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Diet and food habits turn upside down

Some senior industry veterans recount how covid and lockdown have changed food habits and diet preferences, and also the relationship with the kitchen:

The covid pandemic has indeed impacted our lives, more so, the aggressive, competing manager-professionals, who leave home early and return late, committing everything for career, often forgetting food and rest. Two things mark the impact – staying at home and having home-cooked food on time. The isolation at home means sudden lifestyle changes, including dietary habits and the outlook towards life as a whole. There are instances of weight loss, quitting smoking, better physical activity and better health and importantly a whole new attitude towards home-cooked food and cooking per se.
Listen to what the head of data management at the India unit of an MNC bank who wishes to remain anonymous: “There is now more time at hand for me due to no commute – almost 2 hours every day. Fitness is always on top of my mind. There have been ebbs. It is not just about food but also about exercise. I do get time now for the exercises. I had a static bike, but now I have added more exercising tools. There were covid cases in my condominium, hence no stepping out and that ends up doing a lot of cooking with no help. Being a health freak, this had been an opportunity for me. I have downloaded a book on keto cuisine and I also do Indian items, which include things like paneer pakoda. Fitbit app and Yourfit recipe have helped me. My mantra is healthy cuisine. As for my husband, there have been no major diet changes. We being Punjabis, it is normal to gain weight very quickly.”
She says she now likes to make sandwiches and experiment Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in a calorie friendly manner. “Instead of regular cheese I use cottage cheese or tofu. I have also tried salads. My son, however, likes high calorie food,” she adds.
For Lucas Bianchi, Co-founder & Promoter of Namaste Credit, home-cooked food has been his forte but now he is eating less spicy food, as home-cooked food is less on spices and oil than what is available commercially outside. “I have also been able to work out more consistently as a result of not having to spend 1.5-2 hours commuting each day,” says he.

Investor and consultant for startups Senthilkumar Rajendran announces that he has changed to 2 meals-a-day routine – one around 10 am and the second one at around 6 pm. He also has a changed sleep cycle: “Now I go to bed around 9.30 pm.”
Besides, regular jogging on alternate days and daily sessions of yoga have come into his routine. “I find that the 2 meals-a-day regime has increased by productivity and reduced drowsiness. It is important that during times like lockdown, one should be able to stay ahead, be more productive because to be able to maintain physical and mental health is a major challenge when you tend to eat more meals,” he says.
“Yes, our habits have changed completely because of the lockdown,” admits Supriya Kulkarni, Managing Director at Kyzer Software India. “We have moved away from stored or outside food to cooking fresh meals no matter how busy we are through the day with work. The lockdown has offered a great insight into my own capacity to learn and unlearn. I have given up non-vegetarian food to a large extent and am now ready to experiment with vegetarian recipes.”

She says she derives great satisfaction from seeing how the family relishes the meals she has cooked, “some important part of our daily routine, which I had delegated to the cooks because of the work schedule.” She also says the experimentations have been more with Gujarati and Mughlai cuisine, and since all at home have a sweet tooth, they try jalebis, rasgollas, churros, doughnuts and lots of cakes.
For Nagaraj Mylandla, Chairman & Managing Director at Financial Software & Systems, covid and the lockdown have not changed much of his food habits or routine. “I have practiced having simple freshly-cooked vegetarian food at regular timings – 3 times a day – for years now. This does not get changed, lockdown or not. In addition, I do take up regular walking and nature watching, which have kept me going,”he reveals.
A pure vegetarian, Rajesh Bhutra, Vice President – Sales at VigyanLabs, learnt how to survive on strict home cooked vegetarian diet. “The lockdown has taught us that. I eat seasonal vegetables, salads and fruits and on some days 100% home-made pizzas, pastas and other choice recipes,” says he.

The best part is maintaining food timings, says Prasanna Manavi, Director, Sales and Partnerships, India & South East Asia at UBiqube. “Earlier due to being outdoors and in meetings, I could not maintain orderly timings. Now I am at home and I am able to eat at regular intervals,” he says.
Dr Javed Mohnavi, DGM at Bank of Maharashtra reveals that at his home now all outside food has been barred and the whole family depends on home-cooked meals. The focus now, he says, is more on immunity-boosting diet and drinking warm water on a regular basis. “I believe this has indeed helped us to protect from exposure to the virus. We have given up non-vegetarian food after some initial period of time and now we are on vegan food to avoid any unwarranted health issues. Apart from food habits, we also maintain high levels of hygiene – continuous washing of hands and use of sanitizers. One big life changer as far as I am concerned is that I have started regular exercises,” he adds.
Aniket Sapre, Dy VP – Savings Product, Axis Bank admits while diets have become tough, he makes it a point to have warm water every morning. “Afternoon diet is mainly chapatis and just some rice for the night. Besides, I do 4-km run every day inside the house and some 300 push-ups that help burn calories. It’s like ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ – enjoy home food but burn calories too,” he quips.

Adv (Dr) Prashant Mali, President & Founder of Cyber Law Consulting had been locked at his Alibaug farmhouse for 3 months because of the restrictions on movement, but it was a blessing for him. “I got to stay for 3 months with my parents after a long period of time. My whole diet has changed and I now eat typical Maharashtrian home cuisine. Rice got added on a daily basis once, and green leafy vegetables direct from farm is the best part. I could retain my weight because I skip dinner. However, I have a small tummy, may be due to eating rice,” he laughs.
It was a routine during the pre-covid days for Prakash Nayak and his family to eat out or order food from cafes or restaurants every week, but the pandemic and the lockdown have changed this for better says Nayak, who is Chief Financial Officer (India & Philippines) at FIS. “We now confine to home-cooked food. The good thing is my overall health has improved a lot,” says he.

However, there are contrarian views too.
Monica Jasuja, Head of Digital & Emerging Partnerships, Mastercard, says: “For me diet and exercise are off the charts with all the extra work during the lockdown.” “Basically, I have not made big changes. The only thing is I eat less these days,” admits Deepak Suri, Dy General Manager – Renewal & Persistency at Exide Life Insurance.
“Diet? Obviously eating more!” quips Himanshu Goyal of IBM Watson & Weather Company.


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