5 easy tips for ordering healthy in an Indian restaurant

Photo credit - Lee Sam. Used under Creative Commons license.

Ever walked in to an Indian restaurant and then waddled out an hour or so later? For me, this happens almost every time. I feel like Eve discovering the proverbial Apple on almost every line of the restaurant menu. With many Indian food babies under my belt (or is it over?), I have a few tips to share for those resolving to eat healthier this new year. But if you’re one of those people who can eat and eat and eat without gaining a pound; firstly, I’m jealous and secondly, don’t bother reading on.

So it’s the new year and you’ve resolved to eat healthy and/or lose a few pounds. Follow these common sense tips* (disclaimers below) to continue to enjoying your favorite Indian restaurant while staving off the pounds.

For starters

DO choose a mulligatawny soup or chicken tikka

DO ask if you can get pappadums that are microwaved rather than fried.

DON’T choose pakoras or samosas as they are deep fried

Be wise with the sides

DO order tandoori roti instead of naan as its made with unleavened whole wheat. If they smear on butter, ask them to leave it off.

DO enquire if brown rice is an option. Brown basmati rice is becoming widely available nowadays.

Strike a balance

DO order at least one healthier dish if ordering more than one. Daal or saag (minus paneer and when cream not added) are yummy and healthy too. If the restaurant has vegan options, select one dish that is vegan to avoid excessive cream and butter.

DO order tandoori chicken or chicken tikka. They are marinated with yogurt and spices and cooked in a clay oven – relatively healthy.

DONT order rich Mughlai curries. This cuisine developed in the kitchens of the Mughal emperors are made to befit a royal table. Though deservedly alluring whether you’re of royal blood or a commoner, curries made mughlai style are laced with cream. Avoid if possible.

DON’T order anything with korma in the name or dishes like butter chicken, tikka masala, and malai kofta. I know, they’re yummy but they’re also laden with cream and thus lots of calories.

Take up the spice level a notch

DO order spicy food if you can take it. The heat will kick your metabolism into gear. A vindaloo is a great option. It’s spicy and there is no cream in the gravy. But please don’t set your throat on fire. I’ll feel really bad.

And finally…

DON’T order desserts or if you do, share. Indian desserts are rich and sweet. All that sugar will convert to fat in your body if you don’t burn the calories right away.

DO end your meal with finishing up a side of yogurt. It will cool your stomach down and with its probiotic powers will help digest that yummy meal you’ve just had.

So there you have it. To summarize the entire post in three words: avoid cream curries.

Does this help? Other tips you can think of? While I’m advocating making healthier choices, I know it’s all about balance. So go ahead, indulge a bit if you must. And then consider walking home.

Happy New Year!



1) I’m NOT a nutritionist.

2) There is a lot of variation in menus and in how restaurants might choose to prepare these dishes. For example, some restaurants choose to add cream to saag while others don’t.



Filed under India

4 responses to “5 easy tips for ordering healthy in an Indian restaurant

  1. Great tips!! Now if only I could have the will power to avoid the Naan. Probably not going to happen since it is one of my favorite foods!

  2. Thanks Amanda! I love naan too! But gladly also love roti. Have you tried it?

  3. I haven’t! Now I need to.

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