Diabetics Enjoy your feast, Suggestions on eating out, PART I

Dining Out: Indian Food

Indian cuisine offers tremendous regional diversity.

Every region of India has its own style of cooking. In northern India, spices are usually ground before being added to dishes; in the south, they are added whole, then ground into a paste with other ingredients. In the north you’ll find wheat, basmati and jasmine rice and other grains. Dishes native to the south often rely on coconut milk. India’s Persian influence turns up in lamb and mutton dishes that often feature dried fruit and nuts. The Portuguese influence in the southwest regions puts pork, goat and duck on the menu. From India’s Hindu population come dozens of delicious vegetarian choices based on lentils, peas and beans mixed with vegetables and dairy products.

Almost any Indian dish is bound to include blends of several fragrant ingredients, including cumin, coriander, cardamom, mustard, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, turmeric, tamarind, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, pomegranates and dozens more. Also used in Indian dishes are a variety of nuts, different types of rice and plenty of dairy products, including yogurt, buttermilk, homemade cheeses, cream and sour cream.

The most popular Indian dishes are the ones called tandoori, which refers to both the dish itself and the kind of oven in which it is cooked. The tandoori oven is made of clay and fueled with charcoal. It reaches extremely high temperatures, meaning foods can be cooked very fast. Other popular choices include a variety of curries, which is basically any dish seasoned with curry powder (a mix of spices), kebabs (skewered, grilled meats) and dals, or lentil, chickpea and bean options. Sweet-and-sour chutneys are traditional accompaniments to many dishes, as are papads, the crispy, wafer-thin slices of lentil-flour dough.

  • Raita: Yogurt with cucumbers, often served as a side dish to tame the fire of spicy dishes
  • Pakora: Fritters made with vegetables, chicken, cheese or meat
  • Samosa: Seasoned lamb, potatoes and peas enclosed in a pastry crust
  • Biryani: Rice-based dishes of spiced lamb, chicken, shrimp or vegetables, sometimes including nuts
  • Vindaloo: Spicy chicken, duck, lamb or shrimp cooked in a tangy sauce with potatoes, herbs and spices
  • Kebab: Seasoned chicken, lamb or shrimp and vegetables skewered and cooked on a charcoal grill
  • Korma: Mildly spiced cubes of lamb or chicken (and sometimes nuts) cooked in cream sauce
  • Dal: Dishes of spiced red or green lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, kidney or other beans, sometimes cooked with tomatoes
  • Kofta: Lamb or vegetable balls simmered in sauce
  • Saag paneer: A homemade cheese cooked with spinach and spices
  • Lassi: Delicious yogurt shakes that can be served sweet or salty, for breakfast, lunch or as a snack. Some combine herbs and spices, while some use rose water and mango or other fruit
An Example of a traditional Menu in an Indian Restaurant.
Appetisers and Starters
Samosas
(Fried Patties Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables)
Pakoras
(Onion, Potato, Chicken or Vegetable-Stuffed Fritters)
Assortment of Naans
(Leavened Flat Breads Baked in the Tandoor Oven)
Baingan Bharta
(Curried Eggplant Puree)
Served with Chappatis
(Unleavened Bread)
Pappadum
(Baked Spiced Lentil Wafers)
Jhinga Tikka 
(Shrimp Patties)
Green Salad with House Dressing and Raita
(Yogurt-Cucumber Dip/Salad)
Lentil Soup
  • Many of the appetizers are fried, so be careful when ordering. Many of the dressings and sauces in Indian cooking are yogurt based and work well in a low fat diet. It is always a good idea to ask before ordering.
  • Green house salad with light house dressing and Raita with Cucumber is a good choice.
  • Lentil Soup and Naan would be a good choice for more balance (less fat, more vegetable protein and fiber)

An Example of a traditional Menu in an Indian Restaurant. Entrees ( Main Courses) Chicken Tikka
(Tandoori Chicken Kabobs)
Tandoori Prawns or Fish
Beef, Lamb or Chicken Curry
Served with Rice Lamb Dahl
(Tender Chunks of Lamb with Lentils, Tomato & Onion)
Served with Rice
Vegetable and Shrimp Biriyani
(Basmati Rice Dish)
Curried Chick-Peas
Served with Rice 

Inquire about all the elements in a specific dish. Because Indian food combines so many different ingredients, menus often do not list them all. Remember that vindaloo usually includes potatoes, and that lentils and/or rice may be plated along with your food. Stick to kebabs, tandoori dishes and curries, which are pretty straightforward and basically derive their flavor from herbs and spices.

The Chicken Kabobs are probably the best choice for entrees on this menu.

Tandoori baked items, such as the Chicken Kabobs, are often marinated in yogurt and spices, giving flavor and tenderness without much added fat.

Curries tend to be higher in fat and often contain coconut milk.

Ghee (clarified butter) is often used first to sauté vegetablesThere are some areas to watch out for to avoid a high fat meal:

  • Dishes mixed with Rice and Vegetables often have coconut milk as part of the sauce ingredient.
  • Ghee (clarified butter) is also used quite a bit in sauteing vegetables and adding to sauces.

Try to order meat and starch items separately to have a better idea of the serving sizes of each.

Curried chick-peas with rice would be a nice vegetarian selection with a green salad on the side. It is important, though, to watch out for mixed vegetarian dishes. Legumes mixed with rice can have a very high carbohydrate count

An Example of a traditional Menu in an Indian Restaurant.
Desserts
Gulab Jamun
(Deep Fried Dough Balls)
Kheer
(Rice Cooked with Milk, Served Cold with Almonds)
Halva
Semolina fudge-like dessert
Kulfi
Mango Juice Ice Cream
  • Basically, a NO-NO for people with diabetes, but if you have to indulge, take a small portion.
  • Kheer is a thin rice rudding, and is the lowest fat choice here.
  • If the carbohydrate in the fruit is not a problem, ask your waiter for a fresh fruit selection for dessert. There are wonderful tropical fruits in India which can be a special treat.
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About Anuj Agarwal

I am a professional with varied working experience of more than 18 years in India, USA and Middle East. My areas of work and interest are Information Technology, Corporate Social Responsibility, Health and Wellness. Please feel free to contact me through the blog or write me at agarwalanuj@yahoo.com
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One Response to Diabetics Enjoy your feast, Suggestions on eating out, PART I

  1. Pingback: Diabetics Enjoy your feast, Suggestions on eating out, PART I « healthsewak.com

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