Let me tell you a story of some guests we had, when I was growing up in India. The man and his wife were both medical doctors and they were visiting, with their two little children. And they lived abroad. Ours was a vegetarian household, by which I mean dairy was the only animal sourced food we made at home. If and when we wanted a treat, it was pastries and that sorta thing. And we (including my orthodox grandparents) pretended that cakes and ice creams did not contain anything more than just dairy 😉
Well, coming back to the story – this visiting family would hurriedly go shopping to buy a mid-sized box of protein powder to last their stay – to add to the milk the kids would drink religiously three times a day. Three big glassfuls. Those kids were such willing milk-drinkers. So strange! And their mom would talk endlessly about all she did to meet their protein needs. Breaking the family “rules” to cook eggs at home, buying the super expensive protein-biscuits for the snacks and whatnot. For the little girl in me, this got registered in my head as protein was a very precious part of food. And that we had to make effort to get plenty of it, if we cared for our health. And those that did not do it, were somehow less than! Either they were poor and or did not know enough.
How it hurts to admit even if it is to ourselves that we cannot afford something or that we may not be knowledgeable, no?!
Then fast forward to about 15 years in time …
Now, I was a dietitian. I worked at a hospital. I belonged with a team of medical doctors. And I engaged with clients as part of work. And I was privy to literally thousands of people and their stories about food. It was just so insightful to me how, we – you, myself and all of us for that matter – come to place the value on different foods.
It is not all about the science and/or nutrition. Often, it has very little to do with nutritive value. It is so much about what our food choices say about us, to the world.
It spoke volumes when a client said, ‘we make our ganji with water .. and softly add, not milk’. Or when someone said, ‘ We eat egg-bhurji or paneer-bhurji with rotis, we need not make do – you know!’ One can never discuss foods in isolation with feelings tied to them.
It sounds so good to say, you made a paneer-something to go with the rotis.
Or that, Maharaj served you some egg whites with brown bread.
Or how you bought your ailing elderly in-laws some protein powder to add to the milk.
We all do things that make us feel safe. That make us look good to others. And it is okay! But, only so long as you don’t attach a justification – especially the ones that don’t make sense. And go one step even further and believe it to be a fact! Nooo, don’t do that.
If you like paneer, eat it because you like it. And say so! It needs no further props.
DON’T say or believe that you need to add paneer or egg whites or a special protein powder to your regular food as if there’s a shortage of protein in what you eat.
Here’s what nobody ever explained to you about protein:
Protein is the widely and abundantly found in nature.
If you are eating enough to satiate your hunger, you are extremely likely meeting all your protein needs.