As our mailboxes drown in Save the Dates and invites, we know that wedding season is upon us. With the insurmountable number of weddings to attend and the events that proceed, keeping up a healthy diet and fitting into our outfits may become an issue for some of us.
But by identifying the healthiest food you will find at a wedding, you can avoid some of those extra pounds!
Here are some general guidelines.
Most weddings have a heavy Mughlai spread, which means lots of paneer and tandoori meats.
Paneer (aka cottage cheese) is made from milk, making it a good source of protein. 80% of the proteins you’ll find in milk are made up of casein, which are proteins that come with a list of health benefits such as helping the body absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorous, as well as lowering blood sugar. 1, 2 Whey protein makes up the remaining 20% of milk. This is great for our health as well, since it offers benefits like helping our bodies build muscle and lowering blood pressure.3
Unlike many cheeses, paneer not only includes casein but also most of the whey proteins.4 But it is also has double the amount of saturated fat than protein, so limit your quantity to half a cup (about 180 calories and 8 g protein).
Tandoori meats are also an excellent form of protein. They come with ingredients like ginger, garlic, onions, and yogurt, which bestow health benefits of their own. For example, ginger aids digestion, garlic benefits the heart, while onions have compounds that help bones and may lower blood sugar. 5-7
These pass-around snacks could quickly take you over your calorie limit, so try not to go over 4-6 pieces. And if you do happen to eat more, compensate with the quantity of your main meal.
Given India’s culinary diversity, there are plenty of options for every eating preference.
It’s best to stay away from creamy curries to keep a low calorie count. Oily food is also best avoided since catered food in weddings most likely use inexpensive refined vegetable oils, which at high heat, may produce unfriendly trans-fats, notorious for causing heart disease.
For both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, replace some of the creamy gravies in your meal with the basic dals and other legumes. In combination with grains, these can be a great source of high quality protein, comprising all of the nine essential amino acids. (These amino acids are termed ‘essential’ because they cannot be made by the body and we rely on the diet to gain them.8)
Buttery naans may not be all bad if you limit the quantity (half naan = about 100 calories). Tandoori roti is baked in a clay oven so these have even fewer calories (1 roti = 110 calories). While ghee is generally a healthy fat, it may be best to avoid it at weddings since you can’t be sure of the quality (it may not be pure), and could be rich in unhealthy trans fats.9
With the growing number of live counters in wedding spreads, you are sure to find a pasta counter. The best part of the live counter is that you can control the quantities of sauces, grains and vegetables that go into it. Opt for an olive oil based sauce, like pesto or aglio olio, over creamy varieties. Contrary to popular belief, olive oil is suitable for cooking.
The Burmese soup-noodles speciality, khow suey, has become a wedding favourite in the recent past. This soup-based preparation with little oil and more water has a whole meal in one dish. The meat, vegetables and noodles are bound to keep you full and nourished. It also has plenty of garlic, chilli peppers, and coriander, giving a boost of compounds with antioxidant, antibacterial and heart-healthy properties.
Having said this, limit yourself to one bowl of khow suey, which adds up to 250-300 calories. While coconut milk is admittedly high in saturated fat, most of that comes from lauric acid, which has been shown to boost immunity. It also reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol, and therefore decreases the risk of heart disease.10, 11
As diversity is trending in lavish weddings these days, you may also find a sushi counter. These nutrient-packed Japanese rolls generally contain omega-3 fatty acid rich fish. The vegetarian alternative, with avocados, also makes a rich source of omega-3 fats. The rice in sushi is high in fibre, while spicy wasabi contains antioxidants called glucosinolates, and pickled ginger is an antimicrobial and antiviral agent.
No Indian wedding spread is complete without a dessert counter, which is often nothing short of copious. Mini versions of your favourite desserts can be found, making quantity control a lot easier. Take a look at some good options for desserts here.
Keeping these options in mind, we can stay healthy even with wedding season in full swing.
- Ricci I, et al. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2010, 50(5): 390-402.
- Holt C, et al. J Dairy Sci 2013, 96(10): 6127-6146.
- Pal S, Ellis V. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2010, 18(7): 1354-1359.
- Khan SU, Pal MA. Journal of Food Technology 2010, 8(4): 169-174.
- Corzo-Martínez M, et al. Trends in Food Science & Technology 2007, 18(12): 609-625.
- Yang J, et al. J Agric Food Chem 2004, 52(22): 6787-6793.
- Semwal RB, et al. Phytochemistry 2015, 117: 554-568.
- Nair AJ. Principles of Biochemistry and Genetic Engineering. Laxmi Publications Pvt Limited, 2010.
- Kala ALA. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 2012, 89(10): 1813-1821.
- de Roos N, et al. J Nutr 2001, 131(2): 242-245.
- Mensink RP, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2003, 77(5): 1146-1155.