For many people, Indian cuisine conjures up images of rich, creamy curries, fried snacks and sickly-sweet desserts. Yet, while it is true that India cooks up a fair share of indulgent dishes, there are many healthy alternatives, too.
In fact, authentic Indian cuisine is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, comprised of vegetables, meats, wholemeal breads and pulses. A dish can be as healthy, or unhealthy, as you want it to be; it depends entirely on the ingredients you choose and the ways in which you prepare and cook them.
If you want to cook hearty, healthy Indian food that tastes great, here are some tips:
Generally speaking, you should always choose to cook curries with a tomato base, as they tend to be healthier. Coconut milk is used in abundance in many creamy Indian curries, one example being a korma. However, even though the milk has health benefits, it is high in fat and oil, which isn’t great if you want to control your calorie intake. For a healthy yet creamy curry sauce, sub coconut milk for cashew nut paste, skimmed milk or low fat yoghurt.
The healthiest curries are ones which are packed with vegetables and use meat sparingly. However, when it comes to non-vegetarian dishes, chicken and prawn curries tend to have fewer calories than those with beef or lamb as a main ingredient.
If you need to bulk up a dish, don’t just add more meat; choose healthier alternatives instead, such as sprouted beans or lentils.
If you want to eat healthy then you should avoid using too much oil or ghee to cook and prepare your food. Similarly, instead of frying your food look for other ways you can cook it; boiling, steaming and grilling are far healthier. Also remember that not all Indian meals need sauce! Dishes such as chicken tikka are dry but are stillpacked with intense flavour.
Starters and Breads
If you want to cook up a starter, stick to something simple like poppadoms instead of greasy, filling snacks like onion bhajis. Of course, you’ll want to serve some dips with your poppadoms: opt for things like tomato sambal (tomato and onion) or raita instead of lime pickle and chutney, which contain more calories.
Indian breads are a great accompaniment to any curry; and they don’t have to be unhealthy, either. If you want to eat healthy, it’s best to avoid large naan breads brushed with ghee. Instead, prepare smaller parathas, rotis or chapatis, swapping plain flour for wholemeal flour.
If you want to serve rice with your curry, make sure it’s basmati and not white rice. Some people add oil or butter to the rice for flavour, but you should avoid doing this if you want to cut back on your calorie intake.
Put simply, if you want to eat healthier then you may also need to cut back on your portion sizes! Indian food is rich and bursting with flavour, so do you really need that extra spoonful? Plus, eating smaller portions means you can save some of your curry for the following day.
If you fancy a healthy Indian meal without the fuss of having to prepare it, why not head down to one of London’s Indian brasseries to sample their scrumptious offerings?