want to be cool, you think, by eating Pizzas and Burgers.
I make Pizza myself, once in a week, and eat with my family without posting it on social media or sharing it to anyone. So am I doing this because I want to look cool? or to Imitate western culture? NOOO. It’s because pizzaa tastes so awesome and it’s easy to make.
Your article has multiple loopholes. And as a student of nutrition, it’s a bit indigestible. Make sure you check what you’ve written thoroughly before you publish your article the next time.