Healthier Dining Out: Indian

by in Dining Out, April 13, 2009


With tons of vegetarian options and healthy sides such as steamed rice and naan, there are plenty of healthy Indian options. But you’ll also find many fried and fat-laden dishes — just with names you may not recognize. Here are some common items you’ll want to avoid and some lighter alternatives.

The Breads
Fried or stuffed breads are typical appetizers but can be extra heavy. Go for the naan (a type of flatbread) or chapatti (thin, whole wheat bread) instead.

The Appetizers
Samosas (stuffed and fried veggie turnovers) and pakora (deep-fried dough with veggies) are some of the more artery-clogging dishes. Either share these at the table or avoid them altogether. Instead, order papadum or papad (baked thin lentil wafers). Lentil or mulligatawny soup is also a better choice than the creamy options such as murg shorba.

The Mains
Curries seem healthy, but some are cooked in a coconut milk or cream sauce — both high-fat ingredients. Choose vegetable- or dal-based curries. If you are unsure, you can always ask your server.

Korma also has a creamy sauce, which is used to flavor the braised meat. Instead, choose chicken or beef tikka, which is oven-roasted with mild spices. Chicken, fish or beef tandoori are also healthier as these dishes are marinated in spices and baked.

The Sides
Saaq paneer is a spinach dish with cheese and, again, a creamy sauce. Trade that for gobhi matar tamatar (cauliflower with tomato and peas).

For rice, basmati rice or matar pular (rice pilaf with peas) is better than rice cooked with ghee (clarified butter).

Other Pitfalls
As with most restaurants, eating out can be a portion control nightmare. Sharing dishes or taking a “doggie bag” home is always a good option. You can also order the rice on the side and stick to about 1/2 to 3/4 a cup.

Sauces, especially Indian-flavored ones, are delicious but can sabotage even the healthiest dish on the menu. When possible, order sauce on the side and take 2 tablespoons — a little flavor (especially of Indian food) goes a long way!

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Comments (10)

  1. Krikri says:

    I like their veggies. Your warning is timely – be sure about the name.

  2. kanwal says:

    Try to opt for tandoori chicken or kebabs

  3. susan says:

    I have owned a restaurant ……..all I will say is NOT all food is healthy and fresh at an Indian restaurant. Watch out folks.

  4. VeggieGirl says:

    Channa Masala is a pretty safe bet!

  5. marilynsb says:

    I love Pakoras!!!!!!!

  6. Courtney says:

    My strategy for portion control: Ordering the hottest dish on the menu.
    Specifically in Indian restuarants, it very well may prove to be too hot to eat much of, unless youre really tough, and its a fun challenge with friends if you are a glutton for punishment

  7. I love that picture. The moment I landed upon this page, my mouth began to water! lol…:)
    The post is a very good one especially for those who don't want to compromise on taste while cutting off the calories. I'm gonna share this with my colleagues and family friends. Thanks a ton!

  8. It's really very nice to know that such spicy indian dishes can be healthier too! Encouraging for the ones who have been avoiding it and missing out on such delicacies as the ones mentioned above. Great post and the picture is lovely indeed! I guess its only a myth that these dishes are not healthy. I have seen people enjoying all these with no effects on health whatsoever. Maybe it depends on one's climatic conditions where one is raised. Spicy food is much loved and liked in India and is a big hit.:)

  9. Lea says:

    I know now what to order in Indian cuisines. Thanks for the nice tips, love it!

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