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

Appetizers
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.

Sides
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 eatwellrd@yahoo.com or visit here.

 

Vegetarian or Vegan: What’s the Diff?

Chicken Kebabs and Rice With increasing scientific studies promoting the health benefits of consuming plant-based foods, it’s no wonder vegetarian and vegan diets have surged as popular ways to eat. Many people choose to follow either diet for a variety of reasons. Animal rights, protecting the planet, religious beliefs, and improved health are just a few. Followed correctly, each can offer substantial health benefits such as lowering the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many types of cancer. However, if animal products are not substituted appropriately, the risk for developing deficiencies in certain nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals is increased. Plant-based eating can improve your health–just make sure that your meals are well-planned, so you consume the nutrients your body needs.

If you’re interested in following either diet you should be fond of vegetables, whole grains and non-meat alternatives such as tofu, nuts, and beans as these will all serve as the basis for many of your meals. It is essential you take the time to educate yourself on how to properly follow these diets. If well-thought out and well-planned, nutrition deficiencies can be avoided, health benefits gained and you will be fit and fueled. To guarantee you follow a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, you should meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to receive expert nutritional guidance.

Let’s look at these two styles of eating and see how they differ:

Vegetarian Diets

*Vegetarian diets can be sub-divided into a few different categories:
True vegetarians (also known as lacto-ovo vegetarians) avoid all meat, fish and poultry but do consume eggs and dairy products.

* Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs, meat, fish and poultry, and ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but avoid dairy, meat, fish and poultry.

*Similarly, “flexitarian” and “semi-vegetarian,” which are basically the same, describe a diet that consists largely of vegetarian items with the occasional meat, fish or poultry source thrown into the mix.

*Vegetarians who also eat fish are known as pescatarians.

True vegetarians typically obtain protein from dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese), eggs and soy products. Tempeh, a texturized protein made from soybeans, brown rice, millet and barley, and seitan, made from wheat gluten (a protein found in wheat), are two meat alternatives many vegetarians also include in their diet. With a wide variety of protein sources available, the vegetarian diet is easy to follow with little risk for deficiency.

Vegan Diets

Compared to the vegetarian diet, following a vegan diet requires more planning to ensure that adequate protein, vitamins and minerals are consumed. Vegans omit all foods from animal sources. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and butter are avoided. Many vegans also avoid honey. With fewer options for protein, plant-based proteins, such as soy products (tofu and soy milk), protein-fortified almond milk, tempeh, beans, nuts, legumes, seitan, vegetables and whole grains become the staples at meals.

Those who want to follow a vegan diet need to make sure that they get sufficient nutrients, such as protein and calcium. To ensure adequate protein is consumed, a variety of these plant-protein foods mentioned above should be consumed regularly at meals. As stated before, you may want to meet with a RDN to ensure that the diet is well-planned. Because vitamin B-12 is found only in animal products, vegans need to supplement their diet with this vitamin.  Vegans may seek out fortified food sources, such as soy milk fortified with vitamin B-12, to obtain this vitamin or simply take in the form of a pill supplement. Since dairy products are not consumed, calcium can also become an issue so appropriate food alternatives, such as calcium-fortified tofu, soy or almond milk and dark green leafy vegetables, need to be included in the diet daily. If nutritional needs for calcium can’t be obtained through food alone, a calcium supplement should be taken. Vegans also need to pay special attention to getting enough vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. In order to obtain the health benefits of either a vegetarian or vegan diet, either diet needs to be followed properly.

Differences between Vegetarian and Vegan Diets 

Vegetarian
Foods included: Milk, cheese, butter, eggs, grains, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables,

Foods avoided: Meat, fish, chicken

Vegan
Foods included: Tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, beans, whole grain breads and cereals, fortified-soy and almond milk, fruits and vegetables.
Foods avoided: Milk, cheese, butter, meat, fish. chicken, eggs, dairy (some vegans also avoid honey)
Nutrients which may be lacking:
Vegetarians should be able to easily meet all of their nutrient needs if they make healthy food choices.
Supplements required: Vegans need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. If food sources of vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc and iodine don’t meet nutritional needs, a supplement may be needed.
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN. CDE, CDN is a nationally-renowned teen and adult weight management expert with offices in Huntington, NY and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Lisa is the author of The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy (Nirvana Press 2012), the premier guide on healthy eating and weight management for teens. To find out more about Lisa, visit her website.

Eating Vegan While Traveling Abroad

IMG_2605Following a vegetarian, vegan or plant-based lifestyle has become extremely popular in today’s culture. Whether for health, sustainability of the planet or animal rights, the number of people adapting a plant-based diet is at an all time high. If you are a vegetarian, it is usually not difficult to consume a nutritious diet as you can omit the meat in restaurants, but still include dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt and eggs. If you adhere to a vegan diet, it can be a little tricky to meet your nutritional needs, especially when traveling, without some careful planning. People that are vegan do not consume any foods derived from animals. That means no meat, dairy or eggs. Many vegans also exclude honey from their diets.

If you follow a vegan diet and enjoy eating in restaurants, you may become familiar with the various establishments in your locale that offer vegan menu options or will oblige special requests and modify dishes to meet your needs. However, when you travel abroad you may find it difficult to find restaurants that will satisfy your vegan preferences. Google websites for vegan restaurants where you are traveling. You should find this quite helpful. Also be aware that you can order a vegan or vegetarian meal for your flight, but do so at least 48 hours in advance. You should be able to do this on the airline’s website.

If you follow a vegan diet exclusively, you should be aware that there are a handful of nutrients that you need to pay special attention to so you don’t develop a deficiency. These nutrients include protein, Vitamin B12, zinc, iron and calcium. Almost all foods except for alcohol, fruit, sugar, and fat provide some protein.

Protein’s role in the diet is to repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women.Vegan protein sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut and other nut butters, soy milk and protein-fortified almond milk, almonds and other nuts, peas, seitan (wheat gluten), edamame and tempeh.

Vitamin B12  is required for the formation red blood cells, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 is predominately found in animal foods. It can be difficult to get sufficient amounts from plant-based foods. If you are traveling, it may be wise to bring a package of Red Star nutritional yeast that you can add to foods for protein and Vitamin B12. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contains only 45 calories, but has 6 grams of protein and 100% of the RDA for Vitamin B12. If you bring a small container of it to restaurants, you can add it to soups, pasta, rice and stews.

Zinc has many important functions in the body.  It’s needed to maintain the body’s immune system. Zinc is also required for cell division, cell growth, wound healing and the digestion of carbohydrates. Zinc is also essential for both smell and taste. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Plant-based food sources of zinc include white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds. While traveling, try to  order entrees which include beans when dining in restaurants.

Iron’s role in the body is to carry oxygen to all of the cells. Iron sources for vegetarians and vegans include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins). For vegetarians, egg yolk is also a good source of iron.

Calcium is the most plentiful mineral found in the human body. The majority of calcium is found in the teeth and bones. Nerve cells, body tissues, blood, and other body fluids contain the rest of the calcium.  In addition to building strong bones and teeth, calcium also helps blood to clot, sends and receives nerve signals, and maintains a normal heartbeat. Calcium food sources for vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, almonds, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and dark-green leafy vegetables, including broccoli, collard, turnip and mustard greens, bok choy. Vegetarians can get adequate calcium from milk, cheese and yogurt.

If you are a vegan and traveling, don’t forget to bring a multiple vitamin/mineral supplement that is 100% of the Daily Value (DV). Taking a daily multiple vitamin/mineral supplement that provides sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12, calcium, zinc and iron is a good way to ensure adequate nutrition while you travel.

Some helpful tips for ordering vegan meals in restaurants abroad include:

1. If the restaurant doesn’t have a vegan option, request a vegetable plate.
If there is a salad that includes meat or cheese, and no vegan option, request that the meal and cheese be omitted. Ask for beans and/or avocado to be added.
2. Bring packets of oatmeal, bags of nuts and vegan protein bars from home when you travel.
3. Download Happy Cow, the free app for iPhone, to find vegetarian and vegan restaurants around the globe.

Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is the author of the new ebook The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and The Teen Eating Manifesto (Nirvana Press 2012). She is a nationally-recognized Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a specialty in teen and adult weight management and diabetes. Lisa received her B.S. in Food and Nutrition and her M.A. in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She consults with clients in Huntington, New York and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To find out more about Lisa or to book an appointment, please visit: http://www.lisastollmanrd.com