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  • How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    Trying to lose weight on a Desi diet can a be a problem. We look at five ways to make some changes to your food and drink to help.

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    A medium roti (chappati) has 151 calories and is 22.2g of carbs

    Let’s face it the Desi diet can definitely be a magnet for calories.

    Be it that very tasty home-cooking with lots of oil and chappatis brushed in butter, or those very palatable Desi restaurant dishes with lots of oil-ladened garlic naan, fried rice or parathas.

    Weight loss is primarily ruled by calories and it is all about how many you consume based on your bodily attributes such as weight, age and height. You can determine the exact amount of calories you should be eating by using apps and online calculators. Usually, it is about 2500 calories per day for a man and 1800 for a woman.

    The aim for good weight loss is to keep within your calorific limit and ideally produce a deficit, if possible to lose weight.

    In addition, you do need to keep track of the fat content in the food and the carbohydrate content too. For an overall measure of consumption versus daily limits.

    With a Desi diet this can become even more of a challenge. Especially, when it is sometimes difficult to know how many calories or fat are in the food that is prepared at home or what you eat in a restaurant.

    But if you are realistic about shedding the pounds, then you need to the work and the maths.

    Here are 5 valuable Desi diet changes which can help you on the road to losing the weight and more importantly, to maintain the loss.

    Fats in Food

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    When it comes to Desi cooking it is always about taste and using specific fats which taste great can lead to a waistline that isn’t so great.

    Butter has its place in South Asian cooking and there have been some major health reports about it not being as bad for you as perhaps originally thought. But moderation still matters, hugely, especially, since, butter is high in cholesterol.

    If you do use butter in your cooking, then make sure you know the calories it is adding to a dish. Once you know that, you then know how much you can use or not. Ideally, the less you use, the fewer calories you will be adding to your daily intake.

    Also, avoid adding it to dishes when serving them and ‘buttering’ the rotis.

    According to the popular Nutracheck app, 100mg of salted butter is 744 calories and 82.2g of fat.

    There are healthier options for cooking dishes compared to butter which will have a lower calorie value. These include rapeseed oil and olive oil. For example, 100ml of KTC rapeseed oil is 449 calories and 50g of fat.

    Again, you must be aware of how much oil you use and the calories it will contain for a dish.

    Remember, if you add it to a whole dish like a sabzi, daal or meat curry; when the dish is served, you will be eating a percentage of the overall calorific number, depending on your portion size.

    When cooking vegetables, like a sabzi, try to not cook the vegetables to a mush. Switch off the cooker slightly earlier, so there is still some mild crunch in them. This will give you a better return from the nutrients in the dish.

    Making Drinks Healthier

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    Tea is a major aspect of any Desi household. But how it is made once again can impact your diet and weight.

    Making tea in whole milk, adding lots of sugar to it too, definitely provides that warming taste but it is not doing your body a huge amount of good.

    So, making the tea in water, swapping the whole milk for semi-skimmed or even skimmed milk and using healthier sweeteners or honey can make the same tea much healthier.

    A 125ml of whole milk is 79 calories and 4.5g of fat. If you used semi-skimmed milk, then this would be 58 calories and 2.1g of fat. If you love your tea and have about three cups a day, it all soon adds up.

    Sugar definitely needs to be reduced in Desi households. So, if you add 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar to your tea, you are adding 48 calories to your drink.

    Swapping tea for non-milk herbal teas like green tea, sage tea and cardamom tea can reduce calories significantly.

    For those who do not like dairy milk, the using plant-based milk like almond, coconut and hemp milk are lower in calories.

    Desi households are fond of fizzy and sugary drinks. Fruit juices made from concentrate contain high levels of sugar and many fizzy drinks add calories galore. So, avoid the cola with the roti in the evening.

    Keep it simple. Drink lots of water – at least a 2-litre bottle per day. 

    Also, try getting into the habit of weight-loss drinks like hot water with lemon first thing in the morning, drinking more hot water compared to cold, and water infused with apple cider vinegar.

    Protein Intake

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    Protein is important for weight loss. Because as you lose weight, you body will lose fat and muscle. Therefore, keeping up your protein intake will aid burning the fat and help preserve the calorie-burning lean muscle.

    Protein sources in the Desi diet can vary.

    Desi meat and fish eaters will get most of their protein from the fish and meat whilst vegetarians and vegans will consume plant-based sources.

    As for the meat, the type of meat matters – red or white.

    For example, 250g of raw lamb mince with about 20% fat will have 598 calories in it and 48g of fat, whereas, 300g of raw chicken breast will be 318 calories and 3.3g of fat.

    Indicating that red meat consumption should be limited to about once a week and white meat, especially chicken or turkey breasts are best for weight loss.

    Again, if the meat, however, is cooked in bad fats, it will pile on the calories in a dish. Therefore, grilling meat is one of the best options to keep it healthy.

    A typical serving of chicken curry dish cooked in oil will be 718 calories and 48.5g of fat. Whereas, a large portion of grilled chicken breasts will only be 222 calories and 3.3g of fat.

    So, making grilled chicken breast marinated with spices and a conservative amount of olive oil will always be better for you.

    Salmon is a very good fish for protein. A medium 125g fillet will provide 25.5g of protein and 271 calories.

    A quick form of protein is eggs. Boiled and poached are the best. Omelettes, scrambled and frying eggs in very little oil or butter is also an option. One medium egg is 66 calories and 6.3g of protein.

    For vegetarians, getting protein from plants is fine but you also need to introduce other sources such as beans, and soya tofu. For example, a full 415g tin of Heinz Beans has 19.1g of protein and 328 calories, and 100g of tofu has 8.1g of protein and 73 calories.

    Daals are also an excellent source of protein. For example, 100g of dried red split lentils provide 23.8g protein and are 318 calories, and 100g of green and brown lentils have 23.5g of protein and are 297 calories. Making sure the daals are not cooked in heavy saturated fats and keeping on eye on their calories will ensure their benefits.

    Bread and Rice

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    Two types of food very popular in the Desi diet are bread and rice. Bread in the form of roti (chappatis), naans and parathas. Rice usually white is made with oil or even in a biryani dish.

    In terms of weight loss, they can be both problematic. They are both forms of carbohydrates and ‘carbs’ need to be monitored carefully when trying to lose weight.

    For a person eating 2000 calories a day, they should only have 225g to 325g of carbs per day.

    A medium roti (chappati) has 151 calories and is 22.2g of carbs. A full naan has 599 calories and is 105.4g of carbs.

    A 150g portion of boiled white basmati rice is 176 calories and 39.8g of carbs.

    Other bread based foods which are also popular now in Desi households are pizza, garlic bread, bagels and baguettes. All usually often made with white flour instead of wholemeal.

    So, as part of a healthy Desi diet, one rule is never to have roti and rice together when eating South Asian food. Keep a very close watch on how many rotis you eat or rice you have per day in terms of carbs.

    Drastically reduce your intake of white flour based foods and increase more wholemeal options.

    There are other healthy alternatives you can have compared to roti and also for rice too.

    Ideally, minimise your carbohydrate consumption, especially at the start of a weight loss regime and avoid eating carbs very late in the day.

    Sweets and Snacks

    How a Desi Diet and Calories can Help you Lose Weight

    Desserts and sweets are a huge part of Desi culture. From sticky sweet Gulab Jamon to Gajjar Ka Halwa to Pista Mithai, it’s all there for the eating.

    Then, come the Desi snacks, where the majority are fried. Pakoras and samosas are part of most gatherings in a Desi home and munching on Chevda or Bombay mix can be an indulgent past time.

    All of these come at a high dieting price.

    Fried foods will massively increase your calories and sweets high in sugar and fats are definitely not going to do much for your waistline.

    One 60g vegetable samosa has 146 calories, 8.1g fat and is 15.5g of carbs and a large 60g pakora has 176 calories, 13.2g of fat and 9.9g of carbs.

    Two Gulab Jamon are a whopping 452 calories, 13g of fat, 80.2g of carbs and 34.2g of sugar. While a 50g serving of Chevda is 275 calories, 16.5g of fat and 26g of carbs.

    Consuming too much of any of these kinds of foods will lead not just to weight gain but also other health issues such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

    Sweets and snacks are great for a very occasional treat if you are serious about your health and weight loss. Ideally, eliminate them from your Desi diet to let your body gain from healthier foods.

    Have more healthy alternatives like greek yoghurt with fruit, smoothies and even dark chocolate.

    With these five Desi diet changes you can benefit from a healthier approach to weight loss whilst still realising how the calories, fat and carbs in Desi food can be controlled or reduced completely.

    Remember food is a very important aspect of weight loss but it must be accompanied by some form of exercising to achieve more optimal results.

    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...'

    Note - Before starting any weight loss or dieting regime it is always important to check with your doctor or physician. Changes to diet have different effects on different people and this article only provides guidelines.


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