Your friends want to meet at an Indian restaurant and the dialogue begins… “How am I going to manage eating well with creamy curries? Don’t people always order those crispy samosas? Oh, man I love that naan bread!” Even if just one of these ideas has popped into your head, I am here to help guide you. Believe it or not, even Indian Cuisine can be done healthier.
Below are a few ways to keep healthy indian food options a part of your healthier and lower-calorie lifestyle.
Healthy Indian Food Options Strategies:
1) Watch the MMM’s.
- Masala, Makhani, Malai
–Masala is a blend of Indian spices that adds great flavor to a dish. It’s wonderful on its own but, do pay attention as some restaurants will a lot of oil to keep flavors intense OR add cream to their sauce. My advice: ask for it done light or without.
–Makhani is a traditional meat and/or vegetable dish cooked in a tomato sauce with ghee (clarified butter) or cream. Although rich in flavor, this may not be the most waist-friendly dish. My advice: find another tomato based-dish that uses one or none of the ghee or cream.
–Malai is a cream that is used in many Indian dishes (often sweet dishes). So, yes, this also is most likely a heavier dish. My advice: for a modification, ask for it light.
2) Build some heat.
Clay ovens are a large part of Indian cooking. Meat, fish, or chicken are usually marinated, spiced, and cooked to perfection. Usually, it is considered a full-flavored, lower-calorie dish. Try your meat or veggies tikka or tandoori style. Tikka is marinated and grilled on a skewer and tandoori is a style of cooking based on the use of a tandoor.
3) Don’t be fooled by the doughs.
Naan, a favorite of many is offered in array of different flavors (even whole wheat!). One piece will make a small dent (average is around 200 calories). So, if you really want it, go for it.; just don’t go for the entire basket or the extra fillings. You may also try going for ½ or asking for it as a substitute to rice with your main dish. Other bread, pastry or stuffed doughs include: papadum, roti, porri, chapatti, samosas, and paratha. My advice here: stick to the basics – the more butter, potatoes, and meats stuffed into a dough, the more you will have to account for.
4) Lighten Up Coconuts and Currys.
If you have had curry sauce, you know that it is typically well-seasoned AND well-spiced. Additionally, it can also be flavored with ghee making it a heavy dish. My advice: ask the server to lighten it up. Coconut milk can add a great deal of flavor and is certainly healthier than a heavy cream. However, its high fat content can make one meal the equivalent of two. My advice: go without the coconut; Indian food has plenty of flavor on its own.
5) Rice IS nice.
BUT, like anything, too much of a good thing loses its value. A serving of rice is ½ cup (105 calories). The average served at a restaurant – 1 cup (210 calories). At a meal, an average woman should consume this while an average man can add a little extra ¾-1 cup. Even better, swap it out for more veggies for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
6) Share, or pass on Decadent Desserts.
Most Indian desserts are cream or milk-based. This keeps calories and fat high, unfortunately. My advice: share the dish with a few people, order a tea, or just pass on it all together.
Healthy Indian Food Comparison
Here is a way to make the night out a well-deserved healthy one.
** calorie content will vary from place to place
Sources: www.myfitnesspal.com; www.livestrong.com
Healthy Indian Food Meal Example
For a little perspective, here is of what a MODERATELY portioned meal might look like from each of the menus:
The meal choices in the first column don’t sound too bad at first glance. This is just until you look at the totaled calories and find that it is more than a days worth of food. Shocking, right!? The menu on the right is more than 2/3 less than its comparison. To reduce calories even more, opt out of the appetizer, replace rice with roti at its main meal, swap out rice for extra vegetables, or share your entrée.
I hope you are now confident to choose healthy Indian foods!