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Many people think that healthy takeaway food means simply avoiding a burger and fries or KFC chicken. Often, ethnic foods such as Chinese or Indian are seen as the healthy option – perhaps because they don’t come with a side order of fries and a coke.
Unfortunately, it’s a nutritional minefield out there, and things are rarely what they seem.
I am a great fan of Indian food – so here’s my take on ‘healthier options’ when eating Indian.Dairy Fat
Most curries are made with either cream or ghee. This will obviously vary from chef to chef and the menu on offer. Ghee is essentially clarified butter (unsalted butter is simmered until water has boiled off, the surface is spooned off discarding the milk solids at the bottom).
There are some that claim pure ghee has health benefits – however I suspect that most ghee used in modern Indian restaurants is probably a different version (perhaps vegetable-based) than the traditional pure butter version.
Fattening and Calorie Dense
A typical meal will also be accompanied with a flatbread and copious amounts of rice. Most people choose a naan (nan) bread. A naan is made from white flour, and is usually brushed with butter or ghee just before serving.
There are other breads such as roti, paratha, chappati, and all the variations that go with them. Typically a roti is made from wheat flour or a whole wheat flour blend.
Effectively you have a very calorie-dense meal with very little in the way of vegetables.
A diet like this will be fattening for most people. However there are choices you can make to eat healthier Indian food.
How to Make an Indian Takeaway Healthier
I used to get a chicken curry with naan and rice. That was enough to do me for two meals. Nowadays I’m even more choosy.
Once a fortnight I go out by myself and eat an indian meal at an incredibly leisurely pace. I have sat in the restaurant while others have come and gone. This is the anti-thesis of the fast food mentality.
I order a selection of entrees and sides:
- A chicken tikka entree. Typically this is pieces of boneless skinless chicken marinaded in a varying array of flavors. This is not served in a sauce – it’s just the chicken.
- Roti. Often the roti breads are a far smaller serving size than the naans and use wholemeal flour.
- Salad. I ask for as large a serving as they will make. In most places the salads are delicious, and usually consist of a mix of cucumber, capsicum, cabbage, carrot, etc. Only once has a restaurant looked bewildered at my salad request. They ended up serving me with what looked like some quickly thawed frozen veg from a bag!
- Sometimes I’ll get a glass of red wine.
That’s it. Due to the pace of the meal (and the level of protein) I feel completely satisfied. Other options include vegetarian curries. You just need to ask.
Just last week, in the time it took me to consume the above, a couple near me consumed a creamy curry and rice each, a naan each, asked for extra rice, and asked for an extra naan. An astonishing amount of food, eaten in a very short space of time (you tend to notice these things when eating alone!).
We really do need to re-learn the lost art of enjoying food.