Actor and musician, Monica Dogra talks about her vegetarian diet, cheat days and all things that feed her mind and body.
1. Turning Veg
I turned vegetarian when I was 12. The switch happened after watching a documentary on how meat is raised before it reaches our dining table. Apart from the many other benefits, keeping off meat has helped me stay lean. If you pay attention to your carbon footprint, turning vegetarian is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to be kinder to the planet.
2. Start Small
A lot of people get intimidated by the idea of turning vegetarian. They feel they will not be able to stick to a vegetarian diet. But I always tell them to start small and try it for a few days or a week. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you can.
3. Don’t Judge
Anyone who tells you that it’s super easy to stick to a vegetarian lifestyle (especially if you’ve been a carnivore all your life), is lying. My modus operandi is to do what I can and not be judgmental or picky. It is not the label of 'vegetarian' but the intent that matters.
A few years ago, when I was in Japan, I ate sushi, and I don’t regret it. I love food, and the culture of a place is tied to it intrinsically. Plus, I’ve done an excellent job of being a vegetarian for over 20 years!
4. Pick Good Food
Food is a gift I give to myself. I follow a strict diet for six days a week, and then I have one enormous cheat day. When I am holidaying with my family, I eat what I like but make sure I exercise.
5. Begin Yoga
Yoga and meditation have a significant influence on my food choices. I have been practising yoga for over ten years, and it spurred me to give up alcohol. When the benefits are so great, making a better decision comes easy.
6. Think Holistic
Meditation has dramatically impacted the way I eat and think about food. I read about foods that help you meditate more efficiently. The ancient Ayurvedic texts didn’t mention wheat in the list of grains.
Apart from being very difficult to digest, wheat is also a new world phenomenon. It’s perhaps why a lot of people are developing gluten allergy. Instead of wheat, I prefer eating local millets like bajra, ragi and rice.
7. Diet Mantras
I try to eat raw foods. It just makes me feel better. I have cut down on wheat products as it doesn’t agree with me. Much of the wheat on the planet today is genetically modified. So I buy a lot of rice and ragi products. I have rice cakes for breakfast, a big salad for lunch and dal, rice and some vegetables for dinner.
8. Health Supplements
I like spirulina and use it in my smoothies every day. I am not a big fan of whey protein and prefer vegan protein. I carry it with me even when I am travelling. I also use Maca root in my smoothies and cooked food. It’s rich in amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids. It also works as an energy enhancer and mood stabiliser.
I also consume a lot of nutritional yeast which is high in omega-3 and B12. I sprinkle it in my dal and rice. It has a cheesy, yeasty flavour. I eat Marmite–a concentrated yeast extract that has a very distinctive flavour. The taste is very unique-yeasty, salty, soy sauce-y flavour. It’s good for the heart, liver and kidney functions and helps protect the nervous system.
I indulge in a juice cleanse once every year. Most of us are not great at portion control, so it’s nice to take a break sometime.