Much of Indian food is based on vegetables, beans, lentils, peas, whole grains, and spices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all good for you. While you can eat an extremely healthy diet of Indian food, be aware that India has many different regions, and they all have their own style of cooking.
Some use more high-fat ingredients like coconut milk, cream, ghee (butter), and oil, while other regions rely on lighter, leaner vegetable- and bean-based entrees with simple grains.
Indian restaurants are increasing in popularity in the U.S. and the Indian section of most grocery stores is expanding. This gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy a variety of Indian foods in the comfort of your own kitchen. It also lets you have more control over what ingredients you use. Restaurant chefs tend to be far more liberal with creams, oils, and butter compared to home cooks.
When you find yourself wanting a taste of Bombay (or Punjab or Kashmir) keep these tips in mind:
1. Veggie time. Take advantage of the fact that Indian dishes are loaded with vegetables and beans. Use these dishes as the cornerstone of your meal, with smaller portions of ingredients that are higher in fat and calories.
2. Simmer sauces. While slightly high in sodium, these jarred sauces are a simple way to bring the taste of India into your kitchen. Just add a lean protein like skinless chicken or tofu and ring the dinner bell.
3. DIY. For a simple, healthy dip for your naan bread or kebab meats, combine plain, fat-free Greek yogurt with chopped cucumber, minced mint, and your favorite Indian spices.
4. When eating out. You may find dining at an Indian restaurant more to your liking than cooking yourself. If that’s true, look for Tandoori dishes, which tend to be lean meats cooked at a high heat, or dal–a spiced bean or lentil stew. Many appetizers are deep-fried, so pass on them.