Why India’s Mehmaan Nawazi Needs A Healthy Tweak!

The journey from being a perfect host to a perfect guest isn't easy. Here's how you can navigate this obstacle-riddled course.

We Indians are lovely hosts. We go out of our way to make our guests feel at home because the “Atithi Devo Bhava (guests are equivalent to God)” motto is instilled in us right from childhood.

As a seven-year-old, I would take great pride in helping my mom make lemonade, place the murukku and banana chips in cute ceramic bowls, balance all of it precariously on a tray, and then serve them to the guests with a smile on my face.

Yeah, hospitality literally ran in my veins. 10 years later, I decided to take it up a notch and get professionally trained in hospitality. For the next few years, I did what I knew best: greeted, smiled, served and made small talk. Alas, that was not where the danger lurked.

Perks of being the perfect hosts

Once I got married and eventually settled into marital bliss, we began socialising. Being in an army set-up, we kept getting called for dinner parties and hosted many, too. With each passing year, we upped our ante.

My husband and I were ex-hotel management students, so the pressure was high. People often expected us to serve gourmet dishes when they visited our house. We also didn’t disappoint but performed and usually aced it.

A lavish spread is the secret to the happy guests

The dishes would differ for each party, and the menu would be revisited several times to perfect it. However, the one thing that remained common was the unabashed use of cream, butter, oil, cheese, refined flour, and more.

With at least 4 to 5 appetizers, 6 to 7 entrées, and 2 desserts, our guests left our home happy and satiated, showering us with compliments. While earlier such parties were mainly reserved for the weekends, things began changing over time.

Sunday or Monday, it’s good food every day

People wouldn’t hesitate to call you on any day of the week. It could be Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays; the lines were blurred now. The result was stuffing yourself with more fried, grilled and cheesy food. With the parties being more frequent, cooking at home also became tiresome. So often, food was ordered from outside and served with the same gusto and enthusiasm as home-cooked food.

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The “aur lijiye please”, “ek main kya hoga”, “yeh aapke liye specially mangwaya hai” dialogues are typically interspersed with spirited conversations, making you reach out for another fried momo without even realising it. Even I would do the same with my guests; after all, the sign of a good host is having as few leftovers as possible. Isn’t it?

The body of a 30-yr old begs to differ

The beauty of all this is that in your 20s, your body is somewhat forgiving. It tries its best to accommodate all the junk you throw into it. But then, once you cross your 30s, it starts protesting mildly. It gives you signs with double chins and love handles.

When you valiantly disregard these signs, the engine starts sputtering and rebelling. And if you are one of those lucky ones who, despite a steady dose of unhealthy food, is still feeling fine, then that’s just your body giving you some bonus time; don’t gloat.

At 35, after a gallbladder removal, my life has changed for the better. Initially, it was out of compulsion, then eating low-fat food, steering clear from fried food and not having too much dairy or sugar became a way of life. Then, when I started losing the double chin and love handles, I was motivated.

From perfect host to perfect health

Now, I feel much lighter and healthier. However, the problem arises when I visit another enthusiastic host. I politely decline as fried bread pakoras, French fries and cheese momos are offered. But naah, the host has taken offence.

“Arrey aise kaisey, ek tho khaana hi padega, maine banaya hai,” she says. I smile at her nervously, break off a small piece of the pakora and pop it into my mouth. “Bhaut achaa bana hai,” I compliment her sincerely. It was tasty, but the layer of oil that coats my fingers leaves me uncomfortable. In return, she gives me a smirk, thinking I was just being difficult.

Struggles of being a good guest

To justify my food choices, I take her to a corner and explain my health woes to her, which makes her cluck at me pityingly. Thankfully, she then appeared more positively inclined towards me because I was the sick woman after all. But at the end of this whole ordeal, I realised that it was not that I couldn’t eat the fried food; I could, but I just didn’t want to. My body was thriving with my new diet, and I wanted it to remain that way.

While the intentions are always good, it’s high time we think of healthier alternatives to offer our guests, especially with so many lifestyle diseases becoming rampant. Getting restaurant food now happens at the tap of a finger, but replicating the same at home to serve guests is something we need to rethink. Asking guests about their preferences before they arrive is an excellent way to start.

Health concerns need to be considered while menu planning

Now, with many being vegans, lactose intolerant, having food allergies, being diabetic, or being on intermittent fasting, we need to consider these dietary sensitivities before preparing a menu. Opting for whole grain-based foods and choosing baking over frying are some ways to go.

But of course, if you know your guests like indulging in some good old choley-bhaturey, then please don’t deprive them. Have a mix of both kinds of foods so that your guests can decide what they want. And yes, “aur lijiye” is so passé´; it should be more like “bas kijiye”; you have crossed your allotted calories for the day!


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About the Author

Anjali Paul

I am a mom who works from home and dabbles with writing when time permits.An avid reader since childhood, blogging and writing helps me de-stress.My five year old keeps me on my read more...

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