Speaking of health, I never thought it to be that important. As a typical Asian, I did not grow up an outdoorsy person, I was not very sporty and I was always afraid of going to the gym. But not long ago, I began to realise what it was all about. It all started just after my second pregnancy, when I was determined to lose my pregnancy weight.
Believe it or not, thank God, with a healthy diet, rigorous fasting, and exercise, within three months I was able to lose 22 kg. Honestly it IS easier to talk than to do. Still, many people wonder how I was able to do it; of course the key is to know how your body works, to exercise and to have a healthy balanced diet.
As a cookbook writer, and someone whose work is very much food-related, it is not easy to keep my diet 100 per cent “healthy”. As part of my work, from time to time, I have to eat different types of food - some healthy, some less healthy. It’s tough, but someone’s got to do it!
Whatever food I cook, I have to try it over and over again, just to know and find the perfect taste. So there is no way that I can avoid not eating. And so, to keep my shape, I grab the more healthy option whenever I can, whether boiled, steamed, raw. I avoid fried food when I am in Jakarta, and, increasingly, when I am abroad.
For day to day quick bites, I like Singapore “fastfood” chain SaladStop. For me, this is the perfect food for the new generation, those who are health conscious and want a quick, fresh, and clean after-taste. My favourite on their menu is Iron “Wo” Man, it has all the things I love, roasted pumpkin, feta cheese, baby spinach, roast almonds, raisins, and for extra protein, I usually add baked salmon, all wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla. It is just a perfect semi-light lunch just before my pilates training in the afternoon. Apart from that they also offer other superfoods on their menu, such as quinoa and kale, seared fresh tuna, roast chicken with different varieties of dressing. Most of their vegetables come from their own partner’s farms in Cibadak, West Java and Rancamaya, Bogor which enables them to closely maintain the quality of their ingredients, freshly harvested and pesticide free.
With the growing stresses of life, we can see people all over the world— even Jakartans— trying to adopt healthy lifestyles, by doing more exercise. Even in car-crazed Jakarta, the Government has implemented car free day on Sunday to allow people to run and walk and enjoy—even if just for a few hours—some cleaner air. Allied to this is the growing popularity of marathons and half-marathons, which have (quite amazingly, given it’s got so few real accessories) become quite the Hi-So thing. This coincides with increasing awareness about the need to consume less sugar, and to eat more high fibre and high protein food.
Even American chains like McDonalds have begun to take note of this trend, and are trying to see this not as a threat but an opportunity. They have started introducing freshly made gourmet ground beef burgers on their menus, complete with fresh salads, and extra vegetables (lettuce and tomatoes, not just more potato chips!).
The same is true of Starbucks which, as a home from home, where you can find me most of the time, also serves non-fat milk and soy milk for those people like me who prefer to have less fat in their body, including a good enough decaf coffee for those who want to cut down on their caffeine intake.
I love not just the continuously re-freshed looks, interiors and designs, but also (even!) the variation of their food - from gluten free cakes, to vegetarian sandwiches, yoghurt and honey. My favourite for years was its raisin scone, to accompany my unfashionably extra-hot, non-fat, tall cappuccino.
From quick lunch-stop chains we move to an authentic American restaurant-serving artisanal smoked, barbequed, and grilled meats located in Mega Kuningan. Up in Smoke combines the traditional wood fired smoking and grilling techniques of Texas with modern, innovative culinary twists. And so, they don’t just offer great tasting beef, but also healthier options - my favourite is grilled broccoli with pickled gold raisins, spiced cashews, with delicious homemade romesco sauce. They even have a super food menu of kale salad with tarragon dressing, grilled beetroots with gold kiwi, ricotta, watercress, hazelnut, and basil. No more “potatoes are salad” perceptions for American cuisine!
As the wife of a Scottish man, I do not visit North America very often; most of the time we go back to the ice-bound tundras of Scotland. But one of my in laws lives in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, so every Christmas I always get them a restaurant voucher for their Christmas. Given the distance, it is hard for us to see them, so this is just a perfect way to express our Christmas best wishes. I end up doing hours of research for award winning restaurants for them. Like most oil cities - Aberdeen and Houston are other great examples - where you have a mixture of a lot of money, and a large transient population, Edmonton is a great food city. For what is - after all - a pretty small city, it has three of Canada’s ten top restaurants, Clementine, Café Linnea, and Alder Room.
As my business partner Della—who went to university in Canada just as all sorts of quinoa, kale and smoothie health crazes was bursting all over North America—says, given the cold, and the winter blues, the only other thing for her and her husband to do in Alberta, apart from skating, skiing, and trying to keep warm, was to eat! But, she says, she never ate so healthily, and well, and has never felt better, or fitter.
My dad’s main concern, whenever we are sitting down to family dinner, is to eat healthily. And I truly believe his main conclusion—a healthy diet keeps us young! At least, I hope it’s true!
After he suffered a minor stroke a couple of years ago, my Dad distilled the wisdom he got from this down to the following: always try to have a well- balanced diet; eat enough protein and the right amount of carbohydrates. And try to avoid cold sweet caffeinated drinks—like Indonesia’s favourite, es the manis (sweet iced tea) - as he believes we tend to drink less of it when it is hot than when it is cold. Eat less instant, processed meals, and eat healthily at home.
This is why I ended up being a home cookbook writer, and why I’m committed to sending homemade daily packed snacks and lunches for my children. And why I’m exercising regularly—to stay healthy and have the right body shape (one of my major commitment to look nice on the camera!). Start now! Eat well, live well, think well!