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.
What Indian food we eat to fill our appetites usually is based on taste and we often don’t know how many calories are in it.
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.
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 heavier foods such as desserts and spoil ourselves with scrumptious hot meals usually full of comforting ingredients, thus, making it harder to shift the pounds with exercise.
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 (pakoras) 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 Tomato Sambal to accompany it – a course which has fewer calories than most of the other options.
Meat is popular in Desi dishes so ordering leaner meat like Chicken and Turkey are better for you than red meat. Go for grilled starters.
The flavours, spices and its masala (sauce) in a curry is what make it so tasteful. But it is often this rich masala that amplifies 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.
The fattiest 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 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. also, avoid naan and rice together.
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 grammes 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 has about 100 calories in each portion.
So be very careful what you Indian food you eat and the quantity despite how appealing it looks, when in a restaurant.
Indian Food Calories Guide
Below is a guide 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
Lime Pickle, 1tbsp
Onion Bhaji, each
Vegetable Samosa, each
Meat Samosa, each
Chicken Tikka Masala
Lamb Rogan Josh
Chicken Korma Curry
Imagine if you have two Samosas, a Chicken Tikka Masala and two Naans, and a Gulab Jamon for a 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 your meals!
Cooking at Home
Making Indian food at home is always a better option than eating out a lot because you have more control in what goes into your dishes.
When making Desi food at home try and observe the calories that you are adding to your dishes. Here are some quick tips:
- Choose better fats for your curries – olive oil, rapeseed oil etc.
- Try and cook more food with fresher ingredients – more vegetables, daals and leaner meat
- Use good spices – they speed up your metabolism, especially chillies
- Reduce the amount of salt and sugar – we tend to use too much than the daily limits
- Avoid adding creams or using off-the-shelf sauces. Make your own!
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.