Diet plays a huge role in Ayurveda, but most of the recipes online and in books require lots of prep time and may not be palatable to the capricious taste buds of a young child. In my house, my wife and 7-year old son aren’t intentionally undertaking Ayurvedic diets. My wife and I also share the cooking, and I can’t ask her to spend hours preparing a meal that only one of us might like.
So I’ve decided to start making changes where I can. Most of the time, we eat breakfast and lunch separately, so that seemed like a good place to start.
Previously, my breakfast consisted of a bowl of cereal with skim milk. My main issue with breakfast is that it has to be fast, as my wife and I both work and need to get our son to the bus stop every morning.
After researching breakfast options for pitta, I settled on trying oatmeal with raisins. Now, steel cut oats are the best- but they take far too long to cook. Instant oatmeal is on the other end of the spectrum- fast, but less nutritious and also expensive. So I settled on organic quick oats, which take under two minutes in the microwave. I add a handful of organic raisins, and it’s delicious! So for the sake of three or four extra minutes in the morning, I’ve switched to a very healthy meal that is also perfect for pitta. As an added bonus, organic quick oats in bulk are actually cheaper than cereal with milk!
My lunch requirements are along the same lines. It has to be easy to bring to work, and not take too much time to prepare beforehand. I combed through a number of Ayurvedic websites and cookbooks with many options, and decided to try kichari (also spelled kichadi). Kichari is a traditional Indian dish made with basmati rice and split yellow mung beans (also called split mung dal), along with ghee (clarified butter), spices and often vegetables. There are hundreds of recipes for kichari all over the internet. The trick is finding one that tastes good and works with your particular dosha.
I found one in particular called “Cooling Kichadi” from The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar. While I’d love to share the recipe, I have to respect the author’s copyright. I highly recommend the book, which can be found on Amazon and is relatively inexpensive. There are fantastic sections on Ayurvedic nutrition as well.
So basically I use this recipe and double it, making about 10 servings. I put half in a glass bowl with lid and take it to work, and freeze the rest for the next week. It takes about 2 hours to make, but most of that is simmer time and in the end I’ve made two weeks of lunches. I usually take a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack, and add whatever herbs and vegetables I feel like to the kichari to keep things interesting.
Now, a “perfect” Ayurvedic meal is one prepared fresh, with love, care and mindfulness. I know freezing and microwaving are not the best options, but it’s how I can make this work.
There are several really great things about kichari. It’s very inexpensive to make, and it is highly sattvic- meaning the food is clean, wholesome and pure. Sattvic foods are easy to digest, leave us feeling refreshed and do not encumber the mind with heaviness or fatigue. You can also easily modify a kichari recipe by substituting tastes that are more appropriate for your dosha.
Now for the really good news. After talking about these changes with my doctor, I began this diet about three months ago. I’ve noticed markedly more energy in the afternoon, which is something I’ve always struggled with. But the best benefits I’ve seen came after my yearly physical exam. I’ve dropped ten pounds, decreased my blood sugar 30 points, and decreased bad cholesterol by 20 points. And overall I feel wonderful!
These changes don’t have to be hard or complicated. Once you start, it gets easier to keep improving in other areas. I strongly encourage everyone to do some research on Ayurvedic diets and talk about it with your doctor. Then make one small change at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. The benefits are priceless.