Eating Healthy When Dining Out: Indian Cuisine

Indian dishes like sag paneer are healthier, using more vegetables than oil and butter.

Don’t be afraid of Indian restaurants: You can find countless delicious items that are also easy on the diet.

Appetizers And Sides

Because many Indian appetizers are deep-fried, high in fat and carbohydrates, consider skipping the appetizer altogether, or ordering an appetizer to share and saving room for the main course.

  • Healthy Indian appetizers include Rasam, a tangy tomato-and-lentil soup, Raita, made with cucumber, yogurt and spices or a salad.
  • Curried vegetables are good as a side or an entre.
  • Daal is a lentil soup high in fiber and protein while low in fat. Choose Tarka Daal over the butterier Daal Makhani.
  • For condiments, Raita is a healthy yogurt dip, but choose the fresh variety over the Boondi Raita, which contains fried dough balls.
  • Stay away from anything involving ghee, the clarified butter used in any fried Indian food. When you cook for yourself, feel free to use a touch, but you can’t control how much ghee they put in a dish at a restaurant.
  • Also ask what sort of oil the restaurant uses. If they use coconut oil, see if they will cook your food in canola oil instead.


When it comes to bread, whole-grain Roti is healthier than white-flour Naan, but both are fried, making baked Pappadam the healthiest Indian bread. Switch to brown rice, because whole grain provides more fiber and micronutrients than its bleached white cousin. As carbohydrates are overrated to begin with, pick either rice or bread, but not both.


Look out for the words “creamy,” “fried" or “crispy,” if you are looking to cut back on fat. Anything involving nuts may keep the doctor away by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids and other components make nuts great for your heart, too. Furthermore, the fats and protiens help fill you up.

Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer are healthy Indian favorites made with spinach, cheese and other vegetables and spices. No oil or rice, just vegetables and cheese.


Tandoori-style meat is the healthiest option: It refers to meats baked in a high-temperature clay oven called a tandoor. Chicken Tikka is either tandoori or barbecued, and healthy either way.

Choose lighter meats like chicken or seafood over heavier fares like lamb and beef. Chicken Vindaloo is simmered in spicy garlic and vinegar sauce rather than butter or cream.

The vegetarian section is a good shortcut to healthy foods. Look for Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), Baingan Bharta (a mashed eggplant dish) or Chole (chickpea curry).


Fresh-made Chai Tea contains cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, all of which aid digestion, as do the licorice-flavored fennel seeds that often accompany Indian food. Fruit Chutney and Khur (sweetened rice pudding) are other decently healthy dessert options.