Celebrity nutritionist Sridevi Jasti’s uncomplicated and clean food is transforming the health of Hyderabad

ByRama Ramanan

Published Jan 23, 2024 | 9:30 AMUpdatedJan 30, 2024 | 12:33 PM

Sridevi Jasti is a holistic nutritionist by career and a gourmet chef by training.

Curious, creative and a careful connoisseur of food are the qualities of Hyderabad-based celebrity nutritionist Sridevi Jasti I was introduced to while on an hour-long phone call.

But our freewheeling chat also reminds me of yesteryear American lifestyle icon, Martha Stewart, who was considered as the OG food influencer. Perhaps it’s their unifying life philosophy that there is no place like home to build a good food empire that resonates during this interview.

“I’ve always been a foodie. I am good at creating tasty food. And with a background in nutrition, I like coming up with new recipes and teaching people to eat well, effortlessly or with minimum effort,” announces Jasti as we trace her entrepreneurial journey.

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Always a foodie

Jasti moved to Canada when she was 21 to study and pursue a degree in nutrition. Aware of her love for food, especially good, clean food, this pursuit was a natural decision.

Vibrant Living has three outlets in Hyderabad— Khajaguda, Jubilee Hills and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. (Supplied)

Vibrant Living has three outlets in Hyderabad— Khajaguda, Jubilee Hills and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. (Supplied)

“I lived in Canada for 7 years and then North America for 12 years. Later, my husband and I shuttled between Italy, America and Canada for several years before moving back to India in 2010. My husband is also a foodie, and both of us often travelled to eat,” recalls the 55-year-old, who owned a healthcare business during her US stint.

“A lot of people think that eating healthy is a lot of work. I have always wanted to show people that it is not difficult. And every time I travelled to India, this was my biggest challenge,” she shares.

Over the years, Jasti was also keen for her son to learn Telugu, their mother tongue. “So we started spending a lot of time in Hyderabad,” she adds.

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The first break

It was during these trips to Hyderabad in 2010 that Jasti started holding workshops and talks about clean eating. Before she knew it, a group was formed and Jasti’s well-wishers insisted, “Why don’t you set up a kitchen?”

“I wanted a space which is not a cafe, so I decided to start on a subscription model. The initial subscriptions were for smoothies. I realised that one drink can give a lot of nourishment, especially for people who are not used to eating salads etc. every day. This soon graduated to lunches, dinners etc.,” she shares.

When Jasti’s time in India was done, her subscribers were worried about going back to unhealthy food and urged her for Skype consultations. Two years into this model of food business, Jasti discovered that unhealthy snacking was one of the big challenges for her clients and others around.

With word about her good work gaining attention, she was approached by Upasana Kamineni, Vice Chairperson of Apollo Foundation, to train the nutritionists and dietitians at Apollo Hospitals.

She remembers it as a “wholesome experience.”

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Moving to India

“I was having the most beautiful life travelling everywhere. Also, every time I was in India I would put out fancy creative dinner parties. They may not always be vegan but it was healthy and delicious,” she informs.

While Jasti was never keen on getting into the food business, she found herself at the epicentre of it. Moving back to India seemed like the appropriate decision.

“I knew I would be able to manage living and doing business in India because of the prevalence of millets. Because millets were a jewel for me to create a diverse platter when I was living abroad,” she shares.

This was also the time when her son was four years old and Jasti preferred to dedicate her time to him. And yet, she felt constantly nagged by a lack of fulfilment. Speaking to a confidante was a moment of revelation. Her true joy, she realised, was in helping others benefit from her love for good food.

Thus, Vibrant Living was born.

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Getting down to business

“There was no one with my kind of knowledge in Hyderabad. I was fortunate to have so much exposure to good food. If not me, who else,” she exclaims.

Vibrant Living was a cloud kitchen before the era of cloud kitchen, she adds. But what worried her was that potential clients wouldn’t know the essence of her work without sampling her food.

As a next step, once a week on Saturdays, Jasti opened the doors of her kitchen for people to try her sauces and snacks. Following the success of this, clients requested her to source organic veggies for them. To make this possible, she started a Saturday market from 3-6 pm.

This continued till the team moved to a new location in Jubilee Hills before Covid-19.

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Where it’s all done

At the Jubilee Hills outlet, the ground floor is dedicated to manufacturing snacks. The first floor houses the shop and cafe. The second floor is for the studio where Jasti conducts her workshops.

But logistical challenges started mounting and Jasti was keen to pause the Covid-19 era. The Universe, however, rewarded her with more requests, and new subscriptions commenced.

Vibrant Living now has three outlets. The one in Khajaguda has a shop, cafe and studio. The Jubilee Hills outlet has a shop, juice bar, cafe, yoga studio and a studio to create her YouTube videos.

The outlets have 50 varieties of snacks, organically sourced groceries, herbs, spices and millets.

The most recent addition to her vibrant living philosophy is the outlet at the Departure terminal of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport which has a cafe and a shop.

Jasti asserts that all their snacks are “deliciously healthy with no additives, no preservatives, and everything is naturally processed.”

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The vegan conundrum

Even as she chalked out clean eating plans for her patrons, Jasti, initially, never divulged to her clients that her food was vegan.

“They might have worried that it’s too foreign for them. My food, however, has always been plant-based even though I was not a vegan at the time. I was not eating meat. I chose to have vegan food from day one because people who were coming to me were eating too much meat,” she informs.

It was also a time when most of her clients had chronic diseases and issues with digestion. Aware of the benefits of plant-based food, Jasti’s intent was simple — help them in their heart, health and weight management.

Having restored the health of her clients, Jasti too switched to veganism.

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Veganism in South India

Jasti insists that veganism is not difficult to follow. “Several dishes in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are naturally vegan since they use a lot of coconut milk. While veganism is mainstream outside India, it’s still not popular here. We are not realising that the kind of dairy we are getting or the kind of practices that are being used in raising poultry and dairy is not healthy,” she counsels.

It’s not important to be vegan to be healthy, but what is important is to eat clean food to be healthy, Jasti advises. “You do not want to eat food that has extra hormones induced in the animal. You don’t want to eat meat of the animals treated badly to become your food,” she shares.

Beyond meat, she follows a similar philosophy for fruits and vegetables too. “Are we aware of where they are sourced from?” she asks.

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Food on the farm

Delving into the history of food consumed by our ancestors, Jasti comes down to the basics.

“Animals back then were part of their sustainable life. Many of our ancestors were farmers. They needed farm animals to help farming and these animals were treated well. They had names, they were petted. Their gut bacteria had something to do with your gut bacteria. You exchanged these microorganisms because you were near, you were in contact with each other. Our ancestors walked barefoot on the farm, they had the full spectrum of microorganisms working to strengthen their gut. And it was healthy,” she elaborates.

Even buttermilk, she informs, is not watered yoghurt. Buttermilk is yoghurt which is churned. “But do we make it in the traditional form now?”

Our food chain has changed in the last 30 years. Tomatoes may not have the same amount of vitamin C or flavour as suggested by nutrition books, she emphasises.

Jasti is apprehensive that in this era, animals are raised so that they can become our food. She’s also perturbed that girls are attaining puberty at the age of eight and nine. Boys are growing a moustache
even before they are teens. “It’s all coming from processed food. Everything needs to be questioned,” she notes.

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Advice for women over 40

While age may be just a number, the body experiences its share of ebbs and flows as one reaches mid-life. Jasti advises women under 40 to not take their health for granted. And for those over 40, she has an honest word of caution.

“Don’t think that what you’ve been doing will work the same way going forward. Smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, vaping, and following diet fads can all affect your health,” she articulates.

Your weight should not be your priority; creating and following healthy lifestyle habits, she suggests. “Move your body and eat food that helps your hormones,” shares Jasti, whose day starts at 5 am by connecting with nature, spending time with her cats, and following a yoga routine.

“Eat your seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Go easy with the meat and avoid dairy if possible. Connect with nature and follow the circadian rhythm. Research shows that walking outdoors in nature has more benefits than walking on a treadmill,” she offers.

Respect your body and treat it like a place of worship, she guides, adding, “Eating wrong is abuse.

Ploughing her own road seems natural to Jasti. Taking a health condition, mindfully addressing it, getting visible results and most importantly, doing it yourself, is her guiding principle.

“You don’t need to be a nutritionist, you don’t need to have too much knowledge in nutrition. All you need is joy from eating good food. Don’t deprive yourself of the joy,” she signs off.