Talking food and Health with Ritu

Posted by Jannine Newman on
Talking food and Health with Ritu

Recently I spent a food filled Saturday with founder of Life and Larder Ritu Vaghela. Having worked for many years in a large organisation, she decided to change course and go it alone. In between photos and eating, we talked some more.

What is your business about?
It’s a well-being business which focuses on supporting others to find their balance through Ayurveda, holistic coaching and through the process of cooking.

What made you set up your business? It’s very different to your previous work life.

I wanted to bring the benefits of holistic healthy living to others through balanced lifestyle choices and diet. For years I’d experienced fatigue but I’d just accepted that that was how I was so I would push on through and “just get on with things”. It wasn’t until my systems worsened that I took a closer look at how I lived my life to try to turn this all around.

I’d practiced yoga and meditation for about 10 years and found them to be really supportive and I knew that I needed to provide more nurturing self-care during 1.5 years of being undiagnosed. I had also grown up with Ayurveda and understood some of the basic principles of balance through food and herbs. Knowing that these Indian sciences were balancing for mind and body, supportive, natural and holistic – I wanted to develop my understanding further.

I qualified as an Ayurvedic Consultant, undertook a Diploma in Nutrition and another in Physiology and I developed my meditation practice to include different techniques. I’d also been an avid cook for years and with my firm belief that the mind and body are one, I founded Life & Larder.

Can you explain Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian life science, which supports people to find their balance. Following an in depth consultation exploring life experience I would assess a persons constitution to provide guidance on how they can restore their balance through diet, drinks, lifestyle choices, yoga, meditation/breathing exercises and massage. It’s about developing awareness in the individual and being empowered to make changes in order to support well-being and develop a balanced life in what is often a chaotic life. The changes introduced, may be just small if a person has a busy life which could be through drinks or herbs or if they love yoga, incorporating particular poses or sequences into their routine. It’s important to be realistic with what we are trying to achieve, be kind, non-judgemental and ultimately show our selves self-love and self-care.

The holistic coaching, is a 360 degree approach to developing well-being which is secular. It supports the individual to really tap into their motivations, life experiences and knowledge to explore the aspects in their life where they want to see change happen and to then to work together to create that pathway so the individual can take those first realistic and empowered steps forward.

Tell us more about how cooking can help well being

The cooking classes are a major cornerstone to supporting well-being for mind and body. We’ve known for years that food supports our physical health and there is growing awareness that what we eat can support our psychological and emotional health also.

With health stats being shared with us on what feels like a daily basis regarding obesity, mental health, diabetes, cancer rates etc and with the HNS being stretched, I really want to support others to be able to support their personal well-being.

There are many benefits that can derived from the cooking process itself which includes; developing confidence, connecting with others, greater self-esteem, self-care, resilience, resourcefulness and time management. Learning to cook healthy, fresh meals and becoming less reliant on processed/pre-prepared food is a great way to achieve well-being and to cook with others learning new recipes is a socially connecting and affirming experience.

What are your hopes for the future?

To write a recipe book drawing on my Indian heritage (and tasty meals from around the world, because why limit yourself) and a multi-functional space where people can come along and just be. A place to eat and drink, take cooking and horticultural classes, practice yoga and meditation and receive coaching and counselling and massage therapy–a wellbeing space which would also have the potential for being a community hub.

What does self-care mean to you and have you any self-care tips?

To me that means being in balance and in tune with yourself. Developing self-awareness and living in a way that promotes your own wellbeing and health. If someone if trying to find their balance, my top 3 self-care tips include;

Develop awareness: carve out time to be with yourself, to be still, to be patient and to hear what your body and mind needs. It’s often that quiet voice that is easy to overlook some may call it their gut instinct). That voice continues to guide me to find my calm, my purpose and my balance

Be kind to yourself: Life can be hectic and we can also be our harshest critics. So take the time for self-care, it might mean exercising, having a laugh with friends, unwinding at the end of a long day, cooking a meal, going to the movies – whatever that is for you take time to do life affirming things to re-energise.    

Eat for your body: Eat a balanced diet, which nourishes your personal health and well-being. If possible taking time to prepare at least one meal a week for maximum nutritional benefit for mind and body. Eating for health can be preventative as well as responsive.

What is the most valuable thing you own?

My initial response would be to say my journey in life up to this point, which has led me to this wonderful place. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. I would be fascinated to see how that would look, if transferred to an image or inanimate object.

If we had to photograph something then I would say my original recipe book, which has been written all over and which I’ve had since I was 12. I still sometimes write in it. It’s full of memories of my family, heritage, wholesome food and yumminess if there ever was such a word.

When it comes to cooking, I've learnt most of what I know from friends and I took away a top tip from Ritu at the end of our day together. Griddle fry your veg - courgette, aubergine and pepper and then put them on a plate covered with cling film. It keeps them cooking and softens them further. I did this the very next day and have been doing it quite often since! It's small tricks like this which make the difference.