By Punya Srivastava
Alia Almoayed, nutritional therapist from the Kingdom of Bahrain, and author of the newly released book,I Want Healthy Kids, talks to Punya Srivastava on the benefits of healthy eating
“Healthy eating is not an isolated concept. It involves a complete overhaul of your lifestyle,” she comments as we sit chatting in the spacious lounge of the Grand India Heritage Centre, New Delhi, prior to the launch of her latest book, I Want Healthy Kids, published by Life Positive Publication.
Alia Almoayed has a well-deserved reputation as a nutritional therapist par excellence in the Middle East. A woman of many talents, Alia juggles her time between writing health articles for various publications, running her own television and radio show, and holding lectures and seminars on the subject. She also leads annual health retreats, and heads a number of weight loss projects throughout the year.
A citizen of Bahrain, Alia has authored books on healthy eating, like The Dream Body Eating Plan, I Want a Healthy Pregnancy, and 101 Ways To Improve Your Health. Her latest work is, I Want Healthy Kids, a book on how to raise healthy children which is being lapped up by curious parents at an astonishing rate. Alia also hosts Dare To Be Healthy, an English internet health show, and is the founder and host of the award-winning Arabic TV show Shrayha Alia. Not only that, many restaurants in Bahrain have Alia-approved food items in their menus.
They say that man proposes and God disposes. Alia’s story validates this saying. With an educational background in media and marketing communications, Alia was living in London when she came down with an illness. She went from one doctor to another, but they could not diagnose her problem. That is when she started surfing the internet to find out about her illness, and stumbled upon natural alternatives. “I started implementing them on a regular basis, and realized that they actually worked. That is when I fell in love with this subject. I decided to do a short course in natural health alternatives,” she relates. This was remarkable since she had never heard about natural solutions to problems while growing up. She undertook a five-year course later on, to re-qualify as a nutritional therapist. She graduated from the United Kingdom College of Nutrition and Health which earned her a membership of the UK-based British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy. “I brought back the knowledge to the Middle East when I moved from London to Bahrain for good,” says the mother of three young kids.
On being asked about the growth she has experienced after choosing the alternative lifestyle, she says, “I am still learning. I have been learning since the last 10-12 years, long after my course got over. Learning doesn’t stop. Every time you feel that you know everything, something happens; like you get ill or somebody you love gets ill, which pushes you to try other methods and broaden your horizons.”
The conversation naturally drifted to the importance of giving children healthy food. Alia observed that a parent cannot differentiate between the food that the child eats, and the one that the rest of the family eats. “There has to be a complete lifestyle change in the family for these food practices to be more effective,” says she. Talking about organic foods, Alia remarks that an organic alternative for everything is not very realistic, especially if one has budget constraints. “I usually recommend eating fresh to people. Try to get that food on your plate which you can easily procure, or that which you can get fresh from the farmers,” she suggests. In all her talks and lectures, she urges people to eat seasonal and local foods as they are not only pocket-friendly, but also fortify one’s body.
Commenting on ways of having a wholesome, nutritious as well as tasty meal for the whole family, Alia chalks out some easy ways. “Children usually are averse to leafy greens. If your child is not interested in eating spinach, then instead of giving up after two days of cajoling, keep bringing spinach to the table, and eating it before the child. There is a 20-day rule which says that it takes these many days for a child to attempt new food, forget about liking it. But most parents give up after two days,” she observes. Food is habitual as well as visual. Hence, making healthy food a habit is necessary. Another rule is to add new things to your diet. “First, add the good things and, eventually, the unhealthy things won’t have any space in your life. Another helpful way is to involve the children in the selection process instead of imposing the food on them. And lastly, the most significant thing is to set priorities. If you have decided to live healthily, then you need to put in some effort everyday to sustain that goal. It need not be 100 per cent all the time, but enough to keep you motivated for another day, and then another day and so on,” she states.
Ask her about the challenges that she encounters while propagating the benefits of healthy eating, and she quickly points to the decision makers. She recalls how once she delivered a lecture on healthy eating to school children. “But when they went home, they found junk food in the refrigerator. Even the school canteen was stocked with regular fast food. More than the kids, we need to reach out to the decision makers and convince them to put in some extra efforts to ensure healthy options all around.”
“Once, we got the canteen menu changed in a school, and the parents began to complain that their children were not happy with the food. They quickly dismiss the idea instead of waiting for children to develop a taste for healthy options. Now, whenever I get a request from any school to deliver a lecture to the students, I tell them that I would rather talk to the school management or the parents,” she adds.
However, undeterred by these challenges, Alia strives to reach out to more and more people through various channels to share her knowledge and make their lives healthy. “I am fascinated by the magic of complementary and alternative therapies. I love experimenting with different ways of enhancing the body, mind, and the spirit. I benefit greatly by eating healthy and doing yoga, but seeing my clients thrive on a healthy eating plan is the greatest source of my gratification,” she beams.
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