Indian Food Nutrition Facts: Menu Choices & Calories

Best and Worst Indian Food Choices

the healthiest Indian food
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If you're like many dieters, you like to eat a wide variety of foods while you slim down. Eating different foods and satisfying meals will also help you stick your diet so you can lose weight and keep it off. But some ethnic food menus can be hard to navigate when you're on a weight loss program. These are some of the healthiest Indian foods to choose when you dine out or eat at home.

Popular Indian Food Nutrition Facts

Poha Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 194 grams
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 360 
Calories from Fat 54 
Total Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 1.1g6%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 446mg19%
Carbohydrates 69g23%
Dietary Fiber 3g12%
Sugars 2.5g 
Protein 6.8g 
Vitamin A 8% · Vitamin C 29%
Calcium 4% · Iron 22%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Poha, or flattened rice, is a popular Indian breakfast or brunch dish. While there are many variations and ways to prepare poha, almost all of them include potato, onion, and flattened rice. The spicy, fluffy dish is a significant source of carbohydrates, (including net carbs) and even provides a little bit of protein. Recipes that include peanuts offer more protein.

Other popular Indian dishes provide more fat. Pakora, for example, is a fried snack, like vegetable fritters. While recipes vary, a single order of vegetable pakora in a restaurant is likely to provide between 200-250 calories and between 12-18 grams of fat.

Healthy Indian Food Choices

Traditional Indian food is full of healthy ingredients.  Many healthy Indian dishes include lean protein like chicken or fish and most include diet-friendly high fiber lentils and vegetables. So what does this mean for dieters? These filling ingredients help you to eat less and still feel full and satisfied.

Another benefit of eating Indian cuisine when you're on a diet is that it is full of flavor. Some American versions of Indian food include curry, a delicious spice that is often full of heat. The authentic version of curry, called Garam Masala, is a warming spice. You can make Garam Masala at home. Eating hot and spicy foods flavored with these ingredients might also help you to eat less and slim down faster.

So what is the healthiest Indian food to order at your favorite restaurant? These are my favorites. But before you order them, take the time to read the ingredients list and ask your waiter for details. Remember that you can order sauces on the side or smaller portions to keep your diet on track.

  • tandoori chicken or fish
  • steamed brown rice 
  • raita sauce
  • lentil soup
  • naan bread (in small amounts)
  • lassi
  • chicken tikka
  • chicken vindaloo
  • curried vegetables

Cook Indian Food at Home

Of course, the healthiest Indian food for any dieter is the food you make at home. When you cook at home, you can control the ingredients and even make a few healthy swaps to keep the calorie count under control. For example, I often use chicken stock in a non-stick pan instead of oil to saute veggies with less fat.

Try this traditional Poha recipe if you'd like to experiment with Indian cooking

Traditional Poha  (makes 4 servings)

  • 1.5  cups poha (flattened rice flakes)
  • 1  medium potato, diced
  • 1   large tomato, diced
  • 1  small onion, diced
  • 1/4  tbsp salt
  • 1/4  tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4  tbsp mustard
  • 1/8  tbsp turmeric
  • 1/8  tbsp red chili, ground
  • 1 1/2  tbsp vegetable oil

First, heat the vegetable oil on medium high heat and add and add mustard and cumin seeds. The saute the onion and potato for about five minutes or until brown.  Add the tomato and continue to cook for five minutes.  Add turmeric and chili and mix well. Finally, add the poha and blend.

Less Healthy Indian Food for Dieters

Every cuisine has foods that provide more calories than you need. Indian food is no different. Some traditional Indian foods (or Americanized versions) are fried and may include creamy sauces that are full of fat.

In general, these are dishes you may want to avoid. 

  • fried dishes
  • dishes with "crispy" in the name
  • coconut soup or dishes with coconut sauces
  • masala
  • chutney
  • ghee
  • pakora
  • korma
  • samosas
  • poori bread

If your favorite Indian food is on this list, consider splitting an order with a friend so you eat less and keep your weight loss program on track. Or take half of your order home for another day.

Remember to eat your healthy Indian food in moderation (just like any food you eat!) and to enjoy your meal with a healthy low-calorie drink, like water. 

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