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Listen to your body

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Film star Sonali Bendre and nutrition and fitness experts highlighted the need for women to look after themselves in order to ensure the health of their families

At a recent panel discussion in Mumbai, film star Sonali Bendre Behl joined Pilates expert Madhuri Ruia, nutritionist Anju Sood and Emily Fleischmann from Almond Board of California to discuss the issue of working mothers’ dilemmas in ensuring family health.

The conversation, moderated by RJ Shezzi, highlighted the guilt that working mothers often feel while trying to meet the nutritional needs of their children in the limited time they have.

It began with a video clip of an interview with Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, in which she says that women’s biological clocks and career clocks are in total conflict and women cannot have it all—a statement that generated much discussion and was extremely controversial at the time.

The panellists, however, seemed to agree with the comment, with Ms Fleischmann, who is senior director of global marketing at the Almond Board, stating that guilt is a global issue for working mothers. “I travel a great deal and my husband stays home with the kids,” she said. “In the United States, it is very expensive to hire a nanny.”

Sonali Bendre spoke of how, when she married a man from another community, she was appalled to find an extravagant array of dishes on the table at every meal. “Maharashtrian food tends to be frugal and healthy,” she said, adding that in a joint family, “women often do not have the option of being able to decide the menu for the day.”

Gradually, she introduced the idea that one did not necessarily have to stock unhealthy food like crisps at home; while such things are bought occasionally, they do not form part of the monthly grocery list at her home.

“Junk food is a complete no-no,” she declared, adding that she did not send her son to homes where such food was provided “even if people thought I was snobbish”. Sonali takes healthy snacks like almonds and serves them in different ways—chopped up into momos, for example, or powdered up into the porridge.

Madhuri Ruia, who is the mother of two girls, encouraged her children to eat healthy. “Now they’ve adopted fitness as a lifestyle,” she says, “and if I make something that is not so healthy, they tell me, ‘Mama, you’re supposed to be a nutritionist!’

“You have to be a role model for the family,” she declared. “Take on the challenge, it’s easy to do this if you look after yourself. It’s also all about planning; and if you take the trouble and do something for five days, on the sixth day your body takes over and it becomes a habit.” Madhuri also spoke of the ‘80:20 principle’, where 80% of healthy food can combat the effects of 20% of unhealthy food consumed. She also referred to the right amount of food to be given to children—as many tablespoons as the child’s age.

Anju Sood also stressed on the importance of planning meals, especially with the involvement of the family— “that’s 90% of the work done, and at the same time you are educating them,” she said. She pointed out that while most households focus on the major meals, they do not pay enough attention towards ensuring that in-between snacks are wholesome enough.

 “The fulcrum of a balanced diet and healthy snacking has drifted,” she said. “People have unhealthy snacks and sedentary lifestyles. This causes various problems such as cardio-vascular issues and hormonal imbalance. “You have to listen to your body,” she added.

The trouble is, many of us don’t!

Start small and snack smart!

Here are some more pearls of wisdom from the participants at the panel discussion, ‘Badam pe Charcha— Working Mother’s Dilemma in Ensuring Family Health’

SONALI BENDRE (Actress and Mother)

“For working mothers, creating a work-life balance is critical as wemust ensure we do not neglect any significant part of our lives—our children, our family’s health, our own health and fitness, our marriage, and, of course, our careers. Being a working mother, I can understand how stress inducing this can be. Having said that, I  ave realised that to ensuremy family stays healthy, it is important I stay fit and healthy myself. Incorporating small changes/ additions in one’s daily routine can have a big impact. For example, eating a healthy diet including a handful of almonds every day and a regular exercise regime not only helps me to maintain a healthy life but also balance both my family’s health and my own.”

MADHURI RUIA (Pilates expert and diet and nutrition consultant)

“When trying to juggle between home, family and work, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise can go a long way in ensuring good health for working mothers. Most of us already know about this but find it difficult to do. The trick is to start small and snack smart! For instance, snacking on almonds instead of consuming unwholesome snacks for your in-between meal cravings can not only make a healthy difference to your life but a handful of almonds may have satiating properties that promote feelings of fullness, which keep hunger at bay between meals. For exercise, most of us get overwhelmed at the thought of not only making time to work out but also travel to the gym. You need not worry—start at home. Pull out any exercise video from the internet and start with an investment of 15 minutes a day. You can gradually increase this on days you find more time. The idea is to get some physical fitness activity included in your daily life.”

EMILY FLEISCHMANN (Almond Board of California)

“The dilemma working mothers in India have is not much different from most working mothers across the world. While it is a struggle, we must make time to take care of ourselves first, so we are strong and healthy enough to take care of our loved ones and do our best at work.”

ANJU SOOD (Nutritionist)


“Finding time for maintaining personal health and wellness is a luxury most working mothers do not have. This in addition to unhealthy, unwholesome snacking habits and the sedentary lifestyles most of us lead, are key contributors to a rapid rise in lifestyle-related diseases. Hence it is important to ensure we incorporate healthy snacking habits by snacking on healthier options like fruits and vegetables and nutritious almonds. Almonds are a natural source of 15 nutrients, including plant proteins and healthy fats. Further, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that people who ate nuts such as almonds at least seven times per week had a 20% lower all-cause mortality rate (death from any cause) compared to those who did not eat nuts.”


This soup is based on similar authentic soups from Mexico. using fresh herbs rather than dried is essential. This is perfect as a light first course before a heavier Mexican entree.


  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds, roasted, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 3 cups packed fresh cilantro, divided, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • 2 cups packed fresh parsley, divided
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves
  • 8 ounces cooked and deveined (51-60 count) shrimp, thawed if frozen


Grind almonds into a powder in a food processor or blender. Add 2 cups broth, 1 1/2 cups cilantro, 1 cup parsley and cream cheese, and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium pot, and add remaining 4 cups broth. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Transfer 1 cup soup, remaining cilantro and parsley, and oregano and marjoram to blender; puree until smooth. Whisk puree into soup in pan. Add shrimp if desired and simmer just until warm throughout, about 3 minutes. Divide among bowls and serve, garnishing each bowl with a few slivered almonds and a cilantro sprig.



  • 4 cups whole natural almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika


  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated sea salt


Place almonds on two sheet trays lined with foil, and roast in a 350°F oven for approximately eight minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Lower the oven to 300°F. 

In a large mixing bowl, add the melted coconut oil, soy sauce, dried oregano, garlic powder, ginger powder, and smoked paprika and toss in the almonds. Mix to coat well. 

Place the coated almonds back on to each sheet tray, and place into the 300°F oven and roast for approximately eight minutes, stirring after four minutes. 

Remove from oven, cool slightly. To finish, add the final smoked paprika powder, garlic powder and sea salt, toss to coat. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.



  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 tablespoon crushed almonds


In a medium bowl, blend almond milk with chia seeds and whisk immediately. Set aside for 5 – 10 minutes while the chia seeds expand, then whisk again.

Stir in maple syrup and coconut flakes then divide into two small ramekins or jars. Top with crushed almonds and serve.

The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 days.



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