Menus at Indian restaurants are filled with items that are vegetable-based or use lean cuts of meats, but there are still diet landmines in the mix. Dishes like Malai Kofta and Palak Paneer are cooked with ingredients like oil, butter, cream, and high-fat cheese. Use the tips below to enjoy Indian food without the excess calories and fat.
1. Avoid fried items.Most appetizers on the menu, like Samosas, are fried. Anything listed as Padoka means it has a tempura batter and has been fried. Ask the server how dishes are prepared if the menu description isn’t clear.
2. Choose dishes made with lentils or chickpeas. Any dish labeled as Dal, such as Dal Bukhara, is made with lentils and low in fatty oils and butter. Look for dishes labeled Chole, like Pindi Chole. These lentil- and chickpea-based dishes are high in fiber and protein, which will help you feel fuller.
3. Skip dishes that include Paneer, Ghee, or Malai. Dishes that include Paneer (cheese), like Palak Paneer and Kadhai Paneer, are made with full-fat cheese. Similar to cottage cheese, this curd-like cheese doesn’t melt. Ghee is a a clarified butter used in sauces or brushed on Naan. Malai is a cream used in a variety of dishes that is high in calories and saturated fat and used to make sauces.
4. Order lean meats. When choosing meat-based dishes, opt for grilled or kebab meats. Meats that are cooked Tandoori style are typically lean and marinated with yogurt and fresh spices. You can also try Tandoori fish and other seafood dishes.
5. Steer clear of gravy-based menu items.While healthier than American gravy, Indian gravy is made from onions, tomatoes, salt, and spices cooked in a large amount of butter. Avoid dishes like Butter Chicken and Dum Aloo, which are covered with gravy.
6. Fill your plate with veggies. Vegetables are low in calories and fat and high in fiber and nutrients. Opt for dishes made with fresh vegetables, like Aloo Gobi and Sukhi Bhindi, for a delicious, colorful meal that will help you feel fuller, longer.
7. Choose one of these healthy dishes. If you still can’t decide what to order using the tips above, choose one of the dishes on our go-to list of healthy menu items. A few favorites include:
Baingan Bharta (baked eggplant with onions, tomatoes, and spices)
Prawn Kebab (grilled prawns and spices)
Barrah Kebab ( grilled lamb marinated in yogurt and spices)
Kadai Chicken (spiced chicken with onions and bell peppers)
Tandoori Salmon (roasted salmon marinated in yogurt and spices)