Food Delivery Makeover: 10 Easy Tips on How to Order Healthy Indian Food

Posted by on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 with 11 Comments

Indian food is one of the most popular cuisines out there when it comes to food delivery for the office… but it’s also one of the most mystifying to health-conscious diners. After all, there are certainly plenty of vegetarian dishes on Indian menus, but many seem so creamy and rich!

Indeed, thanks to the frequent use of ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil or milk, and the good old frying pan, some Indian dishes may seem healthy — hey, it’s spinach! — but are actually considerably higher in fat and calories than you might expect.

plate of Indian food

Learn to order healthy Indian food with our expert tips.
Image source: Flickr user Jason Walsh

So, feel like you need a little help at ordering healthy Indian food delivery? We’ve got some expert tips in store!

Five foods to make your Indian lunch a healthy one:

1) Ordering dal with your meal is a nutritional no-brainer: it’s like having a little takeout dish of pure protein and fiber! Usually made from lentils and a little soupy in texture (at least in American restaurants), a healthy dose of dal will help keep you full and satisfied – without weighing you down – all afternoon.

2) Many Indian dishes are a vibrant yellow color because of turmeric, an ancient spice that might be secretly packing all kinds of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-boosted nutritional powers. Take advantage of turmeric’s benefits — and its delicious flavor — by ordering aloo gobi. In this colorful dish, small hunks of potatoes and cauliflower are cooked with many spices in a moderate amount of oil, making it a healthy food delivery choice. Pair with a side of dal if you’re worried about not being satisfied by cauliflower and potatoes alone!

3) When it comes to meat, think tandoori! A tandoor is a traditional clay oven that uses super-high heat to cook chicken, fish, and other meats. Since it’s a nice dry heat, versus frying or sautéing, tandoori meats are some of the healthiest options on the menu at many Indian restaurants — many are served kebab-style, or choose chicken tikka (not chicken tikka masala, which is a very different and creamier dish) for a classic Indian lunch.

4) Raita is yogurt-based (kind of like Greek tzatziki), meaning you’ll get a little extra protein when you dunk your tandoori kebabs in this refreshing yet creamy sauce.

5) Can’t imagine an Indian meal without one of its delicious breads? Instead of the ubiquitous, often-buttered naan, opt for a reasonable portion of chapati — made with whole wheat flour, chapati will provide a bit more fiber and protein, giving you a bigger bang for your caloric buck.

And five kinds of dishes to avoid:

1) This may be common sense, but keep away from fried items, like pakora or samosas. While delicious, they’re also quite high in saturated fat.

2) Even vegetarian dishes studded with paneer, a kind of cheese, can actually be packed with fat. For instance, some restaurants pack their palak paneer with more cheese than spinach, and then cut the sauce with cream as well, making this popular vegetarian dish a total calorie bomb.

3) Ghee, a traditional clarified butter, is what gives many sauces their incredible depth, texture, and loads of saturated fat! (Note that this may be up for debate: some groups believe that lactose-free ghee is actually a very healthy source of fat, and most Western nutritionists just have yet to realize it.)

4) If you see malai on the menu, it means cream… and along with ghee, malai is the reason Indian gravies are so rich. Again, they also add considerable fat and calories to otherwise-healthy dishes, so you’ll be better off with tomato-based sauces or tandoori-cooked meats instead.

5) Keep in mind that basmati rice served alongside your chicken tikka could tack 200 calories onto your meal… without providing much nutritional heft to make it worth your while. Rather than eating the whole container, just have a small helping for flavor… and more protein-and-fiber-packed dal instead.

And just keep in mind, every restaurant is different, and cooking methods will vary based on the traditions and preferences of the chef in the kitchen. These guidelines will certainly help you get closer to knowing how to order healthy, wholesome Indian food delivery — and with easy online ordering and prompt delivery service, will take care of the rest!

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11 responses to “Food Delivery Makeover: 10 Easy Tips on How to Order Healthy Indian Food”

  1. Kimberlea Rodriguez says:

    Thank you so much for such great creative ideas. I recently just tried Indian food for the first time and I now have many great healthy alternative to try next time. I cannot wait to take my next Indian experience.

  2. stephanie says:

    I love this! I love indian food but never really knew what was healthy or not healthy from it. I have heard how turmeric has a lot of health benefits but never knew that the tandoori meats (my favorite!) were some of the most healthy options. I do love the basmati rice though so good to know that it just adds calories with no nutrition….i will try and limit that! Great information! I have indian food with my coworkers weekly so I will defiantly pass on this information 🙂

    • Sara says:

      Isn’t it awesome when you find out something you already love is good for you?! Bring on the tandoori!

  3. Robert says:

    Thanks for this wonderful information! I have an Indian friend from college and he agrees wholeheartedly with this suggestion too! I have always loved Paneer and Ghee on dishes and sauces. I feel like it made stuff taste better than normal. I am from the Philippines and my friend and I would try out each other’s cuisines every once in a while. Eating Indian food was awkward in the beginning, since I am not a big fan of veggies and spices, and especially dishes that contained mostly only that, and no meat at all. But Paneer and Ghee made some more tasteful than they probably would have been without them. I remember eating a hot Paneer Sandesh pudding for desert, and not just ordinary rice but Ghee rice. Sadly, the fats within will now make me take a step back when deciding to order such dishes. Thanks for this information again! Gotta be healthy!

    • Sara says:

      There’s nothing wrong with a little paneer and ghee – just in moderation! Maybe order one healthier item and one more “guilty” item, and share between a few coworkers!

  4. Luke Smith says:

    I didn’t realize that dal was such a healthy dish, but I can see how having so much protein and fiber packed into one dish would be a good idea! I love Indian food but never knew anything about how healthy it was (or wasn’t), so this article has been really comforting to me. Now I feel fine going out to find a new favorite curry house!

    • Richard S. says:

      Hey Luke, so glad that you learned more about the health benefits of Indian food from this informative piece. Try one of the restaurants on our website and you won’t even have to leave your home ot find a new favorite curry house!

  5. Amol Ghodke says:

    Raita completes the Indian lunch

  6. Randy Chorvack says:

    I’m glad you said that malai means cream when you’re ordering Indian food. I love Indian food and I’ve been eating it a lot recently. I also have been gaining a little bit of weight, which I want to stop before it becomes a problem. I’ll make sure to stay away from malai when I’m ordering.