At a time when restaurants are pushing to cater to multiple palates and diets, there’s one minority that remains largely ignored across the food space—diabetics. The International Diabetes Federation pegged the number of Indians suffering from the disease at 69.1 million in 2015, with about 36 million undiagnosed cases. But in a country where starchy foods are a staple and sweets a part of nearly every meal, eating out can become a task. This, at least, was event consultant Seema Pinto’s experience.
“I’ve been diabetic for 12 years. It’s been a personal struggle through the years, to find a place to eat which offers healthy food options, especially when we are out on work or when going out to dine with family and friends,” she says.
It was this struggle that prompted her to approach chefs with the idea of starting a food festival that would cater to diabetics and pre-diabetic consumers. The Diabetic Food Trail, now in its second year, covers about 200 restaurants across Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, where chefs have curated special menus vetted by nutritionists.
Having approached chefs with the idea last year, she found the biggest challenge was educating them about the importance of foods that wouldn’t cause a spike in blood sugar. “It was a bit to convince restaurant owners and chefs to be part of this trail. As the concept of diabetic-friendly food is new, they were not very sure what kind of ingredients to use and what foods were low in glycemic index,” says Pinto. The idea is also to destigmatize diabetic food, to remove the notion that it must be bland and tasteless, and to reinforce that idea that it is possible to manage diabetes while eating well, says Pinto. To this end, this second “season” also includes cooking masterclasses with chefs and nutritionists, alongside fitness boot camps to introduce diabetic customers to regular physical activity.
To participate in the food trail, all customers have to do is walk into any of the 200 restaurants (listed on the website) and request the special menu. The restaurants featured include everything pick-up-and-go outlets like Faasos in Mumbai to five-star dining at the Ritz Carlton in Bengaluru. Dishes range from a quinoa and millet risotto at Bengaluru’s Caperberry to tariwala chicken and Southall saag paneer at Mirchi and Mime in Mumbai. Each dish comes with its own nutrition chart. Interestingly, every restaurant also has dessert on the menu, with sugar-free panna cotta being a firm favourite across the board.
The diabetic food trails runs from 12-30 November. The full list of participating restaurants can be found at diabeticfoodtrail.com.