Making Desi food healthier!

South Asian Food (Desi food)

After becoming a health coach, do I still eat desi food? I often get asked this question now. (Desi is collectively referred to the people from the South Asian subcontinent which includes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). The answer is YES, of course! All ethnic cuisines have their share of health benefits. For example, Desi cuisine utilizes lots of healing, anti-inflammatory and digestive aiding SPICES. We also have a variety of lentil-based dishes that are amazing for health. With that being said, our desi cuisine is notorious for using lots of oil and carbs with not enough fresh vegetables.

So, how do I healthify my desi food a bit more? By making sure I have lots of VEGETABLES on my plate! By using LESS oil and preferably better QUALITY oil like a coconut oil (I use refined coconut oil since it’s neutral tasting and smelling), avocado oil, or the traditional Ghee (making sure the Ghee is pasture-raised since it’s cleaner and most nutritious then).

Also, I try not to overcook the HECK out of our vegetable dishes. I’ll usually make the masala (spicy sauce) first fully and then add the vegetables, so they don’t have to be cooked for too long on high heat.

I’ll serve my desi food with a light, refreshing salad (cucumbers, tomato, onions, mint, cilantro and lemon is my favorite with desi food) to balance out the meal. I also do this to make sure I have that extra anti-oxidant loaded, phytochemical loaded goodness in my meal just so that if I’m consuming something along with it that isn’t optimal (like let’s say non-organic meat or like a curry dish cooked in a lower quality oil like canola-because let’s be REAL, these things can happen when you live with other family members and it get’s expensive or very inconvenient for you to include the higher-quality versions of these all the time), I’ll have those fresh vegetables to kinda detox and offset any negative effects of those non-optimal items.

In the picture above, I have daal (lentil soup/stew), chawal (rice) and karahi gosht (a spicy goat curry) along with some sautéed kale (I didn’t get enough greens that day, so had to have my daily share!) and a fresh side salad of cucumbers and bell peppers (with a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika and salt). The addition of the greens and salad also has you eating less carbs like the white rice over here because it really helps fill up your stomach. Some of you, I know might be cringing at the idea of sautéed kale with your beloved karahi gosht, but I prormise you when you mix some into the curry, it all still tastes very good! Our desi sauces and curries are SO flavorful on their own that they can easily handle extra greens in there. Sometimes, I’ll add in roasted vegetables instead of the greens or salad, or like a quick sautéed/stir-fried vegetable side like my sautéed green beans with lemon zest recipe posted here on the blog.

And there you go, healthy eating is really not that complicated. Just make sure you’re using higher quality ingredients and lots of veggies. It’s always ideal to consume organic meat in moderation of course, so limiting meat intake and having more vegetable-based dishes is the way to go. Higher quality fish like wild salmon, tuna, cod, mahi mahi, etc are all GREAT choices as well!

2 thoughts on “Making Desi food healthier!”

  1. Thanks for this. Since I started eating better, I have been avoiding desi food because of the unhealthy factors but I love your tips. I generally add a large portion of vegetables for its nutritional as well as low calorie benefits. I still find that making the sauces requires too much oil which in my case is a nono. Please mention some low oil or no oil desi food options.

    1. You’re doing great and on the right track!!
      So, yea just cutting down the oil in half REALLY can benefit your health. Like going from 1/4 cup oil to 2 tbsp makes a big difference or for like the more indulgent korma type dishes, going from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup helps (of course the indulgent ones we eat less often right). On top of that making sure you’re adding in fresh healthy salads or lightly cooked veggies on the side always is key because it also helps you eat less of the curry and carbs!
      It really doesn’t have to be more complicated then that 🙂

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