Healthy Indian Food

It seems to have been a while since I posted any personal updates, so I thought today I would bring you all in on a fun little side project I have created for myself, weaving in my love for food, and my passion for experiencing different cultures.

NYC – A city where authentic food is being whipped up on a daily basis from all corners of the world, simply as a result of the multi-cultural melting pot that this city has turned out to be.

For a little while now I have been thinking about capitalising on the fact that I live here, and creating an adventure for myself whereby I try a different cultural cuisine each and every week.

I want to see if there are cuisines that are lesser known among our Western cultures that potentially have some really tasty, and simultaneously really healthy dishes, that we could all potentially enjoy including in the mix of foods we include in our diets.

Last weekend I sat down for a full day and created a grid with 52 lines, reflecting a different cuisine to try each week for the next 12 months (not that my visa lasts that long, but we will just cross that bridge when we get there!). I slowly realised that there were going to be far more than 52 cuisines that I would want to include in this expedition, and as a result, caved to extending my grid!

My goal is to not only visit the more well known cuisines, such as Thai, Italian, French and Greek, but to venture into the lesser walked paths of cuisines such as Ethiopian, Belgian, Jamaican, Georgian… and my list goes on!

I look forward to sharing this adventure, and I’ll be sure to point out any suggestions I have on how to make smarter choices when it comes to both your health and your waistline at each cuisine.

Stop one today was Indian. Yes, a relatively common cuisine in Western cultures, however given I hadn’t eaten it in at least 6 months, if not a year, and I was in the area that is referred to as “curry hill” in Kips Bay, I thought what better way to start this “authentic” Global Cuisine Tour then right here! (I’m serious, it actually smells like Indian food on the street for a couple of blocks in this area..even when the air is so cold that you would think you couldn’t smell anything!)

Stop 1: Indian – Curry in a Hurry!

Curry in a Hurry NYC Kips Bay Indian Food

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

Enough food to last a lifetime! Look how much rice and naan was given to us. We managed to separate it into 4 meals so that lunch and dinner for 2 people was sorted for the day!

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC

The “extras” that you could keep filling up as much as you wanted of. They seemed to have coleslaw which had a lot of mayonnaise through it, a chickpea and kidney bean dish which was quite fresh, and a marinade red capsicum/pepper salad which was a bit tangy and you could tell had quite a lot of oil through it.

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

They gave each person 1 HUGE naan bread. We shared 1 between 2. Yes it tastes great, but it really is a very high GI and large carb load that offers little (if any) nutritional benefit. Consume for enjoyment, but don’t think that its doing your health any favours. I suggest going the Indian basmatti rice instead which is at least low GI.

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

Dish 1: Chicken tikka masala – they gave around 120g of meat, which I think is a suitable serve size, it equates to about 1.5-2 “serves” of meat according to most guidelines; sautéed curried pumpkin, peas and onion – there was at least 2 cups of cooked vegetables here, so around 3-4 serves of vegetables; basmati rice (at least 2-3 cups worth on this plate) – 1/2 cup is classified as “1 serve” – therefore if you were to eat it all on your own, it would be way too much!

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

Meet Jason, he too appears to like the idea of my foodie tour around NYC! I think by the look of the smile on his face, he is looking forward to trying all these different cuisines over the coming months with me!

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

My selection: I went the basmati rice with lentils and saffron, chilli chicken, and stir fried vegetables. I also topped up a huge plate of lettuce from the buffet and used that to add some volume to my meal, so that I could save 1/2 the chicken, vegetables, and rice for dinner.

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

Pumpkin, peas and onlons, yes vegetarian, but you can tell there is a lot of fats added to this dish which would push the calories up quite significantly. Portion control is key here as it is definitely still a great dish.

Travelling Dietitian researching healthy food in NYC - Indian Food in NYC

Its the sauces that carry most of the calories in these curry dishes, I have three methods to control calories in this instance: 1. pour the sauce over some non starchy vegetables rather than rice e.g. over the lettuce or if you have some steamed cauliflower that would work too, this way you are only getting the calories from the sauce and not the rice. Alternatively, if you would like to eat more of the rice, eat the chicken, but don’t spoon on the sauce with the rice; or finally, Eat a bit of it all, just not as large a portion!

As you can see, there was A LOT of food! (and all this for $12 a person). I made the comment following our meal (in which doggy bags were created) “wow, people seriously eat this much every day, it’s clear why they are gaining weight”.

Per person we were given:

2-3 cups of rice = 4- 6 serves of rice/grains

120g of meat = 2 serves of meat / protein alternatives (although I actually think this is a nice and suitable serve size)

1.5 cups of cooked vegetables = 3 serves of vegetables

Extras plate which I filled up with 2 cups of lettuce = 2 serves of vegetables

Extras plate which I placed 2 tbsp of chickpeas to consume – Some would put this into their protein serves, and others into their vegetable serve…I actually like to think of chickpeas as a grain alternative given it provides a certain amount of carbohydrates for fuel, but more dietary fiber and protein to fill me up (and a lower GI for slower energy release).

Added fats = I don’t even want to start counting..there was A LOT

2 cups of water = GOOD!

As you can see, when you break it up like that, it is clear that irrespective of there being a lot of positive aspects of this meal (a variety of vegetables, legumes, low GI carbs, lean poultry, and even some fats in the sauces which I am not opposed to for helping with satiety and preventing spikes in blood glucose levels), as a whole, there was simply TOO MUCH food!

My suggestion when it comes to Indian food:

1. Share the rice, and be happy to leave some.

2. Avoid the naan, or if you eat it, have a small amount with your meal, and consume it instead of a dessert (you blood sugar levels will read it relatively similar to a sugar hit).

3. Select a non-starchy vegetable cooked dish if you want a hot vegetable dish.

4. Add a salad that isn’t cooked with anything added to help add volume/bulk to your meal without the corresponding calories that are coming from the other food groups.

5. Select leaner cuts of meat, and don’t go crazy with the sauces!

6. Take a doggy bag, or invite an extra person along…and remember…sharing is caring!?

Looking forward to sharing some of the interesting cuisines I am bound to try over the coming few months.

If you have any cuisines you would like to suggest I try please do reach out as maybe I have missed it from my list!

I am off on a 3 week trip back home to Australia as of next week, so this expedition may be put on hold momentarily (but I promise, I’ll be back on it as soon as I return).

Looking forward to coming home and seeing some familiar faces VERY SOON!

For now,

Travelling Dietitian x

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in New York City. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, and barre class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea in how to make this world a healthier and better place.

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