When dining at an Indian restaurant or preparing Indian food to eat at home, you could be forgiven for thinking that a high-carb meal is a foregone conclusion. With an emphasis on rice, naan breads, poppadoms and sugary sauces, many Indian dishes are high in carbs, but that doesn't mean you can't experience an Indian menu while cutting back on carbs. You just need to know what to pick.
You won't find a formal definition of what a low-carb diet or low-carb meal is. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that between 45 and 65 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs, however. This means that someone eating 2,000 calories per day should be eating between 900 and 1,300 calories from carbs -- equivalent to 225 to 325 grams per day. Additionally, the USDA states that the minimum recommended carb intake for adults is 130 grams per day. Therefore, a low-carb Indian meal could be classified as one that fits into a day where you're eating less than the advised intake of carbohydrate.
Counting Carbs With Indian Food
It can often be difficult to know exactly how many carbs you're eating when dining out, so Ashwini Wagle, Sajida Arsiwala, Bhavna Subhedar and Kathy Sucher of San Jose State University suggest looking at foods in blocks, with each block equaling around 15 grams of carbs. For breads, a 6-inch chapati, a small dinner roll, a 10-inch dosa or half a pita bread all equal a block. One-third cup of any type of rice, half a dhansak or biryani, 1/2 cup of a potato or lentil dish, or a vegetable korma are also one block each. Some items, such as chicken curry, aloo gobhi and mixed dal, are less carb-dense, so a block counts as 1 1/4 cups, 1 cup and 1 cup, respectively.
What to Pick
For specific dishes to opt for, the Atkins website suggests tandoori dishes -- these are meats cooked with blends of herbs and spices in a clay oven. Vegetable curries or dishes made with paneer -- a type of Indian cheese -- make lower-carb side dishes than rice or breads. Meat and fish curries also typically contain fewer carbs than vegetable- or lentil-based ones.
Key Points to Remember
If you're unsure of what's in a dish, don't be afraid to ask the waitstaff. Some dishes that sound like they may be low in carbs can contain potato, so it's best to check. Additionally, appetizers and sides such as samosas and pakoras are high in carbs, so choose a salad, kebab or tandoori dish instead. When eating out, try to choose dishes free from starches and sugars. Cooking Indian food at home is a little easier as you know exactly what's going into your dishes, so this may be a better choice if you're on a strict low-carb diet.