We chat to Ishay Govender, acclaimed foodie writer, about her love of cooking and how to make Indian food just as tasty – but a little healthier.
You have a family history of diabetes – have you been tested yourself?
I get my blood sugar and cholesterol tested once a year – every year. Because I’m aware that Type 2 diabetes is often a hereditary condition, I’m very conscious of my health and how food contributes to my wellbeing. In traditional homes there’s an emphasis on food and family as a way of expressing love, and I know I’ve inherited that from my mother and grandmother – sharing food with people is my way of expressing that love.
Have you made any changes to your diet because you know Type 2 diabetes runs in the family?
I’ve learnt to alter things slightly so that they’re healthier but still have lots of flavour. When we first found out that my mom was diabetic I did a lot of research, and made sure she went to a dietician and found out specifics of how to change her cooking style. That said, we grew up in a very healthy household so the changes weren’t too difficult.
What advice would you offer to people who are struggling to eat a healthy diet?
I think the most important thing is to accept and make peace with the fact that you have diabetes – it doesn’t make sense to fight it. Also, food should never be about restriction, it’s about enjoyment. Change the spotlight from focusing on what you can’t have to what you can enjoy. It’s a great time to explore flavours, textures and a sense of fun in the kitchen.
Have you learnt any ‘tricks’ to make traditional Indian food a little healthier?
A few! Here are the main ones:
- Cook with less oil – it is possible, especially if you use olive oil cooking spray.
- Don’t eat double starch (i.e. rice and potato curry, or curry and roti)
- Cook vegetables for a shorter period of time so that they keep some of their goodness – things like okra and butternut don’t have to be cooked to mush.
- Rethink vegetables – they don’t only have to be pickled or curried, they can be fresh with interesting dressings. I try to include half a salad in a meal, with a yoghurt dressing (plain low fat yoghurt with toasted cumin seeds, mint and lemon zest – delicious!)
- I only use baby potatoes with their skins on – they’re low GI and the skin has fibre.
- Brown rice is so much healthier than white rice – it’s full of fibre and has a lovely nutty flavour. You also need less rice because it fills you up more.
- Spices and herbs are a diabetic’s best friends! They add such flavour and zest, and you can experiment with different combinations to make a dish more interesting.
What makes your life sweet?
The pleasure of enjoying food and food travel with my husband. Cotton pyjamas and fresh linen. The knowledge that even someone with a ‘soft’ voice like mine, can make a difference using it.
Get in touch with Ishay: @IshayGovender on Twitter / Instagram / Vin