by Iyath Adam
After a short break, we’re back again with our Lonumedhu interviews!
This time, we have a chat with Aysha (Aishath Adam) of popular Instagram page Low Calorie.Mv which offers a range of homemade healthy food. We discuss how her healthy food journey began, her recipe process and more!
Lonumedhu: How did you get into healthy cooking? What’s the story behind Low Calorie.Mv?
Aysha: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had this body pain that never quite seemed to go away, no matter what treatments I took. Although I was a bit overweight and never exercised, I was always a very active person through my work. But when I got my kids, quite close to each other in 2015 and 2016, I left my job. Staying at home, my activity levels went really low, and I went into a spiral of deep depression and anxiety. All of this caused me to gain a lot of weight in a very short period of time.
Through all this, my body pain just got worse and worse, and caused me to be bedridden for some time as well. It took a long time before I found out that this pain was related to weight gain, as my muscles were getting weaker. And then I also found out that I had type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. The doctors advised a total lifestyle transformation and told me that if I lost a significant amount of weight within 3 months, I could manage my illnesses without medication.
I started going to the gym and lost 12kg in 3 months. And within a year, I lost 21kg and gained more strength and became much more active and happier. During that weight loss period, it was very difficult to get healthy or low-calorie foods in Male’; it was only after the pandemic that these types of foods became more popular and hence, more affordable. It was difficult for me to make separate meals for myself as my children were very small then and needed constant care. So, I started off by making very simple healthy foods.
The first food I made was peanut butter – one of my favourite foods. After that, I started making healthier versions of foods I really liked with different alternative ingredients. Through that, and the encouragement of a lot of people, I started the Low Calorie.Mv page in 2020, as a hobby at first. When my husband lost his job during the pandemic, I decided to start taking on more orders through the page and doing this with a more business mindset. Cooking was always something I loved doing, so my hobby became something through which I earned and that’s how Low Calorie.Mv took off.
Lonumedhu: What’s the most popular item from your menu?
Aysha: Peanut butter has always been one of customers’ favourite items from my menu. Oats and quinoa kulhi boakibaa, wholewheat havaadhulee bis and gulha and are also very well-loved. And now our homemade jam and sugar-free almond butter are also big crowd favourites.
Customers also really like our healthy dessert items. Our double chocolate brownie cake, sugar-free almond cake and healthy banana cake trays are all made using very healthy ingredients without any sugar, oil or wheat.
Lonumedhu: How do you develop your recipes? Tell us a little bit about your process.
Aysha: When I like a food or if I’m making a dish for a custom order with specific ingredients, I always think of ways I can replace certain ingredients with healthier alternatives.
Whenever I make something new – I don’t follow a recipe – I just add ingredients as I see fit. But I always note down the ingredients and quantities which are added. Everything is always noted down, which means that a recipe is always created, even from the initial try. If it doesn’t turn out well, I adjust the measurements until I create a product that I am happy with.
Lonumedhu: How do you maintain the quality of your food?
Aysha: The food that I make for customers is what I eat at home and what I serve my kids as well, so I always try to ensure that the best ingredients and practices are followed. A lot of my customers have food allergies, so to avoid cross-contamination, I have separate food processors and grinders for different types of nut butters and separate cutleries and tools to handle different products as well.
I also make sure to create recipes from ingredients which are always readily available in Male’ – even if they are expensive. I do the food shopping for orders myself, so I always talk to the staff or the management at shops to check whether certain ingredients are trial or stock products. This helps to ensure that the taste remains the same in my products, and I don’t run out of ingredients for a certain dish.
Lonumedhu: Is there a recipe that you’ve always wanted to put a healthy spin on, but haven’t had the chance to try yet?
Aysha: Cake frosting. A bit earlier, when Greek yoghurt was a bit cheaper, I used to make a healthier frosting using that and vanilla beans. But it’s something I’d still like to develop more and bring to the page. And eggless desserts are also something I really want to experiment with.
Lonumedhu: Do you have any new recipes or products on the horizon?
Aysha: Right now, I’m developing frozen meal packs as a convenient, ready-to-go option for people. And I’m in the process of creating more nut butters as well.
Lonumedhu: As a mother balancing it all, what’s the most challenging part of what you do? And what do you love the most as well?
Aysha: The most challenging thing is the fact that everything about this work is very time consuming. Oven baking and roasting take a lot of time as opposed to frying or deep frying which is very instant.
The thing that I love most, is the change and the transformation which I have gone through, because of this work. I overcame depression through this which I believe is a great achievement. And the fact that I have inspired a lot of people to start and maintain a healthier lifestyle and help them through it.
Lonumedhu: What’s one piece of advice that you would like to give to aspiring home-based business owners?
Aysha: Business is always about ups and downs. When you start something, it’s always best to start off small. If you try to start off too big, it’s not sustainable. Another thing is to always work hard. Try your best and always show up for yourself and your work, even on the down days.
Lonumedhu: Before we wrap up, what’s your vision for the future? What’s next for Lowcalorie.mv?
Aysha: The core of my work has always been to help people. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did during my weight loss journey, unable to find certain foods and struggling with small children. So, accessibility is always a big thing for me.
On that note, the first thing I would like to do right now is to make delivery of my products available across the Maldives. Products like 100% sugar-free, preservative-free nut butters or jam are very hard to find, and not easily available outside of Male’. So, I want to make this easily accessible to people in other regions as well in an easy and convenient manner. The other thing is to increase my capacity so I can take on more orders and cater to more people.
Lonumedhu: We would love to see that as well! Thank you so much for your time, Aysha. We wish you great times ahead.