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 used at home.
If and when we wanted a treat, it was pastries and that sort of thing. And we (including my orthodox grandparents) pretended that cakes and ice creams did not contain anything more than just dairy.
Back to the story – this visiting family would hurriedly go shopping upon arrival, 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. They were breaking the family “rules” to cook eggs at home, buying the super expensive protein-biscuits for their snacks and whatnot. For the little girl in me, this got registered in my head as protein was a very precious part of the food. And that we had to make an 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 and belonged with a team of medical doctors. I engaged with clients as part of work. And I was privy to 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 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 that 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 makes us look good to others. And it is okay!
It is okay 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 particular 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 MOST widely and abundantly found substance in nature.
If you are eating enough to satiate your hunger, you are incredibly likely to meet all your protein needs.