An Indian meal or takeaway can be the perfect indulgence for a Friday night after a hard week when you can’t be bothered to cook. Those trying to lose weight will presume that takeaways or fast food of any kind should be avoided altogether, but with some smart choices, self awareness and knowhow, you can have your Indian and eat it.
One of the first tasks when trying to lose weight and eat out is to check the menu beforehand. This means that you will be going in prepared. Poor eating choices are much more likely to happen when we arrive at a restaurant hungry. Many Indian restaurants (and other traditional fast food places) will have an online menu and in some cases will also have the number of calories listed for each selection. Even if they don’t give the calories, use the guide below to go into the restaurant prepared and with your order already chosen.
It may sound counter intuitive, but eating something before you go out can also greatly reduce how much you consume when there. A protein rich snack like a healthy soup, scrambled eggs, small chicken salad or some nuts and seeds will take the edge off and help you to order less. Eating beforehand means that you could just order a healthier starter and a desert, and also allow leeway for some alcohol – again smart drinking choices will really help too.
Using an app like weightlossresources or myfitnesspal is a sure fire way to know exactly how many calories you are having and when to stop eating. Even if you are not counting calories as a long term strategy just using one of these apps for a night out can be really helpful.
So on to the healthiest Indian takeaway choices.
Starters – Dahl is high in fibre and low in calories (around 200). Tandoori items are also a good lower calorie choice; these are made in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. Because of the way they are cooked, the dishes tend to be lean and contain much less oil. Look for tandoori chicken or shrimp for a low-calorie, low-fat entree. Poppadums also make a much better starter than bhajis or samosas, which are high in fat and calories. Each poppadom contains around 65 calories. Top it with raita (cucumber dip) and tomato sambal (chopped tomato and onion) but avoid the higher-calorie mango chutney or lime pickle.
Healthiest Indian takeaway mains
Vegetarian curries – cauliflower, chick peas, lentil (dhal), aubergine or spinach dishes – are good with fewer calories and also plenty of fibre to make you feel fuller.
Dry dishes, like tandoori, tikka or bhuna, are usually much lower in calories than those with a sauce. A typical Tandoori contains around 370 calories.
The spicier the curry, the better – a smaller portion will satisfy your taste buds and if it’s really hot you will eat more slowly, giving your body the 20 minutes it needs to send a message to your brain to say you’re full.
Biryani is a smart choice as it includes rice as part of the dish, so you don’t need to order an extra portion on the side.
Curries cooked in creamy sauces tend to have the most energy in them. Masala and korma dishes, for example, are made with cream and ground almonds, while pasanda dishes are cooked with cream. So ones to avoid.
Healthiest Indian takeaway Sides
Rice – portions of rice are usually large, and if it’s in front of you chances are you will eat more than you actually want. So step one is to only order one portion of rice between two people. Choose boiled rice over pilau rice – the latter contains more oil and so can have as many as 100 calories extra per portion.
Naan breads – to be avoided at all costs. The cooking process of naan is essentially to use the bread as a sponge for the oil. As a consequence each naan bread can contain up to 500 calories – more than a normal main course. Peshwari, a type of naan with added fruit, nuts and spices is even worse with up to 750 calories.
Choosing poorly at the Indian restaurant could mean over 2,000 calories – the whole daily allowance for a female.
Onion bhaji = 430 calories
Chicken tikka masala = 1,250 calories
Pilau rice = 500 calories
TOTAL = 2,180 calories
But some smart swaps can save you nearly half of that:
Chicken tikka starter = 250 calories
King prawn balti = 605 calories
Plain rice = 390 calories
TOTAL = 1,245 calories
SAVE 935 calories
As with all aspects of losing weight, the four stages for happy weight loss are important to employ – awareness – intention – planning – execution. You are aware that eating out on the weekend is hampering successful sustained weighty loss. You intend to change it. You start planning – looking at the menu beforehand, planning the meal, all the steps listed above, you then execute successfully and come away full, but not too full, having had a treat but staying within reason.
Both the BBC and the NHS have other good pointers for eating out and weight loss in general.