Weight loss is mainly down to calories
When it comes to being a Desi food lover and losing weight, low calorie Indian food is the way to go.
Indian cuisine is full of rich-flavoured dishes but it usually means they are high in calories. Food is usually cooked with lots of oil and butter is added to most dishes.
Weight loss is mainly down to calories and it is all about how many you consume based on your height, weight and age.
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 the limit and gradually reducing the number of calories consumed in order to lose weight, to attain a calorie deficit.
For example, a man could aim for 2000 calories per day and a woman 1400 calories per day to assist with weight loss.
However, Indian food can be seen as quite difficult to find low-calorie alternatives.
But some simple changes in ingredients and the way the dish is prepared can knock off some calories, even if it is a little. They all add up and will eventually lead to weight loss, if maintained.
Here are some low calorie Indian food options and healthy alternatives to their regular high-calorie counterparts to consume as part of your calorie-controlled diet.
100g Serving: 220 Calories
Even though vegetarian dishes are popular in India, meat dishes also make up a lot of the cuisine.
Chicken is one of the most popular meats and it is used for a lot of richly-flavoured curries.
But a low-calorie option is to go with tandoori chicken. The dish originated in Punjab but was popularised in Peshawar, Pakistan.
The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and a blend of spices before being placed on skewers and cooked in a tandoor.
The tandoor adds to the flavour of the meat and marinade. It also renders most of the fat while any excess fat comes out due to the high temperature.
However, a tandoor is unlikely to be found in households so it is best to cook chicken in an oven. Most of the fat renders and it lowers calories.
A lower calorie version is to use low-fat yoghurt and lean pieces of chicken. It guarantees great flavours and is perfect for those controlling the number of calories they intake.
225g Serving: 164 Calories
Daal dishes are a staple within the Indian subcontinent and there are different types of lentils used to make the dishes like split red lentils and common green whole lentils.
The dishes are usually eaten with rice, roti and naan and are typically quite healthy. They are full of protein, fibre, vitamin B6 and folate.
The most common way of making daal is to create a type of soup made from onions, tomatoes and various spices.
Even though daal is healthy, cutting down the calories is still possible.
The most obvious way is to cook them in tomato-based sauces as opposed to creamy ones. They are made with butter and cream and that results in a high-fat content.
A tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of cream is 15 grams of fat. The daily fat intake is between 44 and 77 grams. That is potentially 35% in just one dish.
On the other hand, a tomato-based sauce cuts out the additional fat and reduces the number of calories in the dish.
Having a tomato sauce also makes for more heat and chillies are known to help with weight loss.
100g Serving (boiled): 120 Calories
Usually, any foods which are of a ‘white’ colour are not great for weight loss. Therefore, white flour, white sugar and white rice, can be labelled as foods to avoid in your Indian diet.
Swapping white rice with brown rice is an example of still being able to enjoy a rice dish but one which is healthier for you.
The staple and popular ‘daal and rice’ dish can be a great option for weight loss but with daal cooked in the low calorie way and boiled brown rice with it, instead of rice made with oil.
Brown rice is a super carbohydrate which will keep you full for longer. So, using it in your Indian diet should be a must.
It is very easy to make and available in different varieties including long-grain, for different dishes and cooking options.
195g Serving: 281 Calories
A popular low-calorie Indian food option, chana masala is especially popular at street food stalls. Also known as chole, the dish’s main ingredient is chickpeas.
It is cooked in a tomato sauce with onions and loads of spices like garlic, ginger, chillies and sometimes dried mango powder.
Chana masala is already very nutritious as it contains iron, fibre and vitamin B.
However, the inclusion of oil when cooking does add to the calories which may be a factor especially when trying to lose weight.
Simply avoid using any oil (1 tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories). It may only get rid of a few calories but every little helps when monitoring calorie count.
As a popular street food item, chana masala is usually served with puri. Within the home, it is advised that puri is avoided as it is a fried bread which will add to the number of calories eaten.
The lower calorie alternative is the same ingredients just without any oil.
210g Serving: 307 Calories
When it comes to Indian food, curry is one of the first things that come to mind and there are a lot of them.
Chicken, meat, fish or vegetables are combined with a variety of spices and cooked in a rich sauce.
Even though they are delicious, most of them are high in calories and are high in saturated fat.
But those eating healthy can still eat fish curry as they contain fewer calories than those with chicken or meat. For example, a chicken tikka masala can potentially be 557 calories.
Choosing the type of fish can also decrease the number of calories. Fatty fish and those which are high in omega-3 are the best to have when losing weight.
Fish like cod, flounder and sole are some to consider when wanting to enjoy some low-calorie Indian food.
When making fish curry, cook it in a tomato-based sauce instead of a cream-based sauce as it is far less fattening and will go a long way when losing weight.
Serve your low-calorie fish curry alongside brown rice instead of regular white rice. In a 100g serving, white rice contains 130 calories while the same serving of brown rice has 111 calories.
1 Serving: 165 Calories
Roti, chappatis or naan made with white flour or refined flour (maida) can add calories to your Indian diet.
Especially, if the flatbread is then brushed with lots of ghee or butter after cooking it. This increases its calorific value immensely.
Tandoori rotis which are made with stoneground wholemeal flour, are viewed as a more healthier alternative to normal rotis.
The key reason being that they are cooked in a tandoor or grill instead of a tawa or frying pan. Also, they are made thicker than normal rotis.
Therefore, making them more filling. Hence, the aim is that you will eat less tandoori rotis compared to normal rotis or naan.
It’s important that the tandoori roti is not brushed with any butter or ghee for it to be healthier.
They are a good option for your low calorie indian food diet, as long as you eat a reasonable number of tandoori rotis and not blow your calorie count.
They need to be eaten hot because otherwise, they do have a tendency to go hard if left to cool for too long.
Broken Wheat Khichdi
Khichdi is a delightful and filling Indian dish which is usually made with daal, rice and even vegetables.
However, with the use of white rice and oil, it can add to the calories of the overall dish.
Therefore, the use of broken wheat to substitute the rice turns this dish into low calorie Indian food.
The use of broken wheat simply transforms the khichdi into a more earthy, creamy and textured dish compared to its rice counterpart.
An example recipe uses broken wheat, moong daal, green peas, cumin seeds, onions, salt, ginger and garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, cloves, cardamoms and chilli powder.
The wheat and yellow moong daal are soaked for 15 minutes and drained.
A pressure cooker is then used for the rest of the ingredients cumin, cloves and cardamoms which are roasted for 30 seconds, to which the onions and paste are added for 30 seconds.
The wheat, daal, peas and tomatoes are added for another minute, mix well. Then, the turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and two cups of hot water are mixed and the dish is allowed to cook until three whistles are heard from the cooker.
The khichdi dish can also be made with brown rice should you not be too keen on broken wheat. But do take the ingredient into the overall calories count of the dish.
1 Pakora: 25 Calories
Everyone who enjoys Indian cuisine will almost certainly enjoy pakoras.
The traditional fritter is popular throughout India and is so delicious that they are found in South Asian restaurants across the world. It is also highly enjoyable street food.
Pakoras are usually made with vegetables like potatoes and onions. They are combined together in a batter made of gram flour before they are deep-fried.
Although the flavours and textures are delicious, deep-frying them adds to the calories.
Even if the pakoras are drained on kitchen paper, some of the oil has still absorbed into the batter.
For those wanting to lose weight, a way to lower the number of calories in them is to change the way they are cooked.
Pakora lovers can still follow the same recipe but instead cook them either in the oven or under a grill. It will taste great but it will not have any excess oil, therefore helping you lower your calorie
1 tbsp: 15.5 Calories
Like how western cuisine has ketchup, Indian cuisine has raita which is extremely popular in the subcontinent and has a delicious array of flavours.
It is a cooling accompaniment to contrast with the spicy flavours from kebabs and curries.
Raita has two main ingredients, yoghurt and cucumber. It is then flavoured with cumin and salt. Chopped mint leaves are usually added to give it a fresh flavour.
The cumin is dry-fried before it is added to the mix for an extra level of flavour.
The dip is then eaten with an intensely flavoured curry or kebabs.
It is a side-dish which is perfect when losing weight as it is very low in calories and there are no unnecessary saturated fats.
However, if you want to lower the calorie count even more, swap the regular yoghurt with non-fat Greek yoghurt. It is an ideal dish to have when following a calorie-controlled diet.
Large Dosa (147g): 248 Calories
The Ragi dosa is a healthy alternative to a normal dosa. It’s known as a ‘good’ carbohydrate and is a staple food of most of the states in South India.
It is a low glycemic index food which reduces food cravings and keeps blood sugar maintained within the safe range. Therefore, it is an excellent low calorie Indian food.
The Ragi dosa is made from finger millet flour, also known as Nachni. It is prepared by crushing or spouting the dried grains of the source, then drying and grinding them.
The dosa is made is the same way as a normal way but the flour used is Ragi.
People even make Ragi cookies, noodles and balls out of this flour.
It is best eaten in the morning to make the most of its benefits for weight loss, as it will keep you full through the day.
Chicken/Lamb Tikka Skewers
1 Skewer: 169 (Chicken), 177 (Lamb) Calories
Like Tandoori Chicken, tikka meat on skewers is a fantastic option for a low calorie Indian food.
Red meat should be consumed occasionally, so, lamb tikka is one of the best ways to eat this meat when you are trying to lose weight rather than as a curry which will be rich in fats.
Also, when selecting lamb tikka, make sure you buy meat which is not fatty.
Poultry is always a healthy option of meat when it comes to weight loss, therefore, chicken tikka is an ideal Indian food to eat.
Marinate the tikka with your favourite Indian spices and low-fat yoghurt. Or just spices on their own with a hint of olive oil.
You can grill the tikka, barbeque it or if you have a tandoor, cook it in there.
Accompany your tikka with a salad or even some brown rice on the side as your carbohydrate. Remember noto to get tempted to eat fries or chips with the tikka meat.
1 Serving: 197 Calories
India was introduced to kebabs through Mughal cuisine. They quickly spread throughout the country to become one of the most popular meat dishes available.
Lamb and mutton kebabs are the most common and they have been marinated in various spices and skewered.
The meat is then cooked on a grill which only adds to the delicious taste. The result is tender and moist pieces of meat that are filled with a plethora of flavour.
Even though grilling the meat is one of the healthiest cooking methods as the fat renders, changes can still be made for those wanting a low-calorie Indian food alternative.
One adjustment is to use lean meat and to marinate it with low-fat yoghurt to get rid of excess calories.
Another alternative that will reduce calories and will help lose weight is to replace the meat with a meat substitute like tofu which has around 190 calories less than lamb when comparing 100 grams of each.
There are lots of meat alternatives which even have a similar texture to meat but are lower in calories.
Or you can make vegetarian kebabs which contain no meat but an assortment of vegetables.
One quick recipe is to boil and mash potatoes and mix in finely chopped onion, carrots, spinach, peas. Then mix in some chilly powder and chaat masala. Spray with light oil, form the kebabs on skewers and cook under the grill, occasionally turning.
Vegetarian kebabs will have fewer calories than meat.
Vegetable Curry (Sabzi)
1 Serving Butternut Squash: 229 Calories
Vegetable curries (sabzis) are deemed to be healthier than meat equivalents. Since they will not contain saturated fats.
The key difference is in the preparation and the cooking of them. There are a few set rules to follow, which include use of rapeseed oil or olive oil instead of ghee and butter, alternative vegetables and a good combination of spices.
Limiting to healthier oils will help with the overall fat content of your dishes.
Alternative vegetables like sweet potatoes, kale, pumpkins, butternut squash, mixed greens, broccoli and celery are all low in calories and superb additions to your Indian diet.
Spices are excellent for higher metabolism, especially, chilli orientated ones including paprika and chilli powders.
So, make have a go at making vegetable curries which are not high in carbohydrates and fats.
These will contribute very effectively to your low calorie Indian food diet.
Makhane Ki Kheer
1 Serving: 282 Calories
Makhane is made from puffed lotus seeds and it is the main ingredient for this low calorie sweet alternative to kheer made with white rice.
Makhane is also known as fox nuts. They are available at most South Asian supermarkets and are a versatile ingredient to use for low calorie dishes.
The ingredient is packed with protein, potassium, phosphorus, fibre, magnesium, iron and zinc. Therefore, giving you a great number of minerals as part of this dish.
The sweet dessert is made using Makhane as the substitute for rice in the recipe.
The recipe is often approached it differently. Some grind the fox nuts and add them into the recipe while others split them into halves and use them for the dish.
The rest of the ingredients need to be low-fat milk (semi-skimmed or skimmed), sugar substitute (stevia), a few almonds, cardamom powder and a few threads of saffron.
Once made and tasted, this dish will become a favourite as a low calorie Indian dessert.
These dishes highlight alternative ways of preparing them in order to reduce the number of calories needed to help with weight loss with an Indian diet.
Making the necessary changes will benefit you in the long run. You will be able to realise that the calories within Indian food can be controlled while also enjoying their delicious flavours.
But weight loss does not just come from adjusting your diet. It must be accompanied by some form of exercise in order to achieve noticeable results.