Whether Indian fast food presents an opportunity for a quick meal when you’re in a hurry, or just gets a bit too hard to resist some evenings, there’s no denying its conspicuous presence in our lives. And as we firmly believe: when you can’t avoid it, choose the healthiest versions of it!
Here’s our pick of the healthiest options in Indian fast food.
Idlis had to make it to this list; they’re essentially steamed cakes made from rice and black lentils!
The coconut chutney served with it is admittedly high in saturated fat, but a large component of that is lauric acid – a fatty acid that’s been shown to boost immunity, reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and (therefore) decrease the risk of heart disease. .1, 2 It’s still best to stick to just a tablespoon of the chutney if you’re watching your calorie-intake, though; that’s 50 calories right there.
There’s no need to hold back on the steaming hot bowl of sambhar, on the other hand! The toor dal (pigeon peas) it’s made of and the lentils from the idli together replenish your iron stores, thus increasing your energy levels.
Speaking of this combination, you’d also be getting a high quality of protein, for a couple of reasons:
1] The idli batter and sambhar’s rice and dals work together to give us all the nine essential amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) that our body needs and cannot make on its own.
2] Of all the legumes, lentils have the second highest ratio of protein per calories (soybeans comes first), giving you more protein from the calories you consume.3
3] A study showed that pea protein, the protein found in lentils, is extremely satiating during a meal – so you get full quicker and then possibly eat less.4
A pair of idlis have about 80 to 120 calories (depending on their size), while half a cup of sambar has 150 calories. Put together with 1 tablespoon of coconut chutney, we get a satiating and nutritive meal in 280 to 320 calories.
#2 Tandoori Food and Rolls
Tandoori meats are also an excellent form of protein.
One serving of chicken contains approximately 120 calories. If wrapped up into a wheat roti, it can make a 250 calorie meal. For a vegetarian, the meat can be swapped for the whey and casein milk proteins from paneer, and choosing mushroom as an alternative can allow you to get some vitamin D as well.
They also have 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 Yogurt is also a good source of milk proteins.
#3 Vegetable Sandwich
Despite the culinary diversity in different parts of India, you are bound to find a sandwich vendor on a street in your neighbourhood. This is probably one of the only street foods that’s stuffed with fresh vegetables like onion, cucumber and tomatoes.
It is seasoned with green chutney, made from mint, coriander, green chillies and lemon juice. Chilli peppers have a compound called capsaicin that helps with digestion and relieves pain.8 The lemon juice and green vegetables are a good source of vitamin C. Coriander is also rich in vitamin K, which helps our bones and is required for blood clotting.9, 10
The grilled variety is generally topped up with cheese, providing some protein. Owing to the bread, potatoes and butter, a sandwich is approximately 230 calories, making it suitable for an evening snack (depending on how you plan your meals).
While the list stops here, you can always find variation within the three picks to change things up – as long as you consider their nutritional implications. It’s extremely important to make the right choices in a world full of options, when you’re working towards your health goals – and we hope we’ve helped you identify them through this series.
Related Articles –
1. de Roos N, et al. J Nutr 2001, 131(2): 242-245.
2. Mensink RP, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2003, 77(5): 1146-1155.
3. SelfNutritionData. Nutrition Facts: Raw Lentils. California, USA: Condé Nast; 2014.
4. Diepvens K, et al. Int J Obes (Lond) 2008, 32(3): 510-518.
5. Corzo-Martínez M, et al. Trends in Food Science & Technology 2007, 18(12): 609-625.
6. Yang J, et al. J Agric Food Chem 2004, 52(22): 6787-6793.
7. Semwal RB, et al. Phytochemistry 2015, 117: 554-568.
8. Reyes-Escogido Mde L, et al. Molecules 2011, 16(2): 1253-1270.
9. SelfNutritionData. Nutrition Facts: Coriander (cilantro) leaves, raw. California, USA: Condé Nast; 2014.
10. Vermeer C, et al. Eur J Nutr 2004, 43(6): 325-335.