Indian food is known for its aromatic basmati rice and spicy seasonings. Though the cuisine in India varies among geographical regions, certain foods, such as curries and dal, and spices, such as turmeric, are common throughout. If prepared appropriately, Indian dishes can enhance your nutritional wellness. For best results, choose low-fat dishes that contain vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein.
Chicken tikka consists of skinless white-meat chicken, marinated in yogurt, then prepared in a tomato-based curry sauce called a masala, or grilled in a clay oven known as a tandoor. Chicken tikka is lower in fat and calories than beef and dark-meat poultry dishes and provides a healthy alternative to rich korma dishes. Tandoori chicken tikka is often served on a sizzling platter topped with vegetables, such as onions and bell peppers, which add a variety of nutrients to your meal.
Lentils play an important role in vegetarian and nonvegetarian Indian diets. Indian cultures have enjoyed meals containing lentils, rice, yogurt and vegetables for centuries. When you combine a legume, such as lentils, with a grain, such as basmati rice, your reap all essential amino acids -- meals commonly referred to as complete proteins. Common lentil dishes include channa masala -- a curry made with garbanzo beans, dal tarka -- a spiced lentil soup, and dal makhani -- a creamy lentil curry. Dal tarka and channa masala tend to contain less fat than dal makhani, which is often prepared with whole milk or heavy cream in Indian-style restaurants in America. You can prepare your own low-fat dal makhani by replacing whole milk in your recipe with low-fat, skim or soy milk. Papadam are large, crispy breads made from ground lentils, which provide a healthy alternative to the fried pastries called samosas.
Indian dishes incorporate a variety of cooked and fresh vegetables. The American Heart Association recommends starting your meal with fresh, chopped vegetables or mixed vegetable salad topped with raita -- a yogurt-based sauce. Vegetables are incorporated into many curry dishes. When dining out, ask your server which curry dishes are prepared without cream to keep your fat intake modest. Most Indian restaurants offer a variety of vegetable-based dishes, such as aloo gobi -- curried potato and cauliflower, chana saag -- curried garbanzo beans, and spinach and pakoras -- deep-fried spinach. Since pakoras are high in saturated fat, keep your portions modest. Filling up on fresh vegetables and low-fat vegetable curry can help you keep your portions of denser foods, such as meat and breads, moderate.
Rice and Bread
Basmati rice is a whole grain white rice. Some Indian restaurants and markets offer brown basmati rice. When possible, opt for brown rice, which provides more fiber and nutrients. Indian breads are usually prepared in the tandoor oven. To keep your fat intake low, ask for no butter or oil on your bread. Chapatis and tandoori roti are Indian breads made with whole wheat flour. Choose these over traditional naan, which is usually made from enriched white flour.
- New Indian Home Cooking; Madhu Gadia, RD
- American Heart Association: Tips for Eating Indian Food
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.