Bengaluru-based nutritionist Kirti Yadav started KukClean, a plant-based food brand to provide healthy and tasty food choices for people with diabetes and everyone else looking for sugar-free alternatives.
If your mouth waters when you spot sweets and deep-fried snacks, the temptation can be hard to resist. More so, for people with diabetes. Hunger and cravings are frustrating side effects of high blood sugar levels.
So, what can a person with diabetes eat when craving sweets?
KuKClean, a Bengaluru-based startup, has come up with a solution. From its ragi ladoos (finger millet sweets) to ajwain mathri (carom seed snack) and granola, this startup offers vegan, plant-based sweet and snack products, designed by certified holistic nutritionists.
“We wish to give diabetic patients and healthy food cravers chat pata (savoury) food choices,” founder and nutritionist Kirti Yadav tells The Better India. “We believe in making food which is clean — no maida (all-purpose flour) and no sugar. We only use raisins, figs, jaggery and dates to sweeten our products, and don’t deep fry anything; it’s either roasted or baked,”
She continues, “Medicines are meant to cure you within a few years, but in diabetes, they keep increasing throughout life. This means there is something wrong, and you need to start changing your food, habits and lifestyle.”
“So, we suggest a plant-based lifestyle, especially to patients with diabetes. It’s recommended to leave dairy, meat and animal-based products to regulate blood glucose levels, and consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as millet and red rice,” the 40-year-old shares.
It all started when Kirti wanted to make healthy plant-based and vegan food for her daughter and also lose weight post-pregnancy.
“When my daughter was born in 2014, I weighed 75 kg, and I wanted to lose that. So, I followed a plant-based lifestyle that worked for me. I lost around 25 kg. That’s when I thought of making plant-based food for diabetic patients to help them regulate blood glucose levels,” says Kirti, who completed her nutrition course in 2020 from ASPA (USA). Earlier, the computer science graduate used to work with IBM.
What is a plant-based lifestyle?
A plant-based lifestyle focuses on food directly sourced from mother nature. Any animal product – seafood, meat, milk, curd, butter, ghee (clarified butter), paneer (cottage cheese) — is not allowed. Eating food as naturally as possible is advised. For example, consuming fibre-rich fruits directly instead of drinking their juice with salt and sugar.
The nutritionist says, “Vitamins and minerals are abundantly available in different varieties of plants. For example, ragi has more calcium than milk. But unfortunately, milk has been advertised and marketed so much that we do not consider ragi as a source of calcium. You can get omega 3 from flax seeds, but people think fish is the only source; in fact, these days because of pollution, consuming fish is risky. It’s a safer choice to switch to plants.”
No sugar, no preservatives
Kirti claims that all KuKClean food products are 100 per cent chemical-free, preservative-free, dairy-free, maida-free, and white sugar-free.
“We don’t put any chemicals or preservatives in our products as we do not believe in increasing the shelf life of the products. Our products are freshly made and delivered to the customers. We do not want to work in the category where we unnecessarily increase the shelf life of our products by adding emulsifiers, preservatives and chemicals,” she says.
“Besides, we process the ingredients minimally. For instance, ragi ladoos have only ragi, jaggery and peanuts; we do not add any oil or ghee. These are calcium-rich ladoos prepared by baking and roasting. We also make granola which is made from rolled oats and has a variety of nuts, seeds and berries. It is a fibre-rich food that is good for breakfast”, says Kirti.
“We want to be as close to nature as possible and provide whole foods. And when I say whole foods, it means nothing bad is added, and nothing good is removed,” she adds.
The startup was registered last year in 2021, and Kirti runs it with her husband and co-founder Akar Misra. While Akar focuses on the taste and operation of the startup, Kirti focuses on nutrition. Their seven-year-old daughter tastes every product, and they eagerly wait for her expressions. Only when she says “can I have one more?”, the product is added to the store. The family claims they do not keep products that they themselves do not believe in or do not consume.
From organic ragi ladoos, dry fruit ladoos, almond ladoos, and baked ajwain whole wheat mathri, to whole wheat chocolate cupcakes and ready-to-cook millet masala dosa powder, all the home-cooked food products range between Rs 149 and Rs 360. “We provide affordable products, and this is also changing the mindset that vegan food is very expensive,” she adds.
All the sweet and snack products are home delivered within 24 to 48 hours across the country.
Empowering pandemic-affected women
The couple has employed six members in the team — all women. The livelihood of these women, mostly from the lower working classes, was hit during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. From cooks and helpers to delivery personnel, the company is trying to assist them to become self-reliant again.
For instance, after losing her job as a household cook, Amy now works in their startup and is the person behind the tempting ragi ladoos, almond ladoos, and mathri.
“They taught me everything — right from the quantity of millet to be used to baking the ladoos perfectly. My income has increased by 50 per cent from my previous job, and I love to work here,” says Amy, a 24-year-old single mother of two kids aged 6 and 10 years. She adds, “With this income, I’m able to afford the children’s private school fees.”
Kirti also gives lifestyle counselling sessions for those interested in leading a healthy lifestyle; she conducts corporate workshops too. “The counselling helps people with diabetes to regulate their blood sugars and slowly reverse their diabetes and helps others to lead a healthy life. There has been a positive response to our food,” she says.
“The ragi ladoo is one of our signature products. We will be promoting it and other millet products next year which is the international year of millet,” Kirti concludes.
You can buy products from KukClean here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat. All images: Kirti Yadav.