Indian cuisine is considered to be one of the healthiest and most diverse cuisines in the world. Gourmet cooks from around the world flock to India to taste the rich and exotic foods. Indians boast of a huge variety of foods with flavors ranging from savory to decadent and sweet to extremely spicy. Indian foods are generally cooked and use a lot of antioxidant-rich spices. The balance of carbs, protein, and fats in most Indian dishes is perfect. However, there are some Indian foods which are not just high in calories, but also extremely unhealthy. Some Indian dishes use a great deal of oil, butter, ghee, sugar, and nuts to make them richer and tastier. Indian cuisine also has many popular deep-fried dishes that are relished by the population. So here is a list of the top highest calorie Indian foods, (and their lower calorie substitutes for the health-conscious)-
One will see kachoris being deep-fried in big vessels at every other street corner. They are hot and spicy, and often filled with potatoes or lentils. Although kachoris are a favorite among Indians and is a staple breakfast for some, it is extremely high in calories. A single kachori has around 200-300 calories alone, and no one can ever eat just one kachori. They are high in trans fats and cholesterol due to being deep-fried. And more often than not, the spicy potato filling makes it even unhealthier.
Healthier substitute- Vegetable parantha
Paranthas are not the healthiest food on the planet but are way better than kachoris. They are not deep-fried, and just toasted lightly on a pan with little oil. You can make healthy paranthas by filling them with paneer or veggies and using very little oil. This way, you won’t just save calories, but also increase the nutritional value of your food. Pair these paranthas with curd, and you have a perfect meal that is healthy and filling.
Ah, which Indian doesn’t love samosas with their chai. Samosas are deep-fried pastries filled with potatoes, chickpeas or meat. They are every Indian’s favorite snack, but again, extremely high in calories. One medium sized samosa has almost 300 calories, and the deep-fried delight is extremely high in fat and refined carbs. Definitely not good for you if you are a health-conscious person.
Healthier substitute- Dhokla
Where there are samosas, there are always dhoklas. Dhoklas are made from rice and chickpea batter and are extremely light on the stomach. Each dhokla has merely 50 calories and has very little or no oil at all. This means that you can eat 6 dhoklas for every one samosa! So whenever you go to a shop and see samosas and dhoklas, go for the dhoklas instead.
Jalebis or Imartis are the most popular sweet dish in India, often served with yogurt in North India. They are orange-colored coil-shaped sweets made of maida deep-fried and then soaked in sugar syrup. Once you eat one jalebi, you will always crave for more. But one medium sized jalebi has around 150 calories. Jalebis are made of refined flour, that is both deep-fried and soaked in sugar. So you can imagine what havoc more than one jalebi can wreak on your health.
Healthier substitute- Kaju Katli
Let’s make one thing clear here- Kaju katli is not healthy. But compared to a jalebi in the caloric value department, it is way better. One Kaju katli has around 50 calories, and they have lesser sugar than a jalebi. So if you are craving something sweet, you are better off enjoying a piece of Kaju katli than gorging on the rich jalebis.
Another favorite sweet among the Indians, gulabjamuns are extremely rich and decadent. They are balls of maida and ghee deep-fried and then soaked in sugar. The process is almost the same as making jalebis, with a slight difference in the ingredients used in the dough and their consistency. So you can yourself take a guess as to how unhealthy these sweet delights are. One gulabjamun has 200-250 calories depending on the size, and extremely high in fat and sugar.
Healthier substitute- Rasgulla
Again, not the healthiest food on the planet, but way less calorie-dense. Rasgullas are made by cooking balls of paneer in sugar syrup. One rasgulla has around 80-100 calories and is as decadent as a gulabjamun.
Vada pav is a popular Maharashtrian dish that comprises of deep-fried flour-covered potatoes sandwiched between two pieces of pav bread. It is similar to a sandwich, with mint chutney and ketchup smeared on pav and a vada in between. Vada pavs are as delicious and addictive as burgers, but as high in calories. One vada pav has almost 300 calories and extremely high in fat, carbs, and oil.
Healthier substitute- Whole wheat sandwich
Trust me, you will not miss out on the taste at all with this substitute. Whole wheat bread is as delicious as pavs (made of refined flour). Substitute your deep-fried vada with lots of veggies, paneer, or even chicken, and you get a wholesome snack for half the calories.
This is a Punjabi dish immensely enjoyed by North Indians. It comprises spicy chickpea curry (chhole) served with fluffy deep-fried bread (bhatura) made of refined flour and baking soda dough. Now, chickpeas in themselves are a healthy food, but extremely unhealthy when served in a spicy and oily curry. As for the bhaturas, they are the worst foods ever, high in refined carbs and oil. One bhatura with chhole equals almost 400-500 calories (one bhatura equals 250 calories). In fact, a restaurant serving of chhole bhature can amount to over 1000 calories.
Healthier substitute- Chhole chawal
Simply substitute your bhaturas with steamed rice and you save more than 300 calories. Restaurants often cook chhole with a lot of oil and spices. You can make healthier chhole at your own home with less oil. Enjoy your chhole with steamed rice or chapati, and you will kill two birds with one stone.
Papri chaat, also known as basket chaat in some places, is another favorite Indian delicacy. It comprises of a crisp wafer-basket made with deep-fried refined flour. This fried basket is now filled with boiled chickpeas, potatoes, tamarind chutney, curd, and sev namkeen. Papri chaat is absolutely delicious with a blend of different flavors (sweet, sour, tangy), but also extremely high in calories. One serving of papri chaat can set you back by approximately 300 calories and has little nutritional value, even with the curd and the chickpeas.
Healthier substitute- Bhelpuri
Bhelpuri has way lesser calories and is way lighter on the stomach. It is made of puffed rice mixed with lemon, tamarind sauce, and chopped veggies or sprouts. One serving of bhelpuri has only a 100 calories. And it has the same combination of flavors- tangy, sour and savory, so you won’t be missing out.
Medu vada is a South Indian dish comprising of deep-fried balls of black-lentil dough served with sambhar and coconut chutney. It is an extremely popular South-Indian dish often eaten for breakfast. But the combination of deep-frying with black lentils is not at all good for your digestive system. One small piece of medu vada has around 140 calories, and people generally eat between 4-5 pieces along with sambhar and chutney. So you can only imagine the number of calories you can pile up with this breakfast.
Healthier Substitute- Idli Sambhar
Idlis are fluffy steamed cakes made of rice or semolina (sooji) batter. One idli is merely 40 calories and extremely light on the stomach. Just substitute your vadas with idlis and you will save more than 500 calories on food and your stomach from diarrhea.
Just like how Americans are fond of beef, Indians are fond of chicken. There is a mind-boggling variety of chicken curries in Indian cuisine. And one of the most popular is Chicken Korma, which comprises of chicken marinated with spices and cooked in a creamy buttery curry made with yogurt and spices. Chicken Korma is extremely rich, savory and delicious, but one of the highest calorie foods in India. One average restaurant serving of Chicken Korma has around 900 calories. And the amount of oil and butter involved takes away any nutritional benefit coming from the chicken and spices.
Healthier Substitute- Tandoori chicken
Tandoori Chicken is made by marinating chicken and smoking it over an open fire. It is as tasty as chicken korma and involves way lesser amount of oil in its preparation process. One serving of Tandoori chicken is 300-400 calories with the same amount of protein as in chicken korma.
If you are a Delhiite, you must be familiar with this popular dish. Soya chaap is prepared just like chicken tikka masala or paneer tikka masala. The only difference is in the main ingredient- paneer/chicken is replaced with soya chaap (made of soya and flour dough). But although soya is high in protein, one serving of soya chaap has around 400-500 calories, most of which come from oil. The marinade for soya chaap is often very rich and oily, made with spices, curd and vegetable oil.
Healthier substitute- Soya nuggets sabzi
The main ingredient is the same, the consistency is the same and the taste is also almost the same. Instead of gorging on soya chaap served by street-vendors, cook your own soya sabzi at home. You can also buy raw soya chaap and cook it at home with less oil.
Indian cuisine has a wide variety of vegetable and meat curries, and a wider variety of breads to enjoy these curries with. One of these is Butter naan, a thick fluffy bread made of refined flour toasted on a pan and smeared generously with lots of butter. It is a staple served in parties to enjoy with chicken or vegetable curries. But just one butter naan has around 240 calories, all thanks to the butter and the refined flour. It is one of the unhealthiest breads in the world, and also extremely high in calories, considering that no one eats just one piece of naan.
Healthier substitute- Whole-wheat/Multigrain chapati
Chapatis are made with zero oil, and whole grains. One chapati has around 50-80 calories, lots of fiber and almost zero fat. Substitute your butter naan with multigrain or whole-wheat chapati, and enjoy your curry without added calories or guilt.
Indulging once in a while is fine. But eating rich foods high in calories on a regular basis is just not good for you. And it’s not just about weight gain, but also other problems like heart disease, cholesterol, and food poisoning. So don’t deny yourself the simple pleasures of life, but also try making healthier choices 90% of the time.