Calories and Indian Food

The relationship between high calories and Indian food is a major one. This rich cuisine is one of the most tastiest foods in the world but it is also one of the most fattening. So, choosing dishes wisely can still allow you to enjoy this food.

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  • Calories in Indian Food

    we use a lot of oil in our dishes

    One of the richest diets high in calories is Indian Food. If you can pinch more than an inch, it’s probably time for you to cut down on the calories you eat in Desi food, especially if you want to lose some pounds to be healthier and look fitter.

    It may seem so innocent just to have that bite size Pakora but we really don’t know what  fat or calories it contains. This is true; most of us don’t actually know what were eating when we have an Indian meal at home or at an Indian restaurant.

    A small spicy plate of curry is enough usually to fill our appetites but we don’t know how many calories are in it. Today, the younger generation of British Asians are more aware of calories and fat than before. Amreen Razaq, 22, said,

    “I am very calorie conscious and always have been, it is important to cut down the amount of calories we digest on a daily basis to stay healthy.”

    Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi dishes in particular use large amounts of oil or fat. Traditional Asians tend to use ‘ghee’ or butter which increases hugely both the calories as well as the fat in a dish.

    However, Mr Ahmed, 61, said “I found along my years that a balanced diet has helped me maintain my stamina. I agree, Indian food is cooked in more ghee or oil than other continental dishes but spices, meat and vegetables are needed within an Indian to enhance its taste”.

    Therefore, if you’re seeking to control the calories when choosing a dish, make sure you minimise the ghee or oil content and have more of the other ingredients. If cooking, use alternatives such as Olive oil. When ordering in a restaurant, request less fat to be used in your dish.

    Seasonal eating plays a key role in our diets. During the Winter we tend to eat more heavier foods such as deserts and spoil ourselves with scrumptious hot meals usually full of comforting ingredients, thus, making it harder to shift the pounds with exercise.

    Alya Sadique, 42, said, “I go regularly to the gym, but a healthy diet is also required. Being an Asian woman myself I know we use a lot of oil in our dishes but I never know just how much calories we put on after a meal. So keeping an eye out for those which have more calories would help me control my weight.”

    Eating out can always be a dilemma between choosing a tasty dish and one that is low in calories. Therefore, choosing your courses wisely can help you manage the calorie count.

    When considering what to eat for your starter, it is perhaps best to choose something light, such as a Popadom as this contains only 65 calories. Unlike Samosa’s or Onion Bhaji’s which contain a higher calorie content in each portion.

    Dips are used to enhance the taste of a starter, but don’t be fooled, these also contain calories. A Cucumber Raita or a Tomato Sambal contains approximately 20 calories each. This is significantly less than Mango Chutney or Lime Pickle; a little as 1tbsp can contain up to 70 calories. Yes, you read correctly, 70 calories!

    So for a starter choose a Popadom with Cucumber Raita or Tomatoe Sambal to accompany it – a course which has fewer colories than most of the other options.

    The curry is one of the most popular foods in Britain. The flavours, spices and its masala (sauce) is what make it so tasteful. But it is often this rich masala that amplifes the calorie content within the curry. If it’s a low calorific curry you want, it would be beneficial to choose Chicken, Vegetable or a Prawn curry.

    A lot of British Asians love meat in their dishes and if that’s the case for you, add as much as it as you desire but remember to leave the masala behind. This is the biggest problem when trying to have a delicious curry but keeping the calories to a minimum.

    The most fatty curries are those which are cooked in a creamy masala. This is because many are cooked with cream and others are cooked in rich butter (makhan). For example, korma dishes are known to be cooked with cream, ground almonds and saffron. So, to avoid extra calories, stick to drier masala dishes such as Bhuna, Tikka or Tandoori.

    For vegetarian options, ‘Daal’ is the lightest of dishes, usually made with lentils and similar pulses. In general, vegetarian dishes will be more healthier than meat dishes. Dishes with saag (spinach) are high in iron, and many love the favourite of  ‘Aloo Gobi’ which is a combination of potatoes and cauliflower cooked in a drier spicy curry.

    Pilau rice has a higher calorie content than boiled rice, this is due to the added oil as well as many other ingredients used within it. Naan bread contains roughly about 300 calories due to the amount of fat and carbohydrates used, whereas, Chappatis or Tandoori Roti will be less.  So, choosing healthier options may not always be the obvious ones on the menu. Quantities of Naan or Rotis matter too, so order as you eat without ordering too much upfront and ‘having’ to finish them.

    No Indian meal is complete without a traditional dessert. Indian sweet dishes are always tempting and know exactly how to tickle those taste buds but the taste is always at the expense of higher calories.

    Avoiding sweet dishes such as Halwa will help your calorie reduction, especially, Gajar Ka Halwa, which has about 450 grams of sugar in it and a whopping 570 calories in one portion. Mysore Pak is another Indian sweet dish that has about 357 calories due to the addition of ghee and sugar.

    Therefore, when wanting to keep the calories low, choosing Barfi or Gulab Jaman will be a better option, which have about 100 calories in each portion.

    So be very careful what you eat and the quantity despite how appealing it looks.

    Below are guides for popular Indian food dishes, to give you an insight into what is high or low in calories and fat. These are typical values for one average serving of the dish.




    Cucumber Raita , 1tbsp



    Tomato Sambal, 1tbsp



    Mango Chutney, 1tbsp



    Poppadom, each



    Lime Pickle, 1tbsp



    Onion Bhaji, each



    Vegetable Samosa, each



    Meat Samosa, each






    Tandoori chicken



    Aloo Gobi



    Vegetable Curry



    Chicken Madras



    Saag Aloo



    Vegetable Biryani



    Chicken Tikka Masala



    Chicken Curry



    Lamb Rogan Josh



    Lamb Kheema



    Chicken Korma Curry



    Naan Bread



    Pilau Rice



    Boiled Rice












    Gulab Jamun






    Ras Mallai



    Imagine two Samosas for a starter, a Chicken Tikka Masala and two Naans for main, and a Gulab Jamon for sweet – you easily have a meal that contains over 1800 calories! When the average calorie for a day are about 2500 for a man and 2000 for women. This one meal alone does not leave a lot of calories for the rest of the meals!

    Being a big ‘foody’ does have its downfalls but if you plan out your meals and stay within a reasonable calorie content you should be able to shift enough pounds in time. All you need is a little hard work to fight off temptation and the determination to fit into that perfect sari or perfect suit for that special date or occasion.

    Which of these do you most use in your Desi cooking?

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    Nazhat is a woman on a mission to reveal many different aspects of 'Desiness.' With interests in fashion, cooking and keeping fit, she describes herself as a bright and chic 'Desi' lady who lives by the motto 'survival of the fittest...'

    Figures provided in the tables are typical values for average single portion. is not responsible for the complete accuracy of the figures. Please check with a dietician or nutritionist for more information.


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