How To Eat Well In An Indian Restaurant

Indian meal VeraswamyWalk into an Asian Indian restaurant and the rich aroma will warmly welcome you in. The mingling of exotic spices such as curry, cardamom, clove and turmeric propels Indian food into a unique and distinctive flavor unlike any other. The rich bouquet of this cuisine permeates the delicious dishes resulting in a wonderful culinary experience you won’t forget. If you’ve had the pleasure to enjoy Indian food, you know what I mean. If you have not had the pleasure, you are truly missing out on a real treat. Don’t be afraid to try this cuisine because you don’t fare well with spicy food. Simply ask for your food to be prepared “not spicy.” Unlike many ethnic cusines, Indian food can be ordered to the degree of spiciness you prefer. So definitely put this cuisine on your bucket list and GO!

Below you will find an overview of a standard Indian menu along with how this cuisine can fit into a variety of diets.

Overview of an Indian Restaurant Menu

Onion bhajia:  A mixture of gramflour, onions, fresh coriander and cumin deep fried.

Aloo channa poori: Spicy chickpeas & potato served with tamarind chutney & a poori.

Samosa: Vegetable or spiced minced lamb deep fried pastry parcels

Prawn Poori: King prawns in a light sauce served wth a poori

Haryali tikka: Chicken marinated in green herbs and hot spices cooked in the tandoor.

Sheekh kebab: Lean minced lamb spiced with green chillies and onions grilled in the tandoor.

Chicken Saslick: /Chicken breast pieces cooked with peppers & onions in the tandoor

Mains Dishes

Murgh Tikka Masala:  Chargrilled chicken marinated in fresh ginger & garlic then simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, butter and cream

Murgh Jalfrezi: Chicken breast pieces stir fried in special hot spices, with onions, tomatoes, green & red peppers

Murgh Korma: Chicken in a mild cream, coconut & cashew sauce

Murgh Chilli Masala: Chicken in a tomato sauce with ginger, garlic & shredded fresh green chillies

Nilgiri Murgh: Tender Chicken pieces cooked in fresh coriander, mint, garlic & ginger sauce

Saagwala Gosht: Lamb cooked with garlic, ginger, onions & spinach

Garlic Chilli Prawns: King Prawns in a chilli & garlic sauce with spring onions

Goan Fish Curry: Tilapia fish curry cooked in a hot spicy coconut cream sauce

Karai Paneer: Juicy chunks of paneer in a tomato, onion & green chilli sauce with green herbs

Tarka Daal: Lentils tempered with onions & spices

Daal Makhani: Black lentils simmered slowly with kidney beans & cream

Biryanis: An elaborate dish of rice with spiced lamb, chicken or vegetables with nuts & sultanas, sprinkled with saffron. Served with yogurt or vegetable sauce. May be made with either chicken, lamb or vegetable.

Channa Masala: Chickpeas with ginger, garlic & spices

Saag Paneer: Paneer (similar to large curd cottage cheese) with finely shredded spinach

Aloo Ki Subz: Potatoes in an onion & tomato sauce with cumin

Brinjal Aloo: Eggplant and potatoes with cumin & fennel seeds

Rice & Breads
Naan: Traditional leavened bread baked with refined flour, eggs and milk.

Garlic naan:  Traditional leavened bread baked with refined flour, eggs, garlic and milk.

Peshauri Naan: Stuffed with ground almonds, cashews & coconut

Tandoori Roti: Light unleavened bread

Paratha: Layered flat bread made with whole wheat flour and butter.

Pilau Rice: Basmati rice seasoned with cloved, cinnamon, mace & cardamoms

Saffron Rice: Basmati rice flavored with saffron

Meal Suggestions For Your Special Diet

  1. Diabetes-Friendly Dishes: Limit your intake of rice to one cup or less. One cup of rice is 45 grams (or 3 exchanges) of carbohydrate. Try the daal, which is made from lentils and is high in fiber. The vegetable, fish and chicken dishes are all great choices. If you order bread, limit to one or two small servings.
  2. Heart-Healthy Dishes: Choose any of the vegetable, chicken or fish dishes. Ask for your entree to be made without cream or ghee.
  3. Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly Dishes: Choose any of the vegetable dishes if you are vegetarian. For those who are vegan, request that your vegetable dish be made with out ghee, cream or cheese (paneer). Chana masala and daal are terrific dishes for plant-based eaters. It’s so easy in an Indian restaurant!
  4. Gluten-Free: Most dishes are gluten-free. Avoid the naan, paratha, roti and other breads and desserts made with wheat flour.

Five Tips for Eating Well in an Indian Restaurant

  1. Limit the rice to one cup or less at your meal.

2. Ask that your food be cooked without ghee (clarified butter) to reduce calories and saturated    fat.

3. Enjoy a variety of vegetable dishes for healthy fiber and enhanced satiety.

4. Have a soothing cup of tea for dessert. If you desire something sweet, share it with your companions.

5. As long as you go easy on the rice and bread, Indian cuisine is quite healthy. Enjoy!

Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN was recently honored as the 2015 The Outstanding Dietitian Of The Year by The New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the author of the e-book The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and the widely-acclaimed book The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy (Nirvana Press 2012). Lisa is a nutrition specialist in weight management, travel nutrition and diabetes for teens and adults. She is in private practice with offices in Huntington, NY and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Contact Lisa at or visit here.


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