Keeping up with alternative diets

The Bengali cuisine is full of diversity – from spicy and flavourful kebabs to sweet and delicate desserts. However, for a lot of people, such diversity is often not an option because of their commitment to an alternative diet, which includes modifications or substitutes for certain food items or ingredients.

We look to explore how diverse some diets may be, and the connotations surrounding ethical, religious, health concerns and all other reasons one might follow them.

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For most people, common allergy-inducing food items like aubergines and shrimps can easily be substituted. For others, however, restrictions based on allergies or other health issues go way beyond what we’re accustomed to, and may even change their lifestyles drastically.

Soumyabha Das, a twelfth-grade student at Sir John Wilson School, has strict restrictions on protein and cholesterol due to a congenital problem in one of his kidneys. He cannot eat a lot of his favourite food such as ghee, egg yolks, chicken, or red meat.

“I had to resort to substitutes such as fish for chicken, cholar daal for regular daal and proteins. I eat nuts during break at school instead of regular processed food, which is much healthier. These substitutes were all talked through with dieticians who suggested these preparations,” explained Soumyabha.

While talking about his experiences in local restaurants, Soumyabha further elaborated that most restaurants have fewer protein-heavy options and said, “I would ideally opt for chicken steak meals or fish and try to maximise my veggie intake.”

Food restrictions can become more extreme depending on the individual’s health concerns. Twenty-five-year-old Shahjada Aswad, who is currently working at bKash, has gluten intolerance. So, he cannot eat wheat or flour-based products, which encompass a significant portion of the local cuisine.

When asked about how people generally react to his restrictions, he replied, “Most people in Dhaka do not really know what gluten is, let alone understand that someone could be allergic to it. They seem to be pretty curious whenever I have to explain it. They also…

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